In 7th and 8th grade I played basketball on my junior high team. Well, I sort of played. I mostly sat on the bench. I was literally the shortest and the smallest person in my grade, which was quickly perceived as a disadvantage in this particular sport. So, I spent two years with everything stacked against me and a coach who thought that junior high basketball was just shy of the NBA. He wanted to win and he didn’t agree with the “all-play” philosophy that was a general rule for preteen sports. That combination of issues meant that I was never given a chance to see if I was good or not.
Sometimes in the church world, I think that we forget that God intended the church to be an “all-play” model. We buy into the idea that the band has to be the best and most talented, only the Bible-college trained people can teach, and the rest of us just show up for some entertainment as if church was an event and not a lifestyle. Not so! The church is supposed to be an entity where everybody does their part within their gifts and where the more experienced train and raise up others to be just as talented. It’s the picture of a family as I include everybody in everything because that’s how we roll.
I agree with excellence and presenting a quality experience at our weekend gatherings, but not at the sake of benching some of the people who haven’t “arrived” at perfection just yet. We are in a constant process of training people and believing in them, but sometimes it comes with a little imperfection along the way…which we should celebrate, not criticize. Honestly…the humanity is refreshing to me. I want to see people being used by God who are still learning and growing. It takes the fear out of me to try new things myself.
I ended up walking out in the middle of a game towards the end of my 8th grade year and never played basketball again. I had sat too long and didn’t think I was important to the workings of the team. Just showing up wasn’t fulfilling me at all, so I gave up on trying to find out if I was good at basketball or not. Soon, I would go on to play fast-pitch softball instead. I ended up with a great coach who sent me to clinics to help me be a better catcher. He worked with me, trained me, gave me substantial game time, and poured into me. I ended up being a great player, leader, and motivator on that team for many years.
My basketball coach might have been right about my ability…who knows? But I would rather have been given a shot and then been told that I was outside of my gift mix than just to be on the bench for two years. I would have understood that some things are just not for some people, but at this point…I’ll just never know. It was my coach’s job to teach, sharpen, work with me, and ultimately help me discover where I excelled and where I didn’t. We want to be that kind of a church…jump in, try, and if you do stink…we’ll try something else! 🙂