“Did you see that game last night? We were down three with two outs in the ninth and tied it up to send it to extra innings. Wasn’t it amazing how we pulled that one off?”
“At church on Sunday I noticed they changed the lobby around. Now I can’t find anything. What were they thinking?”
These are paraphrases of statements I’ve seen posted online and heard in conversation, the latter more commonly when I was working in communications at a church and the former in my Facebook news feed pretty much every time the Phillies are playing.
The interesting thing about statements like this – ones I’ve made several times in my liftetime of sports viewing – is how mixed up the priorities behind them are.
The reality is, unless you wear a uniform or are on the payroll of a professional sports franchise your support for a team has very little to do with the outcome of the game.
Yet, statements like “we” and “us” are common among the faithful supporters. When they are winning, at least.
Ever notice how people talk about their favorite teams when they aren’t doing so well? “We pulled it off” and “we’re the best” statements quickly turn into “they totally blew it” or “they’re terrible this year.” We like to associate with winners. I get that. Or maybe not (I’m a Cubs fan, after all).
When we are on the payroll, give regularly, participate in weekly worship and small groups and/or serve on committees at church, we are far more connected to our church than those of us not named Tim Tebow or Jeremy Lin will ever be to a professional sports team. When the lobby gets changed around it’s our lobby. When a decision is made we don’t necessarily agree with it’s a decision “we” have to accept and own. When we invite someone to church we are inviting them to “our” church not some random building on the corner.
Too often like the fairweather Phillies fans whose use of “we” and “us” in posts mysteriously disappear from my news feed when the team isn’t doing well, we distance ourselves from the things we don’t like or don’t want to be associated with at our churches. We say things like “I can’t believe they painted the door that ugly color” when what we should be saying is “It’s great that we have people in our church willing to give up their time on a weekend to paint our building.”
The best thing that can ever happen to your favorite sports team is for them to win a championship. If the Cubs ever really win a World Series in my lifetime I’ll be obnoxiously happy but it still won’t have any impact on eternity.
What we do when we work for and covenant with a church or organization that’s in the business of building the kingdom of God has tremendous eternal ramifications. Through the ups and downs and the challenges of doing ministry and sharing life together “we” must take ownership of the work Christ has called “us” to do.