I have been discussing some of the cultural challenges that deeply impact Christianity in the U.S. I pointed to the impact of the huge technological advances that have created Information Overload and the affluence that has provided Sensory Overload. As I have been doing the weekly articles I have also been working on a discussion summary of Zach Eswine’s book The Imperfect Pastor. His book speaks to our current culture and the way that pastors and Christian leaders have fallen prey to unrealistic expectations. We are expected to know-it-all, fix-it-all, be everywhere-for-all, and do-it-all-today.
As he describes his own pilgrimage as a pastor, he acknowledges that in the flesh we can easily become willing accomplices. Our need to be needed, pride, and insecurities are appeased when we conform to these cultural pressures. As he brings his reflections into focus in one of the final chapters, he suggests that we need to learn to make disciples and develop leaders at Game Speed. He wrote, “To practice at game speed is to run, catch, or kick the ball in practice at the same pace the game will require.” His basic point is that life transformation is not quick, so it can’t be done fast or in a hurry. It’s not that God can’t do it in an instant; it’s that He will only move as fast as we let Him.
Let me take his term game speed in a slightly different direction. For those of us who played little league sports, we know that one really good athlete can create a winning team. When we played in high school, we discovered that it took two or three really good athletes to win a state championship. If you played college ball you discovered that those two or three really good athletes needed to be surrounded by other good athletes. By the time someone makes it to the professional sports level, they discover that everyone on the field is a really, really good athlete. At each level, the athletic skills and therefore the speed of the game increases.
So what does doing ministry at game speed mean? Let me suggest the following:
What I hope you hear me saying is that game speed for disciple-making is slow and tedious. It calls for hard work and consistency. We have to be willing to do the right things year after year, knowing that disciple-making isn’t exciting or flashy, and it is actually very messy. The old sport’s cliché practice makes perfect is actually not true. You can practice doing something wrong and when push comes to shove you will generally do it wrong. The reality is that perfect practice makes perfect! In high school, I got tired of hearing my football coach say, “Run that play one more time.” We didn’t have a lot of plays, but the ones we ran were generally effective because we knew exactly what we were supposed to do.
The way to combat information and sensory overload is to get back to the basics: 1) Remember why we exist—live out the Great Commandments to love God and to love our neighbor as we are fulfilling the Great Commission to make disciples among every language and cultural group in the world. 2) Rely on time-proven principles that support doing spiritual development at game speed
Yours in Christ,
Mark R. Elliott, AMS
Mark is in his twenty-seventh year of serving as an Associational Missions Strategist. He served in western Iowa for almost eight years, and is in his nineteenth year with HCN. He has a passion to see pastors and church leaders grow in their abilities to lead their churches. He continues to have a heart and desire to see new churches planted and God continues to use his strategic thinking skills in this area. Mark also has a wealth of experience in helping churches clarify who God has created them to be, and what they can do best to reach their community. He has had ample opportunities to help churches in times of conflict, and has seen God do exciting things to restore a spirit of harmony, returning churches to a time of fruitfulness. He also helps churches in transition by working with search committees. Mark and Phyllis who were married in November of 2018 have four children and three grandchildren. They will enjoy their combined 87th anniversary in just a few days.
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