I remember as if it were yesterday …fourth grade recess, kickball, my time to shine. There were two types of kids at my elementary school: those who were captains and those who weren’t captains. I had worked my way up through the ranks as one of the automatic all-time captains. I started in kindergarten, and now nearing the halfway point of my final year of elementary school, I was the man. I had climbed my way to the top, and my team dominated every recess. Until he showed up.
Everyone knows you don’t just come to your first recess and expect to be handed captain, but Nick was different. I don’t know if Nick had been held back, or whether he was extremely well developed for a 10-year-old boy—a little bit of both, I expect—but he was less than excited about our rules. I told him that he would have to stand with the mass of other hopeful children and wait to be picked for a game, and then he could step on the field. Nick didn’t really care for my ideas, and I didn’t much care for his, but the problem for me was that Nick was much bigger than I was; in fact, Nick was probably bigger than I am now. After a few brief words, I turned to say something to one of my friends, and as I turned back around, Nick punched me in the stomach like Mike Tyson in his glory days. I was down, and my recess dynasty had crumbled.
It’s been a number of years since recess kickball, but it seems like many of the rules still apply. After high school, college and now working with a church, there are so many things that seem the same. Life is full of people who have been doing it for a long time, working next to people who are just beginning. Everyone is fighting for position, and everyone wants their seat as all-time captain. If you aren’t in that seat, you are probably doing everything you can to get there.
I see a lot of pastors who have earned their pew at the top, and there’s no way anyone’s getting a chance at captain. With the surge of young pastors and idealistic thoughts, we are viewed as bullies who are coming in to change the world. We are planting churches by the day and writing more books than we can read ourselves. Everywhere I look in Christian bookstores, I see the “new way” of doing church. I’ve sat in numerous roundtable discussions about why the “modern” way of doing church is incompetent, and how the megachurch is the worst thing to happen to us since Orlando Bloom and the crusades. I’m in full support of not doing things the way they’ve always been done, but I see the same old attitude coming out from the new guys.
Jesus came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. He walked into a generation of Hebrews who were ready to overthrow the old system and restore the glamour their circumcised forefathers once knew. A group of men ready at any point to throw down and go so far as to cut someone’s ear off if necessary. As we watch what Jesus does though, we see a different image come from the throneroom of God. We see a Jesus healing the unclean, talking to the oppressed and serving those who followed Him. Jesus saying that the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve. Teaching His disciples that it doesn’t matter how you dress, what you eat or even if you’re in the temple, you can bring the kingdom of heaven into every situation. We had the creator of all down on His knees washing the dirt and manure off His disciples’ feet.
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, but not because of stylistic differences. In fact, in Matthew 23, He says to do what the Pharisees teach, just don’t act how they act. Jesus is bashing their hypocrisy, not the “old way” of doing things. But I continue to see young pastors, angry at the church, complaining about everything they can possibly call to attention. It scares me to see all of the young guys running from the understudy of the older generation because they don’t want to work under their leadership. It’s almost as if many of the postmoderns are turning to sock the church in the stomach and start a new game of kickball. I am 24, and I feel as if I bring a lot to the table at our teaching pool when all of our church plants and main church get together each week to prepare the sermon. However, there is a world of knowledge I have gained from the wisdom of our senior leaders, and we cannot flee from the leadership God has placed there. If our ministry is a reaction to what they’re doing—instead of action for what God is putting in us to do—it is wrong. Period. Church planting is wonderful and essential, but there must be a way we can all work together to effectively spread God’s Word.
Jesus didn’t tell us to plant postmodern churches or wear blue jeans and drink coffee, but to serve and love one another with His heart. He said He would be with us always, even to the end of the age, and we are to be so full of Him that when people meet us, they have already met the church. That is something that will reach the lost, transcending styles or generations; somehow Christ’s love is relevant in every culture with every single person we meet. That’s playing kickball together, and that is how we must play the game if we are to reach the world.