I tend to be old school when it comes to sports and competition. I think you should keep score. I don’t think that everyone who participates should get a trophy. And as ugly as it sounds, I think that hurt feelings are good motivation to work harder. I also fully agree that if you’re not performing, the coach has every right to let you “ride the pine” for a game.
This old fashioned view of sports led me to a great sense of dismay when Heather came home last spring and let me know that she was going to be the new cheerleading sponsor for the middle school where she teaches. When I asked what that entailed, she began to explain to me how it worked. She said that they were not allowed to cut anyone. If they paid their fees and came to “try outs” they made the team, irrespective of any sort of talent or ability to be a cheerleader. You literally could be the worst cheerleader in the world and still make the team.
Last week, Heather came home from cheer camp and was frustrated that some of her girls were less than enthusiastic, putting forth little to no effort at camp. In my mind, the solution was simple – take away the pompoms; make them the official “water girls” for the squad; maybe put the mascot uniform on them for a little while. Of all the things a cheerleader should possess, enthusiasm is probably high on the list. If you’re not an enthusiastic cheerleader, you’re not going to be very effective. That would be akin to asking someone with a broken foot to be a field goal kicker – probably not the best person for the job. But, rules are rules and even the least enthusiastic middle school cheerleader can be part of the team. All you can do is try to stir up enthusiasm.
As bizarre as this sounds (and it is sounding more bizarre as I type), the church is much like a middle school pep squad. We have everything in the world to be enthusiastic about, but for whatever reason, our zeal is often lacking. And just like that pep squad, we can’t cut folks just for lacking zeal, but we can do our best to stir up zeal in our hearts.
The real danger in our lives is that we are often tempted to be zealous about the wrong thing. Like the cheerleader who doesn’t understand football and cheers when her own team misses a play, we are often prone to misplaced enthusiasm. In Romans 10:2, Paul warns that the Israelites were zealous, but they had an uninformed zeal – meaning they were zealous about the wrong thing.
So I have two very simple questions for you…
- Are you enthusiastic about what Jesus has done for you? We can’t cut you from the team if you are not, but I would want to know why you lack zeal. We have the best thing in the world to be enthusiastic about, so why do we so often lack enthusiasm.
- Are you zealous for the wrong thing? Maybe it is for a program and not the Gospel. Maybe it is for a worship style and not the recipient of our worship. There are many things that would seek our zeal – but the Lord Jesus Christ is the one most worthy of our enthusiasm.
Show me an effective church and I will show you a church that is excited about Christ and the Kingdom. We won’t cut you from the team, but we would want you to join the excitement.