I am in a Fantasy Football league through my home church, the Little Church on the Prairie.
Ever since joining the league, I’ve found myself following a bunch of teams and games that I would never have had any interest in. All because I have players on my fantasy team that are playing on those teams and in those games. I find myself tracking a half dozen games on Sundays to see how my guys are doing.
I do this because I love football and I want to win.
I’ve got a colleague, who shall remain unnamed, who never checks on his team. In fact, he regularly plays guys that aren’t even playing because their teams are on bye weeks or their injured. It’s clear that he’s not interested, and therefore he’s not engaged.
I tell you that because I think that difference tells us some things about how people approach spiritual growth.
What are some spiritual truths I’ve learned from our church Fantasy Football League?
In order to be successful in Fantasy Football, you’ve got to regularly connect to ESPN or Sports Center to see who’s playing well and who’s not. You’ve got to see who the opposing teams will be. You’ve got to keep track of injuries. You’ve got to stay on top of schedules. That’s all part of connecting.
The same is true for our spiritual maturity. There is no way we are going to grow and mature as Christians when we do not regularly connect with a local body. There ought to be a group of people who we regularly do life with, people who will pray with us and encourage us, people who will celebrate and experience life with us. We have to have a community with whom we regularly connect.
It’s by connecting in worship, bible study, or small groups with others engaged in the work and ministry of Jesus Christ that we are going to stay on top of what God is up to in our communities and how we can best engage with God where he’s already at work.
But not only do you need to connect, you’ve got to also engage. You’ve got to engage with your team. You’ve got to be committed to winning and doing well. You’ve got to do your home work. I regularly find myself analyzing my players, the defenses they will be facing, the match ups. I do my best to put in the guys I think will perform the best that particular week.
I am engaged. My colleague, who still shall remain unnamed, is clearly not.
And here’s one of the greatest spiritual lessons I’ve learned. Engagement is the result of connecting. I am engaged because I am connected. That is so true of our spiritual lives. Engagement is the byproduct of having a people, a cause, a mission, a church where we are connected.
You want people to engage, help people to connect.
Because I’ve joined a fantasy football league, and because I’m committed to winning, I find myself interested in games and teams that I would have never cared about before.
The reason why I care that the Broncos do well is because Payton Manning is my quarterback and Wes Welker is one of my receivers. The reason why I want to see the Bears dominate is because they are my defense. I don’t care about the Broncos or the Bears. In fact, I’ve never cared about the Broncos or the Bears. The only reason why I care now is because of the players on my fantasy football team.
You see, to start caring for the things that God is concerned about, and being passionate about the ministry and mission of God will only happen as we connect and engage. Investment comes as a result of our connection and engagement.
If you are not connected and engaged in your church’s ministry, you have no investment in the future of your church. You won’t care what happens.
Connect – Engage – Invest
That’s how you win fantasy football games, and I think that’s how you win in your spiritual journey.
There was a man named John who walked into a bank to finalize a business transaction dressed in his blue jeans. The teller told him that the officer he needed to see wasn’t in and he would have to come back the next day. John said that would be fine and asked the teller to validate his parking ticket.
The teller then informed him that according to bank policy, she couldn’t validate his parking ticket because he had not technically completed a financial transaction.
John asked for an exception, since he had come to the bank intending to do business, but wasn’t able to because the appropriate officer wasn’t in.
The teller didn’t budge. She said, “I’m sorry; that’s our policy. Rules are rules.”
So John decided to make a business transaction. He decided to close his account.
The account he closed had a balance of over $1.5 million.
This qualified as a business transaction, and the teller was able to validate the parking ticket.
Rules are necessary.
Life would be chaos without rules.
However, legalistic adherence to rules without using common sense and judgment is not only dumb but it’s deadly. It will kill relationships. It will destroy organizations.
Legalism. It really does stink!
The Little Church on the Prairie…
Seriously? That’s the name of the church?
If you’ve lived in Lakewood, this name is no big deal. It’s a part of your reality. People around Lakewood know this name because the church is kind of a historic place. It’s been around as long as Lakewood has been around, and the church has done some pretty significant ministry around here. So when locals hear the name, they think of the history and the legacy of the ministry of the Little Church on the Prairie.
When everyone else hears the name of the church, they hear “Little House on the Prairie.”
Come on. You did too.
When I tell people the name of the church where I pastor, one of the most common reactions is laughter. They think I’m kidding. And when they realize it’s really our name, they’re embarrassed for laughing.
That’s how it typically goes.
For new residents in Lakewood and for others who don’t know our history, the name doesn’t do anything for us. One could make the argument that the name actually might be hurting us with new residents and younger people who are looking for a church in the area.
When I first came to LCOP as its senior pastor, one of the changes I contemplated was leading the church through a name change.
As with all change a leader leads, there are some very important questions to consider:
- What are the costs?
- What are the benefits?
- Is this a battle worth fighting?
First, what are the costs of making such a change?
There are folks at LCOP who were born here. They’re parents help to get the church started. They were baptized here, married here, and buried their loved ones here. The Little Church is their church. Changing the name of a church or organization that has as much emotional ties as our’s should only be taken with the utmost care.
The cost of making a name change would have been very significant. It could have been done but would come at a costly relational price.
Second, what would be the benefits of a name change?
We could have gone with a name that expressed more clearly the vision and the direction of the church, a name that connected with the people we are trying to reach in the community.
Finally, would this been a battle worth fighting?
One of the realities of leadership is that not all battles are worth fighting. There are things that absolutely need to be fought for, but not all things fit in that category.
The more I spent time reflecting on the name, it was clear that this would have way more relational cost and consequences than benefits. And more importantly, with all the other things that needed changing, the name of the church was not even close to being a priority.
I’m going on four years of as one of the pastors at the Little Church on the Prairie. You know what? The name’s grown on me. I actually think it really fits the culture and the history of this church.
We are a place where simplicity matters, relationships matter, character matters. We may not be the fanciest place around, but you’re going to find some wonderful, caring, loving people at the Little Church on the Prairie.
The Little Church on the Prairie. Love this church! Love this name.