Tennis, Golf, and Church

What an amazing weekend for sports fans!

Watching Roger Federer at last winning his Grand Slam at Roland Garros in Paris was thrilling and emotional. Then later the same day Tiger Woods yet again finds the pin (or within a few inches of the 18th hole) with lazer accuracy and another tournament is ‘in the bag’. Interviews after both events included reference to the hours and hours of training and practice required…. Federer pounded balls on clay for hundreds of hours and Woods was glad at last to be able to increase his practice time after injury.

When all the practicing is done these guys still have to turn up on a prescribed tennis court or golf course and compete within defined parameters. Some of the requirements and restrictions are probably frustrating and the inconveniences of travel, being away from home, media pressure and crowd expectations must be tiresome. But it’s all part of the bigger picture and what it takes to participate and perform.

Which leads me to wonder what those of us who profess to follow Jesus Christ expect – or are willing to endure and be inconvenienced by? As stated in my previous blog this question of being part of ‘a church’ is up for challenge in the West for sure. Of course it is incredibly easy to find fault and yank out a host of examples to justify never going near a church again. Except we are not talking about a building but a community – or at least that is the dream Jesus articulated and died for…. and rose again to empower.

His disciples were hardly stellar performers but he called them to follow him together and be formed within the context of community – sometimes that was humbling and embarrassing. But look at the final product… men and women of integrity, courage, humility, power in the Spirit, passion, and bearing a remarkable resemblance in their weakness to Jesus….. whose Spirit lived in them and through them.

If the tennis court frames Federer’s abilities and skills, and the golf course is the forum in which Tiger shines, the Christians have community in which to demonstrate their commitment. “Oh no!” we protest, “That’s way too narrow, out of touch, restrictive… Pastors are power mongers and institutions quench the Spirit.” Perhaps that is sadly true many times…. but in our spoiled, affluent, and self-indulgent culture where do followers of Jesus learn how to draw on the resources of heaven that will lead them to display extraordinary qualities of grace, courage, long-suffering, servanthood, and Christ-like character?

I have a suspicion that this knee-jerk preference for maintaining an arms-length distance from any organization or ‘formal’ community might be more of a reflection on our preference for ‘self-determination’. Where does being captured by God the Father’s love and responding to his initiative – including crucifixion (for us) – lead us to embrace sacrifice and inconvenience on behalf of others?  When do we ‘put up with one another and cut each other slack’ in order to dream together and grow into becoming all that Jesus would have us be together?

Tennis has a court, Golf has a course, and Christians have the church – and the wider world as well in which to demonstrate that what we claim to practice actually works! What are your dreams regarding following God and growing in a context? These topics press buttons and cause us to react…… I’d be interested to hear your thoughts……

John Cox

Christian Author

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