Saturday, July 12, 2008

A winning culture

Here's a look at the article I wrote for the August version of the Westbury Word newsletter:

In just a few weeks, an annual rite of passage will begin in every city, town and hamlet in Texas. The Friday night lights will blaze once again over thronged masses rooting for their local heroes. Bands will march, drill teams will strut, cheerleaders will bounce and shout with preternatural enthusiasm, and mascots will sweat it out under their wooly costumes. Meanwhile, boys as young as fourteen will carry the hopes and dreams of their communities, clad in modern-day armor proudly bearing the colors and emblem of their teams.
I am talking, of course, about High School football. It’s a pastime I have a particular appreciation for, in part because it is so simple…and so fair. Professional and College football—while enjoyable—are very much multi-billion dollar businesses. But High School football features young men who play for free—most will never even earn a football scholarship. Since each town and district must play with the boys they have (without recruiting), there is a certain justice, a sense that everyone starts on level ground.
However, there are still teams that consistently dominate the others. My brother-in-law, a football coach, was visiting a football practice at Katy High School a few years ago. Katy is one of those schools which somehow produces big winners every year, and Steve wanted to see what he could learn from them. When he got to the practice, the team was scrimmaging (playing a “practice game”). Normally in such situations, the boys in the scrimmage run their plays halfheartedly, while the boys on the sideline sit disengaged, chatting aimlessly with one another and enjoying their rest. But this practice felt like a real game. The plays were crisp, the hitting was hard, and even the boys on the sideline were on their feet, shouting encouragement. Steve asked one of the boys standing near him, “What’s at stake here? What do you get if you win?” Coaches often use bribes to motivate their players to practice harder. Steve wondered if maybe the group that won the scrimmage got free Gatorade, or could sit out the windsprints that day. The boy looked at Steve like he was from another planet, then said, “We get pride!”
It was then obvious what made this such a good team. Somehow, they had built a culture of excellence. Every player was constantly challenged to give his all, even in practice. That story makes me wonder how we can build a culture of holiness in our church. In such a church, every member would feel a constant challenge to strive for a greater level of commitment to Christ. Not from the pulpit only, but from his fellow members. I’m not talking about a legalistic contest in “who can be more outwardly religious.” I mean people consistently maturing in their ability to really love God and love others. That’s my job as pastor: To build a culture of holiness at Westbury Baptist Church. What can you do to help?

  • Pray daily for God’s Holy Spirit to renew us. This isn’t something you and I can do on our own. It is a supernatural act. Pray that the Spirit would build a culture of holiness in our church.
  • Feed yourself. Too many people see church as a spiritual feeding trough, where they get spoon-fed by trained professionals. A church with a culture of holiness is a gathering of people who have spent the week studying God’s word, praying and serving God on their own.
  • Get involved. If you don’t already have a ministry of your own, consider joining our School Adoption initiative. I foresee a day when every WBC member feels a subtle push to find a ministry outside the walls of our church, when service is as much a part of our identity as is worship and Bible study. Let’s make that part of our culture.


Russell said...

I recall vividly and can speak from experience when it comes to Katy Tiger practices. Katy traditionally has produced far less college athletes than many of the teams they outperform annually. Katy has always had the reputation that when you played against them you would have to beat them and be prepared to work because they were not going to beat themselves. Katy prides itself on precision technique and countless repetitions until their responsibilities become habitual. They play by two very simple rules, trust the teammate next to to you to play their responsibility and to never give up on a play. If these two qualities are followed then the sky is the limit.

The same rules apply in life. If you want to be good at anything and strive for perfection then you must practice, work and believe in what you are doing. The trick is when you have a team, group etc. you must find a way to believe in the same principals in unison.

Jeff Berger said...

Russell, thanks for sharing an insider's perspective of what it means to be a Katy Tiger. I know that kind of discipline and teamwork has served you well in your lifetime.

While we're at it, Go Coogs!

JAE said...

This is a great reminder to all. God has given us simple basic principals to life and our blessings are there for the taking. We get so busy over analyzing or second guessing we miss it.

The Tigers program is one of basic principals and hard work. And because of this, they have been blessed with great coaches, great victories, great support, etc.

I have come to the understanding that we focus our praise in the wrong places too often. I have often thought how silly that people, including me, will openly raise their arms and yell out praise for a football team, made up of people they may not even know, yet they will not give the same enthusiasm to praise our Heavenly Father, who gave them life.

Yes, I know all about reverence and there is always a time for that. But, I believe my personal relationship with Christ, is like that of my relationship with my father on earth. I am able to run up and hug his neck in public and nobody blinks an eye. So to me, praising my Heavenly Father, is like hugging his neck in public, yet people shy away from that.

So thank you for using the Tigers to remind me, to slow down, and get back to the basic simple joy of taking my daily walk Christ.