by Doug Pollock
Basketball was my passion growing up. There was something special about being part of a team. We traveled together, practiced together, ate together, and won or lost together. Before each game started, our coach would go over the game plan in the locker room. At halftime he would look over the stat sheets, reflect on what did or didn’t go well during the first half, and make any necessary changes for the second half. The scoreboard and the stat sheets never lied at halftime. They just reflected our current reality after playing one half of basketball. In all my years of playing, I never once heard a player dispute the score if we were losing. It was what it was! The only thing we could do about it was make the necessary changes at halftime to ensure we had the best chance possible to win the game.
Recently I read a blog post by Maggie Nancarrow. Maggie describes herself as an artist, a photographer, and a Methodist youth director. After reflecting on her post, I couldn’t help but feel like I was in the “church locker room” at halftime with a “spiritual coach.” Here is how she assessed the present reality of the American church: “The Church is not dying. The Church is failing, and there is a difference. The word ‘dying’ is passive. It is as if we are sitting around quietly wilting away why the culture around us turns against us and decides that they’re not interested in God anymore…If we can’t give people a space to meet the God that wants to meet them, than we have failed in our mission.”
Wow! She has obviously been looking at the recent stats that point to an increasing demise of the American church. If a problem well defined is a problem half solved, what’s your take on Maggie’s “locker room speech”? As you reflect on the stats that indicate a decline of the American church, what changes in the church’s overall game plan do you think we need to make to turn the “second half” around?
I can tell you one thing for sure. When it comes to basketball, if you are losing at halftime, you will more than likely lose the game if you continue to do what you did in the first half. The great coaches have the courage and the insight to change their game plan to give their teams the best chance of winning in the second half. Maybe the church would do well to follow their model. Doesn’t it seem to make sense that your faith community will always be what it has always been if you continue to do what you have always done?
If Maggie is right, let’s reflect on our failures and learn from them. Let’s reject this passive notion that there is nothing we can do to turn our present reality around. Let’s learn how to create some “God Space” so that we can meet people where they are ready to be met. Let’s start playing more “away games” if the “home game” strategy isn’t working like it once did. Are you ready to start the second half?
Footnote: Maggie said “If we can’t give people a space to meet the God that wants to meet them, than we have failed in our mission.” Doug believes we need to learn how to create “God Space” if we are going to succeed at our mission. For a taste of what he is talking about, you can read the first two chapters of his book God Space online at godsgps.com.