Hitting The Hole of the Church’s Mission

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         September 21, 2017

                           

I wiped the cobwebs off the golf clubs and went, along with my friends Mike Oldham and Reggie Fletcher, out for a stroll around the golf course this past Monday. None of us were going for our PGA tour card. In fact, even though it was September 18th it was the first round of the year for all three of us.

None of us were on our game. When you play one round a year you don’t have “a game”! I was hitting the ball okay, mostly keeping it out of the rough, sand, and water. You need to understand something about my golf play. I don’t get upset if I hook it, splice it, miss it, or even hit a shot off the tee that doesn’t make it past the women’s tee. I also don’t get that excited about a good shot. I just enjoy the experience, the sunshine, and the fellowship.

The interesting thing, however, is that all three of us had a hard time putting the ball in the hole. The little white ball- or, in Reggie’s case, pink ball- went to the right of the hole, the left of the hole, rimmed around the hole, and short of the hole. To putt the ball in the hole was like trying to get a Cleveland Browns’ quarterback to throw a touchdown pass! Or, I should say, a professional quarterback of any Ohio NFL team!

We laughed at our ineptness. It wasn’t that we were trying to miss, but missing was the only thing we were consistent in doing.

And it hit me that the mission of the church often goes that way as well! The mission of the church is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed. It’s as simple as seeing the hole on the seventh green, and yet the simplicity of the mission is complicated by our ineptness in hitting it. We veer to the left to focus on discipline problems in church members, or we veer to the right to emphasize a sub-point of a doctrinal belief. The church hits a budget issue and pulls up short of the mission. It misreads a downhill slope and winds up twice as far from the hole of the mission.

I kept asking myself how I could be on the green of a four hundred yard hole in just three strokes, but then have to putt the ball three times before it went in? How could I come so far so quickly, but then fail so easily?

In terms of the church hitting the hole of its mission, the closer it gets to completion the greater the chance of having the mission derailed. In my years of pastoring churches I experienced this multiple times. It might be rephrased as “gaining momentum”, but it seemed that as we headed towards the hole of the mission something or someone would cause us to veer to the side. Squabbles, crises, disagreements about the music we were singing in worship, arguments about the children’s ministry, division about how much ministry should be done outside the walls of the church compared to ministry within the walls…there always seemed to be something that took our ball off course.

For the church to hit the hole of its mission a couple of things are important to remember. One is that it must read the green. Sometimes what seems to be the case is not the case. That little ridge on the right wasn’t seen, or that break on the left wasn’t probably diagnosed. I can remember a few times when I thought we had consensus on a certain direction only to have it derailed by a portion of the congregation who didn’t want to say anything to begin with, but then decided to speak up as the ball was rolling towards the mission. Some of those situations were simply because I didn’t read the breaks, or misread the situation. Others were because of a passive resistant group who simply wanted to stonewall the direction. When the church misreads the green it must recalculate the direction from a different point.

Second, the church must admit it missed and aim at the mission once again. In golf there is a definite difference between professional golfers and weekend duffers. Churches are kind of like that, also! There are churches that are better at reading the obstacles and distractions that will keep it from staying true to the mission, but there is not a single church that always reads the situation correctly. Since grace it vital to who followers of Jesus are, grace must be a part of the journey. When I putted my ball and it went three feet to the left of the hole I had to be willing to start from a different point and continue my quest. It’s the same for the Body of Christ. What needs to be changed to have the next attempt be better aimed at the hole of the mission?

The game of golf is the great revealer of failure. On Monday my frequency of failing was in abundance. Perhaps my once-a-year visit to the golf course had something to do with my game being haphazard! There may be a life lesson there for once-a-year worship attenders as well, but I won’t go there! I’ll just veer off to the left, so to speak!

Explore posts in the same categories: Bible, Christianity, Community, Faith, Grace, Jesus, Pastor, Story, Teamwork, The Church, Uncategorized

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