God prepares you for a new weapon by having you perfect your expertise with the weapon you have in your hands. In the same thought profile as “God doesn’t prepare you for giants by having you face giants,” God doesn’t prepare you to swing a sword by swinging a sword.
Practice for basketball was confusing me. As a highly-motivated sixth grade, playground prodigy (at least in my own mind), I thought the coach needed to get a clue about how to prepare a team for a basketball game. We should play basketball! Or, so I thought. Yet, here we were, several sessions into the “basketball” preparation process, and we continued running sprints, moving sideways crouched in a defensive posture, and scampering up and down bleachers until our pre-adolescent, lower appendages were weak, shaking, and nigh unto cramping! We moved on to passing drills, dribbling drills, defensive posture drills, and a number of “worthless, waste of time and energy” enterprises – and I had not had any opportunities to show the coach that I was a great shooter!
Drill, drill, drill! Are you kidding me! I can shoot like Rick Mount, and all you want me to do is prove I can play defense, block out for rebounds, and run until I vomit? Give me a break!
This coach seemed to think that you don’t prepare for basketball by playing basketball. In fact, he lined us up and actually said, “I’ve got to unlearn all that bad basketball you learned on the playground!” What a dork! That’s how I became the next Larry Bird! What’s with this “You don’t learn to play basketball at the next level by playing basketball” thinking?
Leaders Know the Drill
In the formative sessions where basic skill development occurs, a strange disconnect often appears between the end game and the daily routine. Conventional thinking would be, “if you are going to compete riding a bicycle, then spend all your time riding a bicycle.” Good leadership, however, will be first concerned with some fundamentals for championship level bike riding that “good enough to win a race around the block against your seventh grade classmates” don’t take into account.
When God raises champions, He is working on leaders who can function at an international level. He always has been and is now concerned with nations! He is exercising the Body at a local level in the development of fundamentals, but He has a much greater scope of deployment in mind! Yet, the majority of church-anity wants to produce great playground performers and maintain a great playground lineup as if God’s greatest goals are going to be realized at the local park. In this way, church-anity has created a subcultural system of “christian” playgrounds and gyms, and when any believer rises above that level,they must do so by learning something about the game from the world.
God knows the drills that produce champions. God provides us the forum we need for skill development, and the properly functioning Ecclesia will “equip the saints” at this level, proving through the development of spiritual skills that spiritual destiny, gifts, and anointing function at a higher, international level. It is the drill that produces character and integrity, not the performance.
It is relatively easy to reach for playground level performances; in fact, we now have a whole genre of “church” designed for this level, calling this level of “church” the new norm because the “accumulation of believers” is served well by this level of leadership. Growing a vast network of playgrounds, this level of expertise has all the markings of passion like soccer leagues where parents provide the passion, rush the fields to protect their children from poor officiating, and reveal their petty penchant for “my kid’s better than your kid” childishness. In reality, great soccer champions are produced because of skill development, more in spite of the process than because of it!
At some point, this kind of thinking takes on the “everybody’s a winner” mentality that maintains mediocrity. That is, the natural end point of this thinking encourages the idea that no one wins the game or loses the game, and we award a trophy to every participant as if there is no “better or best” to be realized in the process of development. Soon, the “we are all the same” and “we are all on the same level” becomes a fuzzy “we don’t really need a coach, just a cheerleader.” At some point, the objective isn’t producing champions but expanding participation. We are accumulating soccer players with no thought of developing soccer champions.
I know I’m mixing metaphors in my attempt to relate David with the modern church. And, I know some people will dismiss what I’m saying with familiar justifications like “well, that’s the Old Testament” or “we don’t see the relationship between David and our modern lives.” So, let me mention here, that God functions on eternal principles and in established “ways.” These “ways” are eternally relevant: God who created people knows better than anyone how to relate to people.
God has designed leadership to produce champions, but the champions are not performers or achievers. They are leaders. The champions prepared by God did not produce an audience; they developed leaders. David, for example, wasn’t not only prepared for Goliath’s sword and armed Israel in a day, he turned the disenfranchised of his generation into warriors – David’s mighty men!
Jesus, for example, turned fishermen, zealots, tax collectors, and Galileans into world-changers. They understood skill development and measured “success” at the international, nation-shaking level.
Modern machinery that maintains mediocrity, measuring men with management methods, prepares people for playground-level performance by producing premier playgrounds. Champions? They mess up the rhythms of our preconceptions, upstage our kids, and generally demand a level of leadership we are not inclined to provide. In short, champions are misfits when they should be mainstream. Mediocrity is our mainstay; anything else would be radical because our modern christianism is more a hobby, an add-on feature, a good balance of spiritual stuff for our successful little American life! In this scenario, our level of discipling is preparation for the playground. And our bigger vision is “once we get enough playgrounds, we will change the culture.” Welcome to the spirit of leadership that functioned in the leaders of King Saul!
David broke the mold! But more, David become a molder of men in a new mold and model of leadership. Saul had an army with no weapons. David took the giant’s weapons and the army pursue the Philistines – in one day, David armed all of Israel. The playground mentality disappeared and a new standard for the word “champion” was introduced: “Saul has slain his thousands, but David has slain his ten thousands.”
God wants His people to function at an international level at the local level, not learn their skills on the playground. You don’t the world with Boy Scouts. You change the world with champions.
Modern machinery that maintains mediocrity, measuring men with management methods, prepares people for playground level performance by producing premier playgrounds. Champions? They mess up the rhythms of our preconceptions, upstage our kids, and generally demand a level of leadership we are not inclined to provide. In short, champions are misfits when they should be mainstream. Mediocrity is our mainstay; anything else would be radical because our modern christianism is more a hobby, an add-on feature, a good balance to our successful little American life! Discipleship is preparation for the playground. And “once we get enough playgrounds, we will change the culture.”
No one can change a culture at the playground level unless the playground level produces the skills needed for the next levels of personal growth! You can’t transform a culture without transforming individuals. You can’t help people play to their potentials when your definition of “potential” means “the best you can be on the playground.” Once you have some expertise on the playground, you may have to unlearn and relearn some basics if you wish to be on the team in the kingdom of God.