For two weeks and on a daily basis, I’ve been watching World Cup football on TV. As I write, this prestigious competition watched by millions globally, is entering into the final stage. I plan to watch the finals on 15 July (the recorded version) in California, the day I am preaching at our son’s church.
I jotted these observations as I watched the games with their gigantic cast of players, managers, fans in newly constructed Russian stadia. And I listened in to the comments of erstwhile football pundits and interviews with players and coaches.
This was evident in every match. As the cameras zoomed in on the spectators, most of them proudly don the jerseys of their teams and waving their national flags and banners. When a goal was scored, two contrasting emotions surfaced. Fans of the wining teams, jumped with joy, hugged one another and applauded the goal scorers with thunderous claps and shouts. Wild euphoria. Supporters of the losing sides groaned with dismay and deep sadness was written on their faces. Tears were even shed. Tragedy struck!
Supporters on the terraces and the unseen hosts of fans in their homes inevitably identified with the triumph or the defeat of their teams. They were in a strange but real way, by living out the fortunes or misfortunes of their footballing heroes. The players “highs” and “lows” are vicariously absorbed by fans and supporters.
I begin to think of the dynamism of congregations.
Why do some grow, and others decline? Do church goers also possess a vicarious spirit towards those who head their churches?
Growing churches are characterised by a “winning vision” embodied in the pastoral and leadership team. They gain the respect and enthusiastic support of their backers.
They are eager to participate in the life, ministry and activities of their church. Declining churches give weak excuses for poor preaching. “You’ve come to church to worship and meet God, not to hear great preaching.”
Small churches justify their existences with “God honours faithfulness rather than success.
Our church is a family; we are small, and we know everyone. Why get lost in an impersonal mega church?”
Believers prefer to back a church where the leaders work with the Spirit to extend the frontiers of the Kingdom and in doing so are themselves propelled for growth.
They have a game plan.
This may be adapted but the players stick to it.
There is effective co-ordination between attack and defence. Mid fielders play a key role. A team may have a super-star but unless he is well-supported by the rest, his contribution is limited. Lionel Messi experienced this in playing for Argentina.
The super star cannot be relied upon as the match winner; an effective synergy needs to pervade the entire team. During the game great shots and passes are acknowledged. When a player commits a mistake, the rest of team do not fall on him like a ton of bricks.
They encourage him to rise up and play his best. In brief, a great team plays for each other and working together to win the match.
I wonder how many churches have clear Vision statements which are consistently implemented.
Do leaders thankfully report growth? And honestly review both strengths and weaknesses?
Are the different spiritual gifts and talents of members identified and wisely exercised?
What spirit characterizes our corporate life – encouragement and love? Or judgmentalism and negative carping?
Without doubt, the elimination of Germany in the Group round was the major shock of the tournament so far. They were the defending champions having win the World Cup in Brazil in 2014. I read with incredulity that five out six champions crashed out of the Cup in the first or qualifying round. Why?
Historically, Germany had won the Cup on three occasions and appeared in the most semi-final stages. They’ve been boasting of a massive squad of footballing talents. Why did they finish last in their group behind Sweden, Mexico and South Korea?
The post-match analysis has been revealing. The first factor is complacency.
In 2018, they had won only one friendly game and that was to lowly Saudi Arabia. They could only draw against six strong national teams and they lost their last match to Austria. J Loew, the manager shrugged off criticisms by insisting that he was experimenting so that he could pick his best side. Pundits concurred.
The results told a different story.
The second was his reliance on senior members whose form left much to be desired. Past experiences did not deliver. Then there was little evidence of a winning game-plan; they were in fact trailing in their games.
Playing catch-up is a dangerous strategy when circumstances work against you. For me, the chief factor for Germany’s demise as a super-team, was internal bickering and division. This was leaked to the media by one of their stars.
Wounds were not healed. The body language throughout the games did not indicate unity nor did it demonstrate a winning mentality.
The downfall of the German team sent shock waves worldwide. How are the mighty fallen!
Like many, I had expected them to advance way beyond the group stage. As I reflected on their poor performance, the doors of my memory vault swung open. I began to re-call great churches, Christian agencies, anointed pastors that fell.
I began to realise that numerical growth and success do not guarantee security.
Before every fall, there are warning signs.
The alarm bells ring but we do not listen. We regard glorious past achievements as invincible structures. We forget that termites can enter to destroy the wood work!
Unresolved inter personal issues often wreak havoc. We tend to excuse internal bickering’s as quirks, human imperfections that occur and treat these as passing phases. Sadly, they do not automatically disappear. Then we pay too much attention to resolving ongoing tensions, we can easily neglect our major task of making disciples.
Some churches have well-established and gifted pastors. Under their leadership, they flourish. They, however, are immune to constructive criticisms and reviews.
They will state, “I am called by God. He’s invested me with authority.
I only answer to God authority” They may preach eloquently, fervently attacking sin from the pulpit but because they are not accountable to a godly core of friends, the fell prey to their own lust and pride. When they fall their congregations suffer massive setbacks.
1 Cor.10: 12 issues a clear warning to giants and champions “So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you do not fall.”
This tournament surprised with outstanding players from “minnow” nations from Asia and Africa.
They competed with the best teams from Europe and Latin America.
I spotted several of these stars and noted they play in the major leagues in Europe e.g. Bundesliga, Serie A, Primera Liga and the Premier league.
Playing week in and out with top players have established them as rising stars.
from Yuval Noah Harari.
His two books Sapiens and Homo Deus have sold 12 million copies. His next book, 21 Lessons for 21st Century will be launched on 30 August 2018.
HOMO DEUS: In 2012 about 56 million people died throughout the world; 620,000 died due to human violence… In contrast, 800,000 committed suicide and 1.5 million died of diabetes.
SAPIENS: As far as we can tell from a purely scientific viewpoint, human life has absolutely no meaning. Humans are the outcome of blind evolutionary processes that operate without goal or purpose. Our actions are not part of some cosmic divine plan, and if Planet earth were to blow up tomorrow morning, the universe would probably keep going about its business as usual.
HOMO DEUS: Terrorists are like a fly that tries to destroy a china shop. The fly is so weak that it cannot even budge a simple teacup. So it finds a bull, gets inside it its ear and starts buzzing. The bull goes wild with fear and anger and destroys the china shop. This is what happened in the Middle East in the past decade. Islamic fundamentalists could never have toppled Saddam Hussein by themselves.
HOMO DEUS: No remaining human job will ever be safe from the threat of future automaton.
21 LESSONS for 21st CENTURY: Once AI (Artificial Intelligence) makes better decisions than us about careers and perhaps even relationships, our concept of humanity and of life, will have to change.
…..Leadership is about taking responsibility not making excuses.
…..In football the worse things are excuses.
…..Excuses mean you cannot grow or move forward.
…..People with integrity do what they say they are going to do. Others have excuses.
…..A man can fail many times, but he is not a failure until he begins to blame someone else.
…..It is wise to direct your anger towards problems, not to people, to focus your energies on answers – not on excuses.
…..Excuses are the nails to build a house of failure.
…..True ignorance is not the lack of knowledge but the refusal to acquire it.
MORE QUOTES: Whoever is trying to bring you down is already below you.
…..Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.
…..I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.
“In a New York Times article, Stanford professor Robert Sutton commented, “One nasty person can bring down a whole group. That can happen because the group members devote more energy to dealing with the bad apple and less energy to the task at hand. Moreover, anger and hostility are contagious, so the whole group can become infected.”1)Source: Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth
…..What you do for yourself lies with you when you leave this world. What you do for others live forever.
…..Leadership is the lifting of a man’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a man’s performance to a higher
…..standard, the building of a man’s personality beyond its limitations.