Pastors. Churches. You.

   Every night on the court I see played out over and again the difference between the good and the gifted athlete. The gifts vary on a court; one fellow is tall, a girl has good hand-eye coordination, one is faster or jumps higher. There are things an athlete can do to maximize their gifts but, face it, if you cannot run a 4.3 forty by the time you are 25, you will probably not do so.

   Good athletes come to the court with different stories. A good athlete may not be gifted, just as a gifted athlete may not be a good athlete.

   A good athlete loves the game she is playing. She trains to hone her skills. She learns the lore of the game. She maximizes her game by getting the right equipment, the proper nutrition and she rests when she needs to rest. Always she hydrates for performance.

  The good athlete gets all she has got out of what she has got. She has moments of glaring and flaring. The glaring moments come when our good athlete is matched against a gifted athlete. No amount of training will make up the talent difference. The gifted athlete simply blows by the good one and the devil take the hindquarter.

   Then, perhaps more rarely, there are those flaring moments. In these all too rare occurrences, the good athlete sees practice, determination and skills suddenly coalesce in what seems to be a happy, if coincidental, set of circumstances. For a moment she has the ball, the team is set, the crowd is gasping and her more gifted opponent is off balance. She drives, she shoots, she scores.

   And one.

   The more gifted athlete, the talented, bestial, overwhelming power, looks her way with a mixture of astonishment and self-loathing. Then, the anger fades and the better athlete just bested, tips her hand to the less gifted girl. She, the talent, will win more than the she loses but now, just for now, she is humbled, and good for her opponent.

   On the court, luck most often falls into the hands of the prepared and the alert. Good and gifted are still visible. They always matter.

   Sometimes the difference between good and gifted do not matter as much.

   Pastors who put in their 10,000 hours of practice/preparation/participation narrow the margin between good and gifted. Some pastors are more gifted than others. Their giftedness may include connections, being in the right place at the right time or playing the network/mentoring contest ruthlessly. Give them this credit. They know what they want and go after it hammer and tong.

   If we put the power-hungry aside for the moment and just look at the parish priest, a key difference emerges. This is a fellow who does not necessarily know what he wants and so looks for some mirror he may hold up to his own face, that he might behold the image and see what it is he might be.

   Some will make this life long mistake: they will confuse humility with their own inability to figure how who they are.

   The psychological and giftedness testing I have mentioned does not have to disqualify a minister. It could show him/her why the shyness attack suddenly cripples him at the most inopportune time, or why he eats for comfort or why he would much rather visit at the hospitals than to help a person toward new faith.

   Peer review might be a help, so long as it is not run by some petty bureaucrat from a denominational service. Let me elucidate.

   Much of the lore of the game I love is learned in the referees dressing area. It is not much picked up in the formalized pre-game we follow slavishly. What to do about this call or that situation comes clear as one sees the play unfold, processes the information and then reviews the happening with his peers.

   There is a clear connection between effort and reward in these cases. The official does not get more money for making the right call or less for making the wrong call. Thus, his wish to improve, to be more efficient, just to get the call right, sprouts up from the seed of his own self-awareness, an important part of non-hubrisic pride.

   The booing crowd, the whining coach, the pleading player; all are symptoms of a disease. The serum to treat this epidemic is practice, performance and pride, mixed in a healing cocktail and applied to the sore area by a competent professional, who must care about his craft regardless of the immediate material rewards.

   To do well must be its own reward. You win games in the weight room in June, though the game is not played until November. You get your 10,000 hours.

   Pastors need their 10,000 hours. Who is helping them get their time?

   Pastors need their next 10,000 hours. We will talk about that tomorrow, under the title, "How We Got To The Moment Where Our Experience Was Perfect, Only to Discover Our Experience Was Sadly Outdated."

2 thoughts on “Pastors. Churches. You.”

  1. Rick, Your remark which begins “Much of the lore of the game…”, those two paragraphs, I am going to unashamedly steal and use in my Coaching program at work. I “coach” (not mentor – different concept, but you knew that)12 folks at my tent-making job. Those two paragraphs are what I’ve been trying to boil down for these folks in the “what’s in it for me” question.
    I will appropriately attribute you, but steal I will.
    Keep the thoughts coming. Some strike deep, others encourage, all are fruitful for me.
    May all your trips up and down the court this New Year(whichever “court” it is) be blessed, without aching joints/muscles, and with enough breath to blow the “whistle” when necessary.
    Gary Skaggs
    P.S.: Breaking in the New Year right. Phil Ratliff and I are going to play golf at noon today!

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