Pastor Scott Hannon
St. John Lutheran Church Amherst, NY
After winning their latest game in the NCAA tournament, the seventh seeded South Carolina Gamecocks advanced to their first Elite Eight in school history. At the postgame news conference a young kid named Max asked their coach, Frank Martin, “When you’re coaching defense, what matters more: technique or attitude?” After commending the child for his question, Martin replied, “Attitude comes first. We got to have guys that are going to believe in our mission – that are going to believe in what we want to do. Once they believe, we can teach them the technique.”
Coach Martin’s response resonates deeply with my hopes for the church I pastor and even to some extent to my hopes for my family at home. See, I believe that we live in a world that encourages us to “technique” our way through life. In the church, we often seek renewal and redevelopment in the form of programs. If we only had a children’s choir, we tell ourselves, then we’d have more young families. If we start a food pantry, we say, then our social ministry will become effective again.
Unfortunately, my experience is that programs rarely – if ever – make the impact we think they will. On the contrary, I’ve watched as one program after another has sparked, flamed up, and puttered out time and time again. What the church needs now is NOT more programs. We need to work on our attitude. As Coach Martin says, “We’ve got to have [people] who believe in our mission – that are going to believe in what we want to do.” This is where it all starts. The programs (technique) can be taught later.
As I stated above, I believe that this mindset carries over into our lives at home too. I’ve watched as families cram activities into their kids’ lives. There’s this notion that the children we’re trying to raise will get where we want them to be by learning techniques (whether its sports, music or whatever). Personally, one of the things that pains me as a parent is when I spend all my energy focused on what my kids do rather than who they are. “Behave while we’re in the restaurant,” I say, “and I’ll buy you a toy.” My problem with this is I don’t merely want my kids to behave nicely; I want my kids to be nice. I’m not just looking for technique. I’m looking for attitude.
We should note when Jesus calls his followers he doesn’t make them take a test, he doesn’t assess their skills, there are no try-outs. Rather, he simply calls people to follow. Discipleship starts with our attitude. The techniques we learn later.
As we seek to grow our churches and our children, let us start by reflecting on our attitude. And may we come to embrace God’s mission for us and for this world. May we buy into God’s system – in the same way that players buy into a coach’s system. May we embrace God’s mission of love, faithfulness, service and sacrifice. And may this, my friends, propel us farther in the tournament of life than anyone ever expected us to go.
In the Way,
For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.