Day 11: Religion & Rugby

Today England play France at rugby. It’s a big day for interim coach Stuart Lancaster as he looks to lay claim to a full time position. Don’t switch off just yet if you’re not into rugby.

I like Stuart Lancaster. In his brief time as manager it seems like he has focussed on two things:

  • Creating a good culture of humble, hard work within the team.
  • Building a team for the 2015 world cup.

During last year’s World Cup we saw the beginnings of the England rugby squad following in the footsteps of their footballing equivalents – seduced by the trappings of the celebrity culture and dipping a toe into the realms of indecency. Lancaster stamped that out very quickly by suspending Danny Care and Delon Armitage for their poor off the field behaviour. Character over gifting. Fantastic. As for building the squad, Lancaster made a choice to sacrifice short term results in order to build a team that will have the time to prepare for the next World Cup. His loyalty is to potential and performance and not the ‘established names’. He understands that in order to build a long-term squad, there needs to be a balance between experience and youthful exuberance. His actions actually teach us some very useful lessons in the church:

Regardless of talent, character must always come first. Take the worship team for example. If the best musician around wanted to join the team but was arrogant, unteachable and had no interest in worshipping Jesus, their musical abilities would be useless to us. We want to build a team of authentic worshippers with a heart for God. Just like the England rugby squad influence their fans (though on a significantly larger scale), the worship team members are seen by an entire church community who will look to whoever leads from the platform to set an example of what it means to live a life sold out for Jesus. The purpose of secular music is to proclaim the words “look at me” (which, by the way, isn’t necessarily wrong in a secular setting); the purpose of worship music is to declare the words “look at Him”. That’s something that can’t be up for debate.

Lancaster is preparing for the future with an understanding that short term results may suffer, whilst appreciating the importance of a few key experienced players to lead the way. If we always use the same people to lead worship, to deliver the notices, to perform the dramas or to serve on the tech teams (just a few examples), then the younger, less experienced people will never get an opportunity to learn themselves. Having said that, without the experience of their predecessors, frankly the meetings would probably just fall apart. The church should always be looking to empower new leaders with a carefully planned long term mindset. At Kerith Community Church, we have examples of that in every area of church life but the transition between Ben Davies and Simon Benham is one of the most poignant examples of empowering younger leaders fantastically well. I’m a prime example of someone how has been given the opportunity to step up and lead young and I couldn’t be more grateful for that, but have also had the immense privilege of learning from the experience of people like Helen and Colin, who have walked this path far longer than I have. I would be far less than half the leader I am today if it wasn’t for them,

Church life, like rugby, depends on many different roles working together as one collective team to achieve our objective. Pretty similar after all ey? Lancaster’s focus on character and long term planning is a great reminder to us that we must never get complacent with where we are as a church. If we adopt a ‘World Cup mindset’ of furious planning for the future coupled with a strong appreciation of where we are at, we could see many incredible things for a very long time. Hopefully, we’ll see the same with our rugby squad!

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