Monday, November 18, 2013

When ESPN Comes To Church

Yesterday, we had a pretty unusual experience at the Old Hickory Church of Christ during our Sunday morning service: ESPN showed up and filmed the whole thing. I'd love to tell you the reason why is because of our hard hitting Bible lessons and high-impact classes. But truthfully, it's because of a family at our congregation whose story they are making a special about.

There are several members of the Gaines family over the years who have been successful athletes, particularly in football. Brad Gaines will always have a special place in football history from his time at Vanderbilt when a bad hit led to Chucky Mullins' paralysis, and later death. It was Chucky who hit Brad, and ended up injured, but knowing what happened to Chucky as a result of the collision weighed heavily on Brad. Brad is a person of deep faith, and he has made regular visits for decades now, down to the site of Mullins' grave to honor his memory and show his respects. The story of Brad and Chucky is touching, and later next year, there will be a special on Brad as a 30 for 30 short film. That was the occasion for the filming. They are telling Brad's story, of which his faith is a central part. I appreciate their willingness to highlight this aspect about him. If you want to learn more about this story, you can see one of the previous specials here.

I'm sure I'll be talking about the 30 for 30 short film when it is released. But I wanted to talk about the experience of having ESPN film our worship service, because it was enlightening for me in some ways I hadn't anticipated. They were polite and appreciative, but there was a crew of about 6 people running around with boom microphones and large professional cameras. It was a very different experience. They would run up and get close ups of the people on the stage, and at one point, stood a couple of rows in front of me, panning the camera around at our faces as we were singing. It didn't prevent me from paying attention, but I never ceased being aware of the rolling cameras all around us. 

For me, this was a great wake up call to how many people have probably come in and out of our doors. Much like the big cameras, these people have also been watching. I think for most of us, we were determined more than ever to sing well, to pay attention, to sit up straight, to be friendly...all the things we know we ought to do. But the added reminder that people are watching...maybe even thousands of people...was a powerful motivator. When I am aware that people are watching me, I learned, I put a lot more effort into what I'm doing. 

So here's a reminder to you all: no matter where you are or what you're doing, someone is watching. Your actions tell a lot about what you think, what you feel, and what you care about. You should never do things for the sole purpose of appearances, but you should also remember that in general, perception is reality. Regardless of what is going on inside of you, if you don't make it perceptible, people will never know.

We feel so blessed that because of this good family, our congregation has an opportunity to represent our faith before a potential multitude. Realistically, I'm sure our time on screen will probably be seconds at most. But when you are aware that any second might be the second that millions of others could see, you live each second more deliberately.

Live like it matters, and do things you'd be proud of to see again later.

Something to think about.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Two Questions for Consistency

There are two questions I've been thinking about. They're two sides of the same coin, really. They are:
(1) Do you do things in private that you would never do in public?
(2) Do you do things in public that you would never do in private?

Both are questions of hypocrisy, "to wear a mask." Both have a common solution as well: consistency. Some people are all around jerks, all the time, of course. But for those of us striving to be better, the challenge is to be the same good person, no matter where we are, and no matter who our audience is. 

Some of my goals are:
  • To demonstrate an attitude of love, regardless of circumstances. Even if something has gone wrong, or someone has done me wrong, I want to always treat the other person as one created in the image of God, worthy of love and respect, even if I have sincere disagreement. I want to treat people as people, and I want to be a vessel through which people can experience grace and acceptance.
  • To be positive and hopeful, helping others around me to be the same. I want this for the people in whose lives I play a public role, but I want to be sure that I treat my family as well as I treat those to whom I minister. It is unacceptable to take out home problems on my friends, church members, or co-workers, just as it is unacceptable to take out church frustrations on my family. Both deserve my best, and both benefit from people who believe that a future with God can be a good future.
  • To be honest in all things, willing to speak truthfully. So many problems are created and perpetuated because people fear that their honesty will cause harm. After all, many things don't have to be said, and honesty stings for those who don't like to admit room for growth. But it's always better to speak truthfully before a situation becomes a problem than to flee from discomfort until a small problem becomes the elephant in the room that is now much harder to deal with. Honesty is also the best way to make up for a limited memory. Dishonesty requires a lot more record keeping and avoidances. Honest people have nothing to run from. 
  • To extend mercy to all people, including myself. After giving the "golden rule", Jesus explains that the reason we should treat others as we want to be treated is because God intends to use our own actions towards others as the basis for how he judges us. No one has ever wronged me as badly as I've wronged God, and there is no one for whom I can only reserve God's judgment if I personally wish to experience God's mercy. My personal struggle comes less from showing others mercy, though, because I have a much harder time accepting mercy for myself. All sins sound very forgivable to me except my own. Yet if God, whom I admire and imitate, tells me that I'm forgiven, who am I to tell him what he can't do? I want to be characterized by mercy, grace, and peace, because this is what God is like.
My walk as a Christian will be different than everyone else's walk. But I think for every Christian, a path to blessing is to (a) fix your eyes on Jesus and all that makes him who he is, and to (b) try to be this way at all times to all people.

I hope yours is a blessed week.