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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Entry 2: The Cheer Leader

Dear Friends

February 4, 2014

Re:  Entry 2

Every year I attend the state basketball tournament.  It is like an annual tradition, six games a day for 3 days and one day of championship games.  You get to notice a lot of things being in the arena for so long, mostly things like different parts of the state dress differently (really), some schools are there every year, others never.  One thing I noticed, and it took a few years before I realized it:  the Cheer Leader.  No, not the “Cheerleaders”.  I’m not talking about the organized group of school sanctioned girls and boys, in matching uniforms.  That group is the ultimate result of years of training, grooming, mother-doting, string-pulling and, no doubt, practice, hard work and athletic ability.  They are meticulously selected, assembled—even insured--go through months of tryouts, preparation and effort all to represent the school at some big event.  Invariably they go onto the court before the game, perform some routine some of their mothers still wish they could perform, push their pom-poms, chant rote cheers and do, more or less, cheerleader stuff.  This continues throughout the game.  Few watch.  

Then the game starts and some freak in a lime green body stocking, spiked hair and sequined cape comes out of the student section and rouses the crowd.  Usually, this person is tolerated by the school administration, but inevitably he does something inappropriate and you see a balding, middle-age principal in a Robert Hall suit come down, grab him by the arm give a few sound words of advice, often ignored, at which point the caped student goes back to whipping up the crowd into a frenzy.  He is the real Cheer Leader.  Not official, not sanctioned, not trained--not insured, gasp!--not prepared, not recognized, but the really, really true leader of the team spirit.  This analogy has floated around in my head for years; I thought it was about leadership.  I guess it is, how true leadership isn’t ordained as much as it is organic, and how organizations more often than not have people like the Cheer Leader that are more and better leaders than the Cheerleaders.

But then I realized a much more relevant example:  The apostles.  You know, those eleven guys, truck drivers, janitors, coal miners, fry cooks, fishermen (I know, I threw in the others for flavor), the ones Jesus picked to go around Israel with him to spread the Gospel.   Now the people in charge of religious affairs at the time had their own guys, but Jesus didn’t pick them, in fact he as much as disregarded and disdained them and we all know the end result.  Before you go on, go on the Internet and look up “Robert Hall Suits” as I am pretty sure the Pharisees wore them.   

It is hard to argue with the results that those 11 guys changed everything.  Everything.  And it wasn’t as if they disdained the organized “church” of the day (meaning the Jewish religion).  In fact, go back and read the book of Acts and some of the Epistles, they more or less, overlaid Christianity over the existing network.  They co-opted Judaism and for years Christianity was considered another sect of Judaism.  So Jesus didn’t demolish the religious structure as much as he bypassed it (or, better, enhanced it, magnified it), used the people to spread the message directly.  Those eleven untrained guys had the perfect background—actually no background, but faith, little theological training but the Holy Spirit.  It was messy.  It wasn’t pretty, it was flawed, yet those flawed messengers were bringing the perfect message.  Most good churches today get this, to preach the gospel effectively, you have to expand the messengers, enable the messengers, equip the messengers, and encourage the messengers.  Some today, unfortunately, do not get it, or they have stumbled over the simplicity of the message, trading it instead for theological rectitude or moral relativism, or, more sadly, an altered and corrupted gospel.

But it is not the reason to despair, if you are a student of the Bible it is hard not to see the endless repetition of human behavior in falling away, or in adulterating the message, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we have made officially sanctioned theology more important than Jesus Christ.  If, as it seems, organized Christianity has slipped—that the Robert Hall Suits have seemingly won—I have to believe out there is an army of steadfast apostles in lime green body stockings, willing to get out that sequined cape, spike up their hair, and sway the willing, desperate crowd with the Good News.

I Remain,