When I was in elementary and middle school school I played in the local hockey league at our community rink. Each year there up to 5 teams in each division and in my final year of playing competitively I managed to get picked for the “C” Team — not the “A” Team but it was still quite an honour because we got to travel to other towns and play in tournaments, of which we did okay.
Although I had a classmate who was on the “A” Team, it never bothered me that he got to travel out of province while only made it to the next county. It was fun and that’s all that mattered to me.
That same season our regular league team was almost unstoppable all year. The line I mostly played on consisted of two brothers, one a centerman and the other left wing while I held my own on right wing. The centerman brother was really the star of the team yet because he excelled we all excelled. I hope my recollection is clear in that I scored 30 plus goals and many more assists that season. Even if I’m off a little on my statistical memory, I know I had never come close to that in my five previous years in the league.
When it came time for the playoffs, we blew it. We went from the favoured team to win the championship to ending up in fourth place while the champions were the last place team all year. We were really disappointed in our performance — the dream team came up short, perhaps because we really weren’t as good as we thought.
Fast forward to present day. No, I don’t play hockey anymore and the closest I get to team sports is watching my grandson play high school football. And it seems history has repeated itself in his life. In his first year playing defensive linebacker his team was unstoppable all season. Actually 10 – 0 for the past two years. They just went game after game wiping the other team out every time — the scores were almost embarrassing, but hey, they were really good and deserved to win.
But when it came to the championship game last weekend, nothing went as planned. The other team simply outplayed them and the dream team was soundly defeated. I felt so bad for my grandson, he practiced hard, hit hard and cheered on his fellow team mates on and off the field. And we are very proud of him!! No doubt he’ll have another great season before his high school days are done.
So by now you might be thinking “what is the point to this little story?” Or “where are you headed with the dream team stuff?” Good question! I’ve been serving on staff for 16 years at a church that I’ve been attending since I was five years old and over the years there have been excellent pastoral teams — everything just seemed to click into place. We saw steady growth in attendance, financial goals were met, massive building plans come to fruition and people were coming to Jesus and caring for one another in small groups.
That’s not to say we didn’t experience seasons of little growth and pain from people just being human, but overall our church seemed strong. The dream team was unstoppable — or so we thought. Through a series of events that I won’t mention or dredge up, we seemed to lose sight of what really mattered and in hindsight, I think we got caught up in ourselves, in our own success — not a good thing for people of the book! And yes, you guessed it, it all fell apart. Factions. Disunity. Disillusionment. Someone has coined the phrase “hurt people, hurt people.” They were right, unfortunately.
But an amazing thing happened, God called a former associate pastor back to us as our lead pastor. God refused to give up on us and His church! This pastor whom I like call my boss and friend — and he calls me padre — is extremely caring, loves Jesus and preaches God’s Word with passion and humility. He’s a visionary leader, a deep thinker and very creative. God knew what needed to happen, we needed a new head coach — one whose goal was not to build a dream team staff, but a dream team congregation who loves Jesus, loves each other and is passionate about making disciples — seems like a no brainer, but it’s not always what churches do. We’re often like sheep who get lost and can’t find our way across the parking lot without needing directions. We needed a shepherd who, like our Saviour, would pick us up out of the mess we found ourselves in and bring us home. Someone who wouldn’t scold us for being stupid sheep, but would gently speak words of truth into our messiness.
Now I finally feel like a dream team actually does exist and it’s right here in our church. I’m so grateful for a loving heavenly Father who never gives up on us even when we seem to have lost the game — I think we just needed Him to remind us, there’s another season to be played and that the team would play on for the sake of Christ and His church and His glory! And I get to play whatever position is needed — sometimes it’s just being the water boy — and I’m okay with that!