Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Losing by not winning

Sports fans, eat your hearts out - non sports fans, hang with me till the end...

Two weeks ago, the state soccer championship was held here in Porto Alegre. Every town in the state (no matter how small) has their own professional team, and the championship is the opportunity for everybody, from the lowest level minor league guys, all the way up to the major league teams, to slug it out in one big tournament and have bragging rights for the year.

As usual, the two big major league teams (Gremio and Internacional) in the capital crushed the little guys and met in the final, which consists of two games - a home and an away for both teams.

Ok, here's where it gets complicated. In the first game, the teams tied 0-0 at Gremio's stadium. In the second game, they tied 1-1 at Internacional's stadium. So....who wins? Despite the fact that they did not actually win either of the games, Gremio won the championship because they scored a goal in their opponent's stadium, while Internacional did not.

As I reflected on this (to me quite bizarre) way of deciding a winner, it occured to me that there is a deep spiritual truth present. When it comes to the kingdom of God (especially in the area of church planting), if we aren't actually playing for the win, we end up losing in the end.

I have heard far too many Christians (on several Continents) say "we need to build up our existing churches before starting new ones", or "we need to take care of our own members instead of running after unbelievers." Shortly after we arrived in Porto Alegre, I met with an influential Baptist leader, who told me in as many words, that we should not start any new churches, but work for several years to strengthen existing works before doing anything else. The intentions are good, but it's like the Internacional soccer team playing for the tie - it sounds good, but it's a no-win situation.

The city of Porto Alegre is a perfect example. Forty-five years ago, we had 10 Baptist churches in the city. Today, we have 13 - a net gain of 3 churches. Unfortunately, the size and strength of the 13 churches of today is much smaller than it was 45 years ago. In addition, the population of the city has exploded at an astounding rate - while our churches have declined. All the while these churches have focused on themselves - playing for the tie.

But I want to win. As a matter of fact, Jesus has already won the battle, so why are we acting like he hasn't? Have I too, played for the tie? We must start new churches, and these churches must reproduce themselves. If not, it's not bragging rights that are lost, but the souls of 4.5 million people in the Porto Alegre metro area - we cannot afford to tie.


N'omi said...

I couldn't agree with you more, Jeff-the-Baptist!!! My Bible says that it's the sick who need a physician and that Light belongs in the darkness not in the light.

Anonymous said...

I love you Blake

Anonymous said...

I know you cheer for inter! So, can I have my CD case back?

Stan O-H in Bogota said...

Gremio tche! opa!

good post,

Stan O-H in Bogota