Monday, January 28, 2013

Church Shopping Network

“Good morning! Welcome to Faith Church. Is this your first time here?”

Yes. We were out shopping and decided to stop by.

“Oh. Well, what brings you to our church today?"

I said we were out shopping. We are looking for the best deal. You know, doing some test-driving to find the right one for us.

“Test-driving? I don’t understand.”

We are test-driving churches. Churches are like cars, you know. Every so often we need a new one. So we are comparing all the features, looking for the right one for our family. It's a big investment, so we want to find the one that is perfect for us and meets our every need before we fork over a lot of cash. Haha

“Hmm. That’s interesting. What are some of the factors you are looking for, if I may ask?"

Well, we have a checklist of sorts. We rate each church based on five things. The first thing we look for is what we call the Refrigerator Door Test.

“That’s an interesting term.”

Yes. You see, our weekends are very full and our lives are very busy with other things. So we are looking for a church that is open when we need it, like a refrigerator door. It’s good to know there always something tasty inside when the mood hits. Our church needs to have all its services at times that are convenient for us.

“Hmm. Ok. What are some other factors?"

Well, there’s also the Porridge Preaching Test.

“I don’t understand.”

You remember Goldilocks, don’t you? Some porridge is too hot, some is too cold, but some is just right? Well, we like our preaching to be convicting, but not too convicting, challenging but not too challenging, a little Jesus, but not too much Jesus. I think the Bible says something about eating the word, so we want it to be just right.

“I hope you don’t burn your tongue. What else are you looking for?”

The next thing on our checklist is the XM Radio Test.

“I bet I can guess what that is. You want to pick the music yourself?”

Of course not! We want the worship pastor to pick the music, as long as he chooses what we like. Goodness, we aren’t in charge here, are we?

“No I suppose not. Is there anything else you are looking for?”

Yes, there’s the Youth Group Snuggy Test.

“That’s a new one. What does it mean?”

You know what a Snuggy is, right? When you are in your Snuggy, you just feel so warm and content because the Snuggy revolves around you! Our teenagers don’t like to be out of their comfort zone even for a moment. So we are looking for a youth group where there’s not even a second of awkwardness or discomfort. We already make them go to school, so do you think we are going to make them go to church or youth group, too? It’s all about them, you know.

“I wonder where they got an idea like that. So, is there anything else?”

Well, there’s one last thing, actually. It’s called the Perfect Brownie Test.

“The Perfect Brownie? I think I saw that on TV. It’s that pan that turns our perfect brownies every time without sticking, isn’t it? No messes to clean up.”

Yes, that’s right. You see, in other churches we’ve been to, there were, well, difficult people. Some who were kind of strange and some whose lives were kind of messy. I know this is hard to believe, but there were even some people we didn’t like that much and who didn’t like us! So we are looking for a place where everyone is just like us and perfect every time they ‘come out of the pan,’ so to speak. Haha.

“Hmm. Well, I can see why you are still shopping. I wonder what God thinks of your 'shopping list.'"

What God thinks? I'm sure he approves. He certainly wants us to go to church and be happy, right? I mean, this is America, and we did pray about it once.

"I suppose so. Anyway, I'm sure it’s hard to find a place that meets every single one of your very reasonable needs. I don’t know if we can do it here at Faith, but you are welcome to come in and see for yourselves. The service starts in ten minutes. We have a nice coffee bar. The youth room is amazing. And we have a great nursery. Would you like to sign our visitor sheet?"

No thank you. We never sign in until we are ready to make a commitment...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Brian Kelly -- Savior or Schmuck?

Three years ago, Brian Kelly became the head coach of the Notre Dame football team. I wrote in my blog at the time that he displayed a terrible lack of integrity by abandoning his team, the Cincinnati Bearcats, right before the biggest game in their history, a BCS bowl game. I predicted Notre Dame would regret hiring someone whose loyalty extended only to his own interests. Tomorrow night, Kelly's team plays for the National Championship. I'm sure Notre Dame fans are ecstatic at this prospect, and think hiring him was the greatest decision the school could have made. I say he's still a schmuck. I say character matters and will prove itself true in time, especially when coaching young men. Perhaps he has changed. Perhaps not. Here's a re-posting of my blog from December 2009.

Yesterday, a man named Brian Kelly accepted the head coaching position at Notre Dame. I had never heard of Brian Kelly before a few weeks ago, when I watched his former team, the Cincinnati Bearcats, beat Pitt in a miracle comeback, 45-44, to finish their regular season undefeated and win the Big East championship.

Brian Kelly seems to be a very good coach. He took Cincinnati's football program and built it into a national power in just three years. This year they are ranked third in the nation and will be playing in the Sugar Bowl in front of millions of viewers.

In that game, however, they will not be coached by Brian Kelly. He's already left for South Bend. He grabbed the money and the prestige and headed for the promised land faster than any of his players can run the 40.

This displays a lack of character that I find disheartening and shameful.

It's not his leaving that I find offensive. He's Irish and he's Catholic. Being the head coach at Notre Dame is to Irish Catholics what being being the quarterback of the Steelers is to boys from Pittsburgh. It's how he did it that I cannot fathom.

He accepted the job and agreed to leave his post while his team prepares to play their biggest game ever. He left his assistant coaches and more importantly, a group of young men he invested in and supposedly cared about, right before their greatest challenge. He's like a ship captain abandoning his vessel right before the battle. His actions demonstrated incredible lack of tact, shameless cowardice, and a frightful sense of narcissism.

This is how he did it. He met with his players after their football banquet (what should have been a happy time) and told them he was grateful that they made this possible for him. Then he told them he would not be coaching them in the Sugar Bowl and then snuck out the back door, with a police escort, leaving them to answer questions for the media. On the way out, he had time to change his Twitter and webpage, replacing Bearcats with Fighting Irishmen, red and black for green and gold.

Some of his players cried. Others were angry. All of them had to ask themselves a very legitimate question: Couldn't he have stayed for the Sugar Bowl, and headed off to his new job with a sense of completion? Couldn't he have taken some time to say goodbye to everyone he purported to care so much about? If he had done so, he could have left with honor and good will. He could have left with unburned bridges and relationships intact. He could have taught his team a lesson about commitment. He could have ended well. Instead, he made it all about him, left under the cover of darkness as a coward, and alienated everyone he purported to care about so deeply these past few years. In doing so, he revealed his true character as a selfish glory chaser and not a leader of young men.

Good luck, Notre Dame. I have a feeling you will regret this decision. You hired a good coach, and a lousy person.