Thursday, September 24, 2009

What Veritas can learn from Michigan Football.

I love University of Michigan football. This is no surprise to anyone who knows me even a little. If there is a game on TV there is a 95% chance I am watching it. If I am not watching it the DVR is running. I’ve had a guy who was in the marching band at Michigan admire my fandom.

Last year Michigan was horrid. They hired a new coach to bring in the spread offense system. This ran upstream while swimming backwards into the tradition of Michigan football. Going into the year they lost four key players to the NFL draft. One of which was the number one pick. Then they had others like Ryan Mallet who transfered because of the shift to the new spread system.

The team had three wins - nine losses. Worst season in a one hundred plus year program. They sucked. They sucked bad. They did beat Wisconsin which was nice for me here in Milwaukee to at least hang a hat on that. It was bad year to be a Wolverine.

But three games into the season this year they are playing much better and have already matched their win total from last year. They also have a legitimate shot at bowl eligibility and maybe more.

What changed? There was some coaching shifts but the system remained the same. The major thing that changed was personnel. They got this freshman in to play QB named Forcier. He has played in the spread system all through high school he knows how to play the system. He has been a difference maker. The rest of the team has also had time to adapt to the system. They understand the new system better. They have had time to shift their thinking from one way of doing things to another. Because they understand the new system better and they have had time together to practice it they are executing it more effectively.

I think in our adventures with Veritas we are introducing a new system. We didn’t start with an established team. Everybody is new to this system. Some of the people used to the old system that thought they were interested in something new have transferred or come for a visit and chose another “school.” It takes a special people to run a system that swims upstream. I feel like we are only playing about 5% of the playbook. God hasn’t let us see the rest of it yet.

We are past our one year anniversary. We didn’t make a big deal about it. No need to. We are in a new season. We haven’t had many wins but we have had some and we will build on those. When all seemed lost with the Apollo 13 mission most people were looking at all the problems and seeing failure. Gene Kranz looked at all the problems and said, “This could be our finest hour.”

We as a church can look at all of our problems and see failure. Michigan could have looked at a three win season and said the system doesn’t work. Or we can choose to look at where we are and see the potential. “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.” 2 Cor. 4:18

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

First Church of Stone Creek?

Stone Creek Coffee is where Vicky and I work. We work AT Stone Creek Coffee not FOR Stone Creek Coffee. We were away from our corner table for eleven days while on vacation. Vicky and I got a Facebook message from one of the baristas while we were gone that Stone Creek just wasn’t the same without us. Then when I came in this morning there was a look of relief on one of the baristas’ face. Then another came in just to pick up some coffee and gave me a big hug from behind. When I was ordering my espressjito, because it was the last day it would be available, the baristas told me that while we were gone at least three people had asked where we were.

So I sat down and tweeted this:

@brewcitytimmy We are officially a fixture at Stone Creek Coffee Bay View. People asked the baristas about us when we were on vacation.

@brewcitytimmy Do people in the community that don't go to church miss your pastor when he is out of town?

I was intrigued that us sitting over in the corner was enough of a staple that people noticed we weren’t there. Then it lead me to wonder how many people who are in the community at large would notice if a pastor left town for a couple days? Are most pastors out in the community enough for anyone to notice that they are gone? I am a firm believer in presence. Even if we had offices I might only spend one or at most two days there a week. I would probably use it as a space for solitude. Keep it generic so anyone could use it.

But then my buddy busts out this reply to my tweet:

@bargeria @brewcitytimmy So, Stone Creek is your community? ; )

Granted I was trying to capture that previous paragraph in 140 characters so it lost something in translation. But what a statement! This sent my gears spinning. So I tweeted that back to him.

@brewcitytimmy@bargeria SCC my community? Spending 4 days a wk @ scc more church than Sun? Gears spinning. 2 soon after vacation for this thought pattern.

Is me sitting in Stone Creek Coffee at least four days a week more an expression of church than what we do when we gather together as Veritas Church on Sunday mornings?

Vicky and I have built community here. We know the baristas. Some definitely more than others. Some are quiet and don’t talk much with us. Then others we could chat with for hours.

There are other costumers we have gotten to know. I know Jim is a health nut and likes classic cars. Mike comes in to play World of warcraft and is a tattoo artist on the east side. Dee owns a bar and Bridget is moving in with her. There are many Daves. Heavy Metal Dave is only one of the many. Rob is a tall confident guy who owns a boat, is a house appraiser/inspector, and drinks tea. Steve gets a Boston latte and sits at the table over by the entrance. Stephanie works for a non profit trying to improve a neighborhood in Milwaukee. Dan the hair man runs a salon down the street and comes in to get four or five coffees at a time. His always have the most espresso shots. Those are some of the regulars.

Then there are all the occasional encounters. The independent film maker. Emily who thinks the downtown art museum is one of the most beautiful buildings ever conceived. I kept an eye on her computer while she took a phone call from her mom. Haley and Matt who were expecting their first child this past summer. Joe who crafts hair at a local salon (not the before mentioned Dan's salon). Two woman who were having coffee with a beautiful little girl in a stroller. There names are Gesa, Megan, and little Johanna. The moms with kids, hipsters with their own travel mug, the tattooed, and the three piece suits, the homeless, the police and the people who come in and have no idea what they are looking at when they look at the menu and end up ordering a Black Bear Soda.

Is this my community?

I know more about some people at Stone Creek than people in our church. I have had deeper conversations about prayer, Jesus, and faith with people here than I have with some at church. I have prayed with people at Stone Creek. I have prayed with people at church. I have cried as God moved in me at Stone Creek and Veritas. I am with people here more than I am with people from Veritas.

Am I more a part of the First Church of Stone Creek than Veritas Church?

I love being at both. I love the people at both. I pray for the people at both. I am probably a pastor for both. People are spiritually seeking at both.

What is community? What is Church? Where does God use me more? Would God rather have me at Stone Creek from 9-noon on a Sunday or at the Beulah Brinton Community Center doing Veritas? These are questions I don’t know if I necessarily have the answer to.