When Church League Basketball Looks Like the Church

Yesterday when I was at the church building, I went to the gym, or “Christian Activities Center,” to set up some games for middle school class last night.  Just as I was slaving away with cones and other class-related stuff, a basketball floated into my hands, and then moved from from my hands towards the basket.  Still not sure what happened but I ended up shooting the ole basketball around for a little bit.  Something weird happens when I shoot hoops by myself: I think.  I think a lot, and about a lot of stuff.  As I was shooting for a few minutes yesterday, I thought about those other times I had played basketball in that gym…

In middle school and high school, I played on the basketball team put together by members of our youth group.  We played against other churches from the area (which really says something about the amount of churches in Nashville), and we had a lot of fun, sometimes.  When I was in seventh and eighth grade, we didn’t win a game… not a single one.  It wasn’t for lack of trying, we just didn’t have the tools necessary to win basketball games (i.e. height, athleticism, actual skill).  I remember screaming at refs and slamming my fist into the bleachers because we were getting “ripped off.”  The saddest part of this story is the fact that I wasn’t the only one in that state.  I remember parents saying some horrific things about the way the game was being played, I remember the rage and occasional curse words uttered by players, and I remember technical fouls (a whole lot of those).

As I got into high school, my friends and I decided to play a different style.  We knew we weren’t going to win all of the games, though we did win some.  We played to have fun, and fun we had.  I started shooting all of my free throws “granny-style,” and when we would be down at the end of games, we would execute our favorite play, “PAT.”  We would get the ball right at the mid-court line where someone would snap the ball between their legs to a “holder” who would toss the ball to the “kicker” who then would proceed to shoot the ball from half-court.  It was really something.  I think a video exists, somewhere.  We had a great time, and yes, we still did occasionally get caught up in the competitive nature of basketball, but when we didn’t, teams noticed.  I always tried to make the other team laugh.  There’s nothing that stops people from getting “awkward mad” more than getting them to laugh.  I always loved when we would lose to a team by 30 or 40 points, but by the end, everyone kind of felt like they were playing on the same team…

…Because we are on the same team, right?  Think about what your church looks like, and odds are it slightly resembles one of these styles.  Too often, church can become an “I need it my way” organization, and that leads to a lot of bitterness and dissent.  We need to be active churches who don’t sweat the small stuff.  Not everyone will ever agree on everything, and we need to know that.  The church is supposed to be one undivided body, so let’s stop breaking off pieces because we feel slightly uncomfortable.

Jesus died for us and rose again in three days, and that’s hopefully something that we can agree on.