Last year, Stuart Lancaster, the head coach of the English rugby team, caught up with Sir Brian Lochore, the former All Blacks Captain who was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame in 1999. Lancaster was on a mission to find out what was behind the success of the All Blacks team. What was Sir Brian’s answer? New Zealand was an island nation at the bottom of the world and we fight like hell for our identity. That makes a lot of sense to me coming from Singapore. Singapore has the same population size as New Zealand but the nation has never excelled in sport consistently like the Kiwis. What makes the New Zealand sports teams and in particular the All Blacks, stand out? I think Sir Brian hits the nail on the head when he talks about us as a nation fighting like hell for our identity.
The All Blacks are the best rugby team in the world because of the mental capacity of the team; their refusal to give up and lose even when the odds are stacked against them; the uncanny ability to turn games around even when things look bleak; the ability to inject younger players into the team to keep the average age quite low compared to other rugby teams and yet present a team that is almost invincible; and the whole Union is focused in keeping New Zealand as the top rugby playing nation in the world
Can the church learn something about this to prevent us going down a path of disunity? I think we can. Here are my thoughts.
- The church needs to fight hard to preserve their identity. Our identity about being the children of God and the ambassadors of His Kingdom. Nothing else matters!
- Even though the church could have individual superstars, the team can only be effective when the superstars are prepared to let go of their ego and ideas to work together as a team. In other words, if superstars are not prepared to toe the line, they will cause dysfunction and disunity.
- The nurturing and training of younger members are essential if these youngsters are going to gain the experience to keep the church in the cutting edge of mission in the world. Giving opportunities for the young will give them the experience they need to keep the church strong and effective.
- Church members must stop murmuring against each other and backstabbing each other. There will always be differing views, ideas and strategic plans. The key to success is to not let personal ideology stand in the way of the overall team’s direction. Members need to either live with the overall plan or move to another church that they know they can fit in. What is keeping New Zealand churches weak and small is this infighting that does more harm than good.
- The Elders and the Senior Pastor are the only people elected by the church to lead the church forward. The church must trust them and allow them to govern and lead. If not, they need to replace them with people whom they trust. The elders function as the governance team, and like the NZRU Board, they are called to create a winning culture that keeps the church focused. The Senior Pastor is like the All Blacks Head Coach who interprets and applies the Board’s strategic plan within the team. The staff are specialist coaches focusing on their own area under the overall supervision and direction of the Senior Pastor.
Can the church overcome its dysfunction and disunity to become this “fellowship of differences” that makes us a team that is not just fighting like hell but fighting against hell to bring life and healing in a broken world?