Thirty-two million people worldwide are putting together fantasy football teams, and from what I understand about it, it’s not necessarily about getting the most talented all-stars or the best QB. The all-stars can be a risky lot, prone to injury. Building a fantasy team is more about consistent carries and receptions that result in yardage. One needs some reliable players—a decent running back and wide receiver, in particular—to incrementally move the ball as a team throughout the season. A couple of all-stars can’t do it on their own.
The church functions similarly. We are a body, each of us a valuable part of the whole. One or two charismatic individuals cannot fulfill our dreams. In being a team we realize the vision: to be a Circle of Hope in Jesus Christ, a network of cells forming congregations, a people called to reconciliation, a safe place to explore and express God’s love. And by working together we do what we are called to do: create an environment where people can connect with God and act for redemption.
Two of our convictions seem especially vital to being the team we want to be here in our Second Act:
Jesus is best revealed incarnationally.
Webster says that an “incarnation” is a person who embodies in the flesh a deity, and this is actually what God is doing through us. We are an embodiment, personification, exemplification, type, epitome, of the Savior we follow. As he cares for his flock like a shepherd, he is always looking for the one who is next. So we, the church, exist for those yet to join too. We are building the church for the next generation. In an individualistic age, it is a countercultural statement. It is also a much-needed safe place to land and grow and develop as part of an eternal family.
Our cells are places where Jesus is revealed in accessible, human ways. It’s real, like slow food. We need to keep growing in accessibility and humanness, so I hope we keep gathering as cells and letting the movement grow. The cells I’ve been a part of don’t have “all-star” leaders or participants who sound like Joel Osteen or the Dahlai Lama. They are normal people with real questions and real problems who are opening up to God in real ways. This week when we read the words of Jesus, “Do not judge others” my cell-mate said, “How can we do this? I judge people all the time.” That’s real. Being real can be messy and awkward and inconvenient. It’s also what we need; it requires love and makes love grow. If you want to grow in love and be a lover, join a cell. The Holy Spirit is leading us in a movement that is changing the world through the real love of Christ in us.
Dialogue keeps us connected and protects our gravity.
This is a problem in our techno age. One might think that dialogue is easier with more modes of communication (instagram, text, snapchat, etc) but it’s not a given unless we make it so. Dialogue is not necessarily accomplished by venting about a politicized concept on our facebook wall or sending pictures of our lives out into cyberspace. Dialogue is a relational exchange that builds trust, even in conflict. It often takes intention. It involves listening and speaking, and listening to God while listening and speaking. No one is particularly great at it; no one is an all-star. We just have to keep trying and trust in our team-ness with God. Face-to-face is always best, so we gather that way regularly. But our other ways of communicating, like on our listserves, can grow love and share imagination in encouraging ways too. I hope we keep talking and checking in with one another even if we think we are already communicating all the time. We may need to ask each other what’s being received on the other end. Even fantasy football team builders look for good partnerships between players, because partnerships are powerful. Our connections with one another are the antidote to the isolation that is pervasive in the world.
Paul’s team-building inspiration to the Ephesian church seems good for our Circle of Hope too. I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.