Last week, Simone Biles withdrew from competition in the Olympic Games. It immediately stirred controversy and debate throughout the land. Some believed that she was betraying her team and her country by dropping out...that she was a coward. Simone argued that she made the decision to try to do what was best for herself AND for her team.
And it’s hard to think of anything braver than telling the whole world that the pressure being put on you, as one person, is harming you. To put aside everything you’ve worked so hard for because it’s become a liability to others. To trust your teammates.
And I kinda wish more Christians were as self-aware as Simone Biles. But also as aware of the capabilities of their team.
We tend to forget we are even on a team, don’t we? Many of us carry the weight of the world on our shoulders…trying to do it all…or at least make other people believe that we are. We get caught in a human mindset and fail to remember that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is in us too.
But the Spirit isn’t in us so we can do everything ourselves. The Spirit is in us so He can guide us into all Truth. And sometimes, the truth is that we are doing something by ourselves that was meant to be a team effort.
I think this is seen often in our church leadership culture. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that one person was responsible to lead the churches that were springing up after Jesus’ ascension. Rather, it says that there were teams of people leading the churches. When the believers gathered, they took individual responsibility to encourage each other and speak to each other in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. The environment created in the early church was one where every person that plugged into it had a part to play…a way to use their gifts to benefit others. It was all a team effort.
Now don’t hear me say that it’s wrong how we do church today…that we have to precisely follow what the early church did. I know there are people who believe that, but I’m not one of them. I’m only saying that church has caved to culture in many ways. A pastor becomes somewhat of a celebrity. Somewhat of a king. Somewhat of a savior.
Along with the status, though, comes pressure. In the way that the American church functions, it is easy for the congregations to become spectators instead of teammates. They sit back and watch and cheer when things are good, but are just as quickly blame and criticize when things go bad. They don’t see their weight of responsibility to the team as followers of Jesus.
So we have pastors succumbing to the pressure. Some escape to sin. Some quit all together. Some pretend they have it all together. Some fall apart. Some even walk away from faith. And we tell ourselves it’s because we aren’t praying enough for them.
I believe it’s because we’ve made them into something they aren’t. We’ve expected them to be super humans. We’ve expected them to do everything. To win for us every time.
We’ve forgotten this is a team mission.
What if more pastors were like Simone Biles? What if more of them said “It‘a better for me to be on the sidelines for a while”? Would they have that kind of team in place? Would their fellow Christians join together in full support and continue the mission or would they whisper and criticize and complain? Would that church be able to continue to function? Would attendance drop?
I think the answers to these questions speak volumes about the realistic health of any church. I think these questions also point to an importance that goes beyond numbers or size of properties or yearly budgets.
We need each other as Christians. We can’t have a correct picture of God without the variety of perspectives that come from our fellow believers. Alone, we are self-righteous. Alone, we are stagnant. Alone, we are in serious danger of being picked off by the enemy’s schemes.
And we have conformed to this world in the way we compete instead of cooperate. We can easily turn into American Idol Christians. Showing off our gifts in hopes that we will win some “holier than thou” award, instead of joining them with others to win ground for the Kingdom.
Team USA went on to win a silver medal in their team competition. Simone Biles cheered them on from the sidelines. Her teammate, Suni Lee, won gold in the individual all-around with Simone’s wholehearted support. Simone’s decision highlighted the fact that gymnastics is still a team sport.
We need this kind of bravery in the Church right now. This kind of honesty. This kind of teamwork. We need leaders that trust the Holy Spirit more than they trust their own abilities. We need “all in“ Christians who know when it’s time to sit on the sidelines and cheer on someone else. We need to return to a team mindset and remember that the true enemy isn’t each other. We need to grow the kind of humility that reminds us often that it isn’t about us.
Some of us need to step up and get in the game. And some of us need to tap out and go sit on the sidelines for a little while. But all of us need to remember that we are a team.