The View from the Stands


For a brief time in college I was a hockey referee.  I had no certification and almost no training, but I was on the ice with a striped shirt and a whistle.  This was for a small college club team that only played exhibition games. I quickly learned what it was like to be surrounded by players angry because of some call I’d made or missed.  Even so, the first game I was back in the stands, I found myself yelling at the refs.

I do not want this blog to be that.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve noticed some things since stepping down as chair of a Classical Ministry Committee (CMC).  It is hard to let go.  I talk too much at classis.  And, once again, I notice things that could be better.  “Once again” suggests that I’d noticed in the past.  In the past, I’d come home from classis thinking that this or that could have gone better. Sometimes I’d email suggestions to the chair or stated clerk.  I was, in short, a pain in the keister.

“Once again” also suggests that I stopped noticing and that I’d stopped at the very time I could do something more than fill a suggestion box.  I think there are reasons for that. It’s pointless to send emails to myself (though that is an interesting idea).  It is easy to be defensive when I’ve made a bad call.  I learned that as a referee.  I also learned that it is easy to lose sight of the game when you are in the thick of it.

Over a span of ten meetings our classis had nine exams; four for candidates, three for ministry associates and two for licensure to exhort.  We dealt with three departures from ministry.  We were working on a proposal to hire a youth ministry consultant.  Recent denominational trends suggest that this is really not that extraordinary.  As one pastor has said, “in a classis our size some crisis will always demand attention.”  For this reason some suggest getting what they call a view from the balcony. 

Anthony Robinson writes, “from up above out of the fray (leaders) have a change to see the whole and detect patterns in it.  Or to change the metaphor slightly, one needs to get off the playing field periodically and up above the sideline level, in order to see what is happening on the field.  When you are in the midst of it, it is difficult to get the big picture” (Transforming Congregational Culture, William B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids Mi, 2003).  I hope that’s what I’ve been noticing.  Having stepped back a little, I see things I was missing before.  I have the opportunity to reflect on what I notice.

Just don’t let me become the guy yelling from the stands. 

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