A Lesson on Church Hopping… from Mike Ditka?

I read an article by Jeff Pearlman on Sports Illustrated’s website entitled “Ditka symbol of old-school loyalty that no longer exists in sports.” Pearlman had previously interviewed Mike Ditka, the long-time coach of the Chicago Bears from 1982-1992 and was reflecting on the marked difference between Mike Ditka and Lane Kiffin (who has jumped ship from University of Tennessee after only one season to coach at University of Southern California).  When I finished reading the article, I couldn’t help thinking about Pastors and Christians who church-hop.

It’s just in our nature to always think that the grass is always greener on the other side.  As the cliche goes, “If you find the perfect church, don’t join it… you’ll ruin it!”  There are no perfect Christians; there are no perfect churches.  But there are faithful Christians, and faithful Churches who are seeking to honor Christ Jesus the best they can.

Pastors are often tempted in seasons of discouragement to consider another church: “I’m not appreciated here,” “The people don’t want to change,” “This other church seems like such a perfect fit.”

Congregation members (this also includes teenagers!) are often tempted to think similarly: “The worship is boring,” “I don’t understand the sermons,” “The youth group at this other church is bigger and cooler.”

As I reflect on the article on Mike Ditka a few lessons stick out to me:

  1. In difficult times, both faithfulness and “jumping ship” speak very loudly.  Faithfulness rallies the troops and builds unity; Jumping ship communicates that all is lost and not worth fighting for.  Sure, there are times when a move is the right decision, but I think too often Christians say that “God has opened this door” as an excuse to avoid adversity.
  2. Respect (for both “coaches” and “players”) is earned and solidified by fighting through rough times together.  We need each other – coaches need their players; pastors need their congregation members.  We need to be committed to each other as we pursue faithfulness to Christ’s calling in the midst of hardship.

Jeff Pearlman’s article ends with these two paragraphs:

“The very idea of Ditka uttering words akin to “It’s why they put buyouts in contracts” is beyond ludicrous. But, then again, so is the moral code of the modern college and professional coach. When Ditka roamed the sidelines of Soldier Field, he considered himself to be a Bear and only a Bear. He wasn’t looking for the next job, for the next offer; for the next sweet gig. Neither, for that matter, were old professionals like Don Shula and Tom Landry, Tom Osborne and Barry Switzer, John Gagliardi and Tubby Raymond. The sweater you wore during games meant something, because the colors and team logo were emblematic of what you were trying to build. To leave, especially without fulfilling many goals, was unheard of.

“But now, in the Era of Me, Kiffin has followed the hackneyed lead of his 21st Century coaching role models — the John Caliparis and Larry Browns and Bill Parcellses of the sporting world. Yes, the kids matter. But not nearly as much as the coach matters. His word is his bond, until words like “guaranteed money” and “merchandising deal” and “your own TV show” woo from elsewhere. He can justify his decisions not because they were righteous, but because they were right …

“… for him.”

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