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Friday, April 15, 2011

Defense or Offense?

It was over a lunch with a friend when the gift came. For me, the best gifts are words and phrases that capture and clarify truth. He was coming out of a long season of discouragement and challenge. He said, “I finally turned the corner and went from being on the defense to offense.”

I stopped him and asked him for more and we rambled about that notion for a long time. Being on the defense is no fun. It is a position of reception; receiving attacks and defending challenges. Defensive play tries to keep the line stable and not lose ground. Defensive posture anticipates attacks and charges. Defenders take hits. Defense is always about asking, “what’s coming at us next?”

When I translate that from sports to the spiritual realm, it’s a provocative thought. Is my life as a pastor “holding ground” against the next challenge, or “going on offense” and heading to a goal? For most of us it is some of both. Things happen that need response. Interruptions are a life-reality. Criticisms must be addressed and crises need attention.

What intrigued me about these two terms, defense and offense is the source. What is the source for most of your defensiveness? Where do your biggest challenges come from; within the church or from outside of the church? How much of your energy and day are devoted to intentional, offensive maneuvers to gain spiritual yardage?

When I am tired and worn down, all I see are the challenges, the assaults and the criticisms. If I’m not careful I can become defensive without thinking about it, like a conditioned flinch response.

What gets me on the offensive is relatively simple, but easily ignored: time with the Bible and time with hungry people. In this tough economy for churches around the country (world) we can get consumed living on the defense and neglect the joys of offense. As we talked together, a phrase my dad shared with me popped into my head (and our conversation). My dad (a Covenant pastor) once told me, “When in doubt, go out.” By that he meant, get out of your office, out of your defensive zone and go visit someone. Go out to lunch and ask questions. Meet someone new. Connect with someone missing. That’s when the fun starts again!

I just happened along this blog posting that rephrases this concern very creatively for pastors.

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