Thursday, July 14, 2011

Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose--for the church. An ode to Friday Night Lights

Do you think Friday Night Lights is a show about football? Think again. Football is part of the story, but FNL is about relationships. A creative culture makes it happen.

FNL makes its last hurrah as a current television series this Friday night. I'm not sure I've mourned the end of a series as much as this one. I admire the show for its passion and its creative process--and how a culture was created that facilitated and encouraged the creative process. This culture inspires me as a pastor. I hope that I can facilitate such a culture in the congregation and community I serve. Creation (not the "Intelligent Design" brand) is a theological foundation for me.

For a peek into the creative culture of Friday Night Lights, check out this oral history of FNL in Grantland (and if you haven't read Grantland yet, I commend it to you for writing on culture and sport that is moving far ahead of what any periodical is offering on similar topics).

Though the church has a history of inspiring creativity, the history is also long on burying creativity. Several teachers in seminary that I respect taught me an understanding of church based on replication. I took that teaching at face value for awhile. While there are some essentials in the life of the church to be replicated (and these things have been debated since Jesus arose from the dead), I believe much is up for creative interpretation. There are numerous periods in the life of the church where creativity has been squashed for a variety of reasons. This has happened and continues to occur in Mainline Protestant traditions. Even when there are wellsprings of creativity, these wellsprings are quickly institutionalized and become their own turf wars (see "contemporary" worship).

Mainline Protestant traditions were able to spread because of replication (plenty of cookie cutter church architecture out there). What else spreads because of replication? Chain restaurants. One may be able to get survival nutrition from a chain restaurant, but can people thrive? I have great hope to encourage a congregational culture where encouraging creativity is foundational to our relationship with God and one another. To me, this seems to be connected to the Great Commission: Where Jesus said, Go! Make disciples! Baptize! I am with you.

This is a creative directive from Jesus, with encouragement to go with it.

Encouraging creativity is contagious. The motto shared by Coach Taylor with his players and supporters: "Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can't lose." Though Taylor had some "my way or the highway" methodology to coaching--he always took into account the gifts and individual situations of his players (sometimes learning the hard way), which was linked to the creative process of the series. I love thinking about this in a community of faith.

Kyle Chandler, who plays Coach Taylor on FNL, talks about how that creativity spread from the show to a basic interaction in his life:

Chandler: I was back home in Los Angeles and we wanted to put a gate up in our yard. The fella came over and said, "Mr. Chandler, how do you want me to build this?" I said, "I'm not going to tell you how to build this gate. You just look around at what's here, and you build the best gate you can. Be as creative as you want. Take your time, and just give me a good gate." That gate's probably going to stand for 400 years.

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