Isn’t it amazing how, regardless of the location, you rarely find empty seats in an Olympic venue? Here we are, a few days into the 2010 Games, and I can’t help but think of some implications the place we make for the Olympic Games versus some of the other elements of life.
Maybe it’s because football season is over, but do you take notice of the efforts spectators make to cheer on the representatives of their own countries? Thankfully we don’t see much of the shirtless, painted face variety that NFL stadiums attract. We do, however, see country colors, flags, and “official” Olympic gear. We hear chantings, screams of joy, and cow bells. We cheer on our favorite individuals and teams, and at times, we cheer on the other guys, too.
Because of “stuff” going on, I am reminded of a scene from a number of years ago. It holds a special place in my heart. It reminds us that sometimes the cheering of the “crowd” can motivate, encourage and breathe life into those in our church who often go unsung.
I was in high school, growing up in Minnesota. Promise Keepers was only a couple of years old, but it was growing and traveling across the country. When we heard PK was coming to the Metrodome in Minneapolis, we had to be there.
I don’t remember who spoke that day, or what songs we sang, filling the Dome with men from the Twin Cities and beyond. I remember we sat high on the upper deck, and I remember going through long lines for lunch. Besides my dad, I’m not even sure who was with us that day. The scene I do remember made a lasting impression on me.
That afternoon, the speakers took some time to recognize the pastors that had come along with men from their churches. It started out as a small recognition of those who invest time in sermon preparation, prayer, visitation, meetings and more, for the sake of those in our churches. The pastors were asked to stand, and then applause broke out as a sign of thanks and appreciation.
Whether it was the leading of the Spirit or the fact that we were in a sports stadium, something else began to rise out of the applause. The Dome has thousands and thousands of plastic, folding stadium seats. Eventually, the men filling the stadium were on their feet as they clapped and cheered. Then some began to slap the backs of the seats in front of them.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a dome for a sports event. They’re quite loud. If you watched the Vikings or the Saints in the NFL playoffs this year, you got a taste of that. We took our oldest daughter to a MN Twins baseball game when she was little, and even that was too loud for her. The sound reverberates off the seats, the dome, amplifies, then echoes louder and louder. It builds and grows and must involve some sort of serious damage to your hearing.
I’ve been to the dome for various events over the years, but I’ve never heard anything like this. There are 60,000+ seats in the Metrodome. We didn’t fill them all that day because of being able to the stage, etc, but imagine tens of thousands of plastic chairs echoing the sounds of men beating full strength on their backs. It was like banging full force and repeatedly on thousands of marching band drums. Combine that sound with the cheering, whistling and shouting of the men within the Dome.
We would find out later on that week that the sound of that cheering was heard for blocks. Windows of homes and local North Central University were said to have shook with noise. Many in the area would never find out what the cause was, beyond noise from the stadium. But there are those who will never forget that day. Those who wonder if anyone is ever looking, ever wondering, ever appreciative of the effort and sacrifice made to lead the people of God.
Many churches have their scheduled pastor appreciation events, times that come once each year. But what have you done to encourage your pastor lately? Did you thank him for the hours he spent in preparation for the message you heard Sunday morning? (Better yet, did you bother to pay attention to the message Sunday morning?) Have you answered the call to be a minister in the house of the Lord with your talents and abilities? When someone came to you complaining and murmuring, did you pour gasoline on the fire by agreeing with them, or did you pour water on it by standing beside the man or woman of God whose care God has placed you in?
Who do you need to cheer on today? Pastors can become depressed, discouraged by the apparent lack of reception by the people for whom they care and toil so much for. Will you take the time to encourage your pastor today? Will you cheer them on, as if they were in the running for a gold medal that you could boast in as well?
That’s how I think of it. The pastor goes before us. He is in the race, too. Will we ignore him as he runs, often for our benefit? We must recognize that we can share in the glory, the reward that will be given him, when he strides up to the Throne and hears, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”