I read a few years ago about Plainfield Middle School in Plainfield, Indiana. They had a guaranteed place of participation for everyone. They had a strict “no cut” policy concerning athletic teams and music groups. Unlike most of the schools where the vast majority of Americans attended, at Plainfield, if you tried out, you made the squad. It sounds like a dream come true. Or was it?
At one time, the school boasted a 248 voice choir and a squad of 71 perky cheerleaders. That’s a lot of enthusiasm! Basketball and volleyball was so popular that they had to organize their own intramural leagues. However, the result of this all-embracing, you’re-all-ok philosophy was puzzling. The school principal estimated that only about half of the school’s 800 students signed up for any kind of extra-curricular activity.
Plainfield is a target rich environment for wannabe psychologists. Were the kids averse to the music programs because they did not seem cool to them? Had they drunk the kool-aid about how everyone should get a medal for participation so that fragile senses of self-esteem would not be bruised? Or, were they so engrossed in non-strenuous pursuits such as video games that they had no interest in sweaty competition? Perhaps their sense of self-worth was so low that they didn’t feel qualified to do anything? Of course, this is all speculation.
Plainfield reminds me of spiritual life in America. In a world starved for acceptance and love, the New Testament church with open arms welcomes all who want to know Christ and serve Him. People can also get involved not on the basis of wealth or talent, but through availability and servanthood entering open doors of ministry. Certainly, some positions demand certain giftings and all ministries must be marked by integrity and righteousness. But, even the early church had to put up with Ananias and Sapphira and that motley crew of carnal Corinthians.
Sadly, many choose not to participate in ministry. Some who could grow up don’t show up. Some are inside a building, but not all in with stewardship, generosity, prayer and various forms of service. Many see a church as something to attend, not to build. Even with the enormous attendance on Easter weekend, many were in the stands and not on the court. There’s a place for you on the varsity. “Put me in, Coach; I’m ready to play...today!”