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17 April 2015

Pick me

Pick me

I'm not the most athletic person in the world and when I was at school I would often be the last to be picked for any sports team. My hope was that I wouldn't be picked last each time but these hopes were almost always dashed. There is a deep desire in each of us to be liked and accepted and it is an amazing feeling to be chosen for an honour that we were not expecting or that we are unsure if we deserve.

There are a lot of people at the moment who want your vote and the politicians have been talking about the issues that they believe will win us over. I have heard most of the party leaders talking about the £8 billion extra a year that the NHS needs and they then often have gone on to explain how they would spend this extra money. Yesterday we heard from Sir David Nicholson, the former chief executive of NHS England, who explained that this £8 billion is needed just for the NHS to function and so it would not be available to spend on new things. The politicians want our vote and so they talk up the NHS and how they would develop it, but the NHS just wants to survive.

One of the difficulties that we face in deciding who we will vote for is that somehow we need to separate out any desperate 'pick me' kind of pledges from the real issues that each party has consistently supported. Unfortunately this can only be achieved by spending time looking at the substance and not just the headlines of what is being said.

It's easy to be frustrated by any politicians who may appear to be just desperate to win our vote but I wonder how many of us fall into the trap of behaving in the exact same way, are we wanting to be picked just as we criticise the politicians who want us to pick them. 

Are we looking at the speck of sawdust in someone else's eye while we ignore the plank in our own eye?

We all want to be liked, but to what lengths will we go in order to accomplish that? Do we criticise and pull others down so that we appear more popular? Do we take emotive issues and pretend they are more important to us than they really are so we can look good? Do we pretend to be more successful than we are so that people will admire us? Pretence is clearly not a part of our faith and yet it is a common part of life in the UK today. Will we as Christians stand for truth in the way that we live and present our own lives?

How about in church life? Does your church have a 'pick me' mentality? Are we trying to do all we can to win voters worshippers to our congregations? After all, more bums on seats or hands raised on a Sunday morning will show how great our church is.

Is our priority to see our church grow or to see the kingdom of God grow? The biblical answer is clear. Jesus talked about the kingdom and when he did talk about building his Church, he was speaking about the one Churchof which we are all a part, not local congregations.

We may believe that the kingdom growing is the most important but is this backed up by our actions? If you are part of a large church, how are you helping the other churches around you? Are you supporting and praying for them? Are you helping to resource them to grow as well?

How about church leaders? Are we trying to get more attendees on a Sunday or are we trying to make disciples? A person wanting more followers will often pander to needs and try to do what is popular. A person making disciples wants them to become more like Jesus which means sacrifice and change in life and this will involve a leader doing what is unpopular at times.

Are we willing to be unpopular when it is necessary or is our mantra always 'pick me'?

Once, I did get picked first in a playground game of football and after me the captain picked the next worst player again and again. The captain was such a good player that he knew he could win anyway and miraculously we were victorious.

Jesus has welcomed us on to his team and my prayer is that we would put our confidence in him afresh. Jesus is powerful enough to be all that we need and his acceptance should give us the security that we need so that we don
't need to be driven by the need to be accepted by others.

Graeme Ross is the minister of Orchard Baptist Church, Colchester and mission strategy task group leader for the Eastern Baptist Association Council.