Men in Back

This is an update of a sketch that I wrote many years ago about church ushers. With the arrival of Men in Black III, it is fun to introduce it to a new audience. Performance rights are granted as long as you credit me as author. (Acknowledging this blog would be appreciated. I would love to hear about your performance.)

Characters should wear black suits with white shirts. Dark sunglasses are required.

Old Agent (Tommy Lee Jones’ character) – hardened, confident, and serious

New Agent (Will Smith’s character) – young, cocky smart-aleck

 

Old Agent: Welcome to your first day with “The Company.” I hope you are ready for the challenge of your life.

New Agent: Of course, I’m ready. You only recruit the best, right?

Old Agent: We recruit potential. Don’t get too cocky. You don’t know what you are in for.

New Agent: Sure, whatever. Now, when do I get my offering plate?

Old Agent:  Easy, kid. These things aren’t to be trifled with. This is a tough and serious job. Let’s start with something a little easier. Take this stack of bulletins and go to the side door. When someone comes in, greet them and hand them one. Can you handle it?

New Agent: Sure no problem. How hard could that be? <Walks off stage>

Old Agent: (to himself) These rookies just don’t get it…

New Agent: (after a pause, now short of breath) Chief, what are you getting me into? Do you know who is out there? The first person wouldn’t shake my hand, and the second family wanted bulletins for each person – even their baby. The third person quoted some Scripture to me while I was trying to greet them. His Bible looked really big. Then someone asked where the restrooms are. Someone said it was too hot; somebody else said it was freezing, could I turn up the heat. Then someone asked if I knew how Mrs. Jones’ surgery turned out. It was like they were, were, (looking out over the audience) aliens from different planets or something. What is going on here?

Old Agent: Calm down. That’s nothing compared to what can happen around here. Wait until the music minister cuts the offertory short and you aren’t down front. Everyone starts looking and fidgeting. Or when you have to give directions to the nursery to a woman with a crying baby. Or when the pastor asks us to hand out something to everyone without telling us ahead of time. Sometimes the pastor might even ask one of us to pray — out loud, in front of everyone. I have seen it all. God doesn’t gift everyone for this, but I think you can do it. You’ve got to hang in there and just do the job.

New Agent: Well, OK, but when is the offering?

Old Agent: Coming up soon now. You take the left side.

New Agent: But what if I see how much someone gives?

Old Agent:  Don’t worry. Why do you think we wear these glasses? Its so people can’t tell if we are watching them or not. We are like deja vu. People know we are there, but they forget who we are. Besides, I have this neural atomizer that will erase your memories, should you ever choose to leave “The Company.” But you shouldn’t desert us. A Man in Back is a Man in Back forever. You may rotate off, but we always know where you are.

New Agent: And I thought this job was a joke.

Old Agent: No joke, sonny. Who do you think counts all these people every week? Who do you think cleans up all the note-covered bulletins after services? Who opens the doors so the people can be first to the restaurants? Who warmly greets  everyone that comes every week? We do, the Men in Back. And the people sit there unaware of how their lives would be ruined if we didn’t do our job.

New Agent: Wow! This really is an elite unit. Thank you for letting me serve with you.

Old Agent: You’re created for it, kid! (hand him an offering plate) Now get down there are collect those offerings, the music is playing.

New Agent: Yes, sir!

 

Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different ministries, but the same Lord.” I Corinthians 12:4-5 HCSB

 

Drafted!

OK, I have to admit that I am a huge NFL fan. I watched the whole first round of the annual player selection meeting (or draft) on Thursday night to see who my Pittsburgh Steelers would select. I am not the only one fascinated by this annual ritual. It gets 2 nights of prime time TV on two stations (ESPN and NFL Network). We are fascinated by this choosing of the most gifted football players on earth. I started to think, though, about how the draft illustrates some important truths about our lives as Christians from I Corinthians 12.

We Are Gifted

Players who are drafted are all gifted athletes. My son kept asking me, “is that guy good?” I said (several times), “yes, if they get drafted they are  very good players.” Some will not become great NFL players for a variety of reasons, but they are all gifted.

As Christians we are all gifted, too:  “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other” I Corinthians 12:7 (NLT). We cannot complain that we are not able to serve God and His body, the church. The Holy Spirit gifts all believers just for this purpose. There are no believers without a spiritual gift. These gifts are not for our glory, but for the express purpose of helping each other. However, we still must choose to use the Spirit’s gifts and not stay on the sidelines.

We Are Valued

In the draft there is so much talk about the value of a player. Player A is a “elite, first rounder.” Player B has “first round talent,” but character issues will knock him down a round or two. The last player selected is lovingly called Mr. Irrelevant. Then all the fans and pundits come out and grade the drafts based on their opinions of player value.

We would never do that in the church, right? We would never place different values on folks because of our view of their giftedness? The Corinthians did. They wanted the showier gifts, like tongues. In fact, the best translation (though not followed by most translators) of I Corinthians 12:31 is “But you are desiring the showier gifts. However, I show you a more excellent way.” (Then Paul launches into chapter 13 about love being that better way.) 12:31 isn’t a command to seek the greater gifts, but an indicative of what they are doing. They want the prestige of the more noticeable gifts.

Paul’s metaphor of the body dispels the notion of greater or lesser value. All gifts (thus, all believers) are needed or the body cannot function properly. It is our duty to use our gift, not complain that we don’t have some other gift. The Spirit includes all believers into the body (v 13), because He loves all of us equally. We have the highest value, given by God. Don’t let anyone put you down; you are His wonderful creation!

We Are Chosen

There is so much excitement and joy when players are chosen by an NFL team. Their families, coaches, and friends are hugging, congratulating everyone, and bouncing with visible joy. Think about how it must feel: one of the most elite teams in the world decided they want you to play for them. And they are going to pay you to do it.  It would be exciting! Why are we less enthusiastic about being chosen by the King of the Universe to serve on His team, for His kingdom? I Corinthians 12:18: “But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.” He gives us our unique talents and then chooses us for special tasks that only we can do (by His power). We are specially desired and selected. We are chosen — like #1 draft picks.

We Are Required to Serve

Once selected, a player cannot just choose another team. Each is required to show up and play for the team that chooses him (or sit out the season) as soon as the contract is worked out and signed. Christians are also required to serve. We have chosen a new master (or been chosen by one — both senses are true). We aren’t playing to win a Super Bowl, but something much greater. Paul explains in Ephesians 4 after listing some of the gifts that our purpose is:

“to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.” Eph 4:12b-13 (HCSB)

 So, we can quit once everyone is as fully mature in faith as Christ. Until then, we have a job to do. Let’s rejoice that the King has gifted us, loved us, chosen us, and put us into the game! How are you using His gifts today?

(If you are interested in any of my sports writing, especially about the Pittsburgh Steelers, read here)