Have you seen “American Ninja Warrior?” This television obstacle course competition has captured my viewing allegiance. My wife and I record it every week so we can savor the feats of strength, agility and adventure as young athletes with varied expertise and life-backgrounds attempt to master each challenge. It’s a crazy show as both men and women try to jump, climb, lift, scale and catapult themselves to victory.
If an aspiring ninja fails on any of the obstacles, he or she splashes into a pool of water below. Soaking wet, the beaten contestants emerge for the inevitable post-course interview with one of the hosts who stands in front of a ninja-cheering crowd.
But something is very different about these post-course interactions. These amateur, do-it-yourself competitors—who frequently have day jobs—smile and talk about how much fun they had, how they’re going to work harder, and how sometimes everything doesn’t work out very well. The reaction of the crowd and fellow ninja competitors to success or failure is one of support. They cheer, encourage and show gratitude. Being a ninja warrior is not easy. No one criticizes or trash-talks. Everyone is in it together. The demonstration of being a supportive community is remarkable. Each ninja builds the other up to greater character and success.
What if we emulated this example in the church? What if we acknowledged that, because ministry is really hard in this broken and crazy world, we need to do our all to watch out for each other and cheer each other on? What if, instead of criticizing one another or looking for faults and missteps, we identified strengths, celebrated victories, came alongside each other when facing difficult obstacles, and helped each other when weaknesses caused some stumbling? What if we didn’t give the appearance that we were pushing other people down to build ourselves up—all in the name of the Truth?
I’m not advocating that we tolerate gross sin and error. I’m not saying we should never admonish or confront. I’m just wondering if we can conduct ourselves in a way that shows very clearly that we are on the same team.
Paul said to the church in Thessalonica, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 It sounds as if Paul was thinking like a ninja.
What might an American Ninja Ministry look like? It would probably help Christ’s Church become stronger and reach its goal.
By Rev. Michael W. Newman
Mission & Ministry Facilitator, Area C