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The Way of Jesus, Leadership Failures, and a Super Bowl Comeback

Nutrients for your spiritual life. An essay newsletter on spiritual formation, community, and culture
The Way of Jesus, Leadership Failures, and a Super Bowl Comeback
By Jeremy Linneman • Issue #15 • View online
Nutrients for your spiritual life. An essay newsletter on spiritual formation, community, and culture.

Last week, another high-profile pastor/leader in my Reformed/missional tribe was removed from leadership. Once again, it was a matter of spiritual abuse.
In this issue of GOOD SOIL, I don’t want to go into the details or offer my opinion, although I may do that in a later issue. One of my desires for GOOD SOIL is to produce “evergreen” content: I don’t write much on current issues in the church or in politics; instead, I hope each issue (except for the Fidelity Sports stuff!) can still be relevant weeks, months, and years later.
The problem is that, these days, writing on the removal of high-profile Christian leaders is evergreen content. This crap is happening all the time, and yet the Western evangelical church complex keeps churning out the same leaders and propping them up with megachurches, conference stages, and publishing and podcast platforms.
As an old management saying says,
“Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.”
When Christian leaders are consistently failing, it’s not that the system is broken. It’s working. Oh, It’s humming right along.
The problem is that the system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets. And we need to throw out the system.
We need the Way of Jesus.
So, no. I’m not planning to write in depth on the latest leadership scandal right now; here’s what I want to do instead (and it’s what I had been considering doing anyway).
I want to do a sustained meditation on the Way of Jesus. Over the next few issues of GOOD SOIL, I want to look at a few aspects on the Way:
  • The Way of Jesus as the way of the Cross
  • The Way of Jesus versus the ways of the world
  • The Way of Jesus in prayer and fasting
  • The Way of Jesus as empowered by the Holy Spirit
  • The Way of Jesus as a blueprint for spiritual leadership
  • The Way of Jesus for the renewal of all things
Artwork for our current teaching series at Trinity Church (by Allison Wopata).
Artwork for our current teaching series at Trinity Church (by Allison Wopata).
What Is the Way of Jesus?
The Way of Jesus is his lifestyle, priorities, habits, and powerall of which he has shared with us. Jesus’s Way is the pattern of discipleship that is aligned with his Kingdom and empowered by his Spirit.
The early church was first known as “The Way.” In Acts, the believers are called “Christians” only once, but “The Way” six times.
How did they come up with this phrase? The early Christians remembered Jesus’s own words:
“I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.” John 14:6
But here’s something I want to consider over the next few months. How much are we following Jesus’s Way in our churches?
We proclaim his Truth, we point people to Life, but are we following the Way in which he did ministry?
Eugene Peterson on the Way of Jesus
I have shared these two quotes from the late great Rev. Peterson on Twitter and in a recent sermon, but I want this on the GOOD SOIL record, too.
“The great American innovation in congregation is to turn it into a consumer enterprise… If we have a nation of consumers, obviously the quickest and most effective way to get them into our congregations is to identify what they want and offer it to them, satisfy their fantasies, promise them the moon, recast the gospel in consumer terms: entertainment, satisfaction, excitement, adventure, problem-solving, whatever. This is the language we Americans grow up on, the language we understand. We are the world’s champion consumers, so why shouldn’t we have state-of-the-art consumer churches?”
The Way of Jesus is slow; the ways of the world are hurried.
The Way of Jesus works from the inside out; the ways of the world are mass-produced.
The Way of Jesus requires discomfort and sacrifice; the ways of the world are comfortable because they’re non-demanding—they are professionalized and consumeristic. 
Unfortunately, much of the Western evangelical church operates according to the ways of the world. Peterson continues,
“There is only one thing wrong: this is not the way in which God brings us into conformity with the life of Jesus and sets us on the way of Jesus’ salvation. This is not the way in which we become less and he becomes more. This is not the way in which our sacrificed lives become available to others in justice and service. The cultivation of consumer spirituality is the antithesis of a sacrificial, ‘deny yourself’ congregation. A consumer church is an antichrist church.”
Oh snap. Let that marinate a minute.
These are not easy words. But I need to hear them. I think we all do.  
We don’t decide how to reach and serve and lead people in the church. We don’t take the Truth and wrap it up and put a shiny bow on it. We don’t offer the Life with slick marketing campaigns and buy-now-pay-later schemes.
The Way of Jesus offers a better vision. And there’s so much freedom here: We can be ourselves. It’s not a performance. In the way of Jesus, we have the power of the Holy Spirit.
So, I’m looking forward to this. There’s a lot of great stuff to get into, and I hope it indeed provides good soil for your growth in Christ.
A Praying Life Is Possible
My friend John Starke, a pastor in New York City, released his first book, The Possibility of Prayer: Finding Stillness with God in a Restless World, this week. I received an advance copy of the book and wrote a review of it for The Gospel Coalition. It’s a great book, and I wanted to share a bit of my reflections on it here.
The Possibility of Prayer addresses an implicit obstacle many of us face, that “a deep and satisfying prayer life is not for me” (4). Perhaps you’ve felt this. Isn’t a deep prayer life much harder now than in previous generations? Only monks and contemplatives and people without day jobs, we might assume, could call their prayer lives “satisfying.” What is this deep and satisfying prayer life, and who is it for? Starke answers: 
“A life of prayer, full of joy, power, and awe is for you. It’s not for ‘other people.’ Prayer is not for the spiritually elite. It’s for you… I know it may not seem this way, but the whole thing is rigged for triumph.”
I’m not sure how else to say it: Reading Possibility reminded me that prayer is pleasant. It’s enjoyable. It’s peaceful. It’s even fun. 
We’re creatures of habit, and, like Pavlov’s dogs, we come back to what gives us nourishment and pleasure. Though this human pattern is often exploited by sin, let’s remember: God’s design is to give us a hunger for himself and to satisfy that hunger through prayer and worship. 
Whether you struggle to pray and don’t know where to begin, this book is for you. If you have been praying for decades and want to go even deeper in your communion with the Lord, this book is for you. Pick it up!
Fidelity Sports: We Did It!!!
Is it a coincidence that in the first year of Fidelity Sports’s return to print that my beloved KC Chiefs won their first Super Bowl in fifty years? I think not.
I’m not going to go on and on about how I predicted a Chiefs championship before the season started (though I did), or how in December, I promised we wouldn’t lose again (we didn’t), or how in the last issue, I predicted a double-digit win (we won by 11). I’m not going to make this about me, because, well, bragging is not the Way of Jesus.
No, I’m just going to share a few great reflections on the path. How did we do it? How did we win three postseason games?
The Path: 3 Comebacks
Let these three comebacks sink in:
Down 24-0 to Houston, Won 51-31.
Down 17-7 to Tennessee, Won 35-24.
Down 20-10 to San Francisco, Won 31-20.
No team in the history of the NFL playoffs has ever come back from three 10-point deficits. Ever. And certainly not to win all three games by more than 10 points. Just remarkable.
Football Power Index (FPI) is an NFL advanced stats measure that creates win/loss likelihoods in real-time. After every play, it readjusts data to show each team’s odds of winning, based on past performance (offensive, defensive, and special teams strength), current score, and time remaining.
In the second quarter against Houston, when we were down 21-0, FPI gave the Chiefs a 6.1% chance of winning.
In the second quarter against Tennessee, when we were down 17-7, FPI gave KC a 38.6% chance of winning.
In the Super Bowl, we faced the steepest odds: Down 20-10 with seven minutes left in the game, FPI gave KC a 3.9% chance of winning.
Perhaps what is most crazy, and what we’ll try to remember long enough to tell our grandkids in three decades, is how fast the Chiefs turned it around in all three games.
Versus HOU, we turned a 6.1% chance of winning into 61.6% chance of winning in 3 minutes, 41 seconds.
Against TEN, we turned a 38.6% chance of winning into 69.8% chance in 2 minutes, 36 seconds.
In the Super Bowl, we turned a 3.9% chance of winning into a 63.4% chance in 3 minutes, 33 seconds.
In other words, we pulled off all three comebacks in less than four minutes. In our greatest deficits, we trailed our opponents by a combined 61-17. Afterwards, we outscored our opponents 100 to 14. Seriously.
All hail the Chiefs.
Benediction
From the wonderful Psalm 63:
You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
May you be refreshed in the living water of Christ. In a dry and weary land, may you discover anew the better-than-life love of God.
Thanks for reading GOOD SOIL. See you again in two weeks.
JSL

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Jeremy Linneman

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