Despising the Rocket Kid


You can learn a lot from a six-year-old's soccer game.

Though I never participated in organized team sports as a child, just about every kid's in them today. Who wants their kid to be the one sitting at home lamenting that the neighbor kids are all missing, away at baseball games or soccer practice? Plus, as an only child, my son needs the communal aspect of team sports. (Though I agree with Randy Frazee that organized sports for kids are hurting our community in the long run.)

Last Saturday, my son's undefeated Blue Thunder team took on a chief rival, the Red team. Their last meeting wasn't a blowout by any means, but the outcome never lay in doubt. My son's team has two guys who outplay most of the other kids in the league by a large margin. One has superior ball control and the other has a howitzer for a leg. Both have a furious set of wheels. Amazingly, at least at this level of soccer, they pass to each other well, a 1-2 punch that KOs most teams.

Prior to Saturday, the team coach (Howitzer's dad, of course) told me he'd never lost a game, and he intended to keep it that way. That he's ridiculously tough on his son made it hard for me to relate to the guy. Plus, I think kids need to develop the skills to deal with losing rather than developing a win-at-any-cost mentality.

So onto the battlefield these sub-4' titans strode. At the end of the first quarter, the score was 5-1.

But not in our favor.

Seems last time these two teams played, Red's star player, a speed demon, wasn't feeling up to snuff. Here's to the Rocket Kids...But this time, he not only showed up healthy, he'd found another gear. He ran like someone had strapped a rocket to his back.  Our best two players, no slouches in the speed department, got more than their share of good looks at Rocket Kid's cleats.

Rocket Kid lacked the ball control or the leg of our best two guys, but that didn't matter. He blew by our entire team like they were standing in semi-congealed Jell-o. Shellshocked Blue Thunder parents stood on the sidelines shouting hysterically to our team to "Stop that kid!"

The sun shone on Red that day. While our own Howitzer singlehandedly tied it up later on, a ten kid scrum at our end of the field resulted in a dying bird goal against us. No joy in Mudville— six to five.

Coach Never-Lost-A-Game, who at the end of the first quarter boasted a deer in the headlights expression and bits of half-chewed ballcap between his teeth, seemed relieved to have walked away with a one-point loss. He actually had a smile on his face. I liked him more after the game than before. Maybe we all learned something that day.

I say all this to make a point. When you've got a Rocket Kid on your team, all is well with the world. More often than not, you'll win the game. It's a great feeling to know that his effort will no doubt win you the championship.

God's put Rocket Kids in the Church, too. They may not have great ball control or a killer leg, but they're out in front, leading the charge for the rest of the team. More often than not, they score.

But something's strange about the American Church's attitude toward the Rocket Kids who play on our team. Instead of cheering Rocket Kids on, we tend to despise them. We point out their lacks, their faults. Secretly, we may even wish they'd go away for no other reason than they make the rest of us look bad.

We're despising the Rocket Kid.

In the Church, Rocket Kids minister in ways that may make others uncomfortable. Rocket Kids have big ideas that break long-held traditions. Rocket Kids are so far out in front, those of us better labeled "Pedantic Kids" can't understand what they're about. Rocket Kids demolish conventional thinking.Rocket Kids look foreign to us, almost as if they're playing on the wrong team. Rocket Kids bring change, and change makes us feel unprepared, even ignorant.

I don't need a word of knowledge to know that some reading this will immediately fall back into a familiar "He's asking us to endure heretics in our midst."

Here's my simple answer to that.

Let's consider world missions.  The conventional wisdom for years looked like the following:

  • Teach American (or British) missionaries the culture and language of an unreached people group, then plunk them down in the mission field to evangelize those people.

But at some point in time, a Rocket Kid thought this:

  • Bring a Christian who speaks his unreached people group's native tongue (and understands the global language of English) to the United States for training, then send him back to evangelize his own people.

Now I don't have a Wayback Machine to whisk me to the seminary classroom where the Rocket Kid behind that idea first proposed it. However, I can imagine what the rest of the class thought: they despised the Rocket Kid and his crummy idea.

No doctrine lay mangled on the theological floor as a result of that Rocket Kid's paradigm-shifting idea, though. But he suffered for it, I'm certain. Chances are, that change in missiology may have even shattered ideas of racial superiority within some sectors of the Church. Today, you won't find a missiologist worth his salt who would support the first proposition over the second.

We've got to stop reflexively busting the the chops of Rocket Kids in our churches. Just because we're staring at their backs as they press on ahead of us doesn't mean we shoot them so we can catch up.

Sometimes I wonder if we Evangelicals are like the oppressive government Handicapper General in Kurt Vonnegut's extraordinary story from 1961, "Harrison Bergeron."  (It's worth reading the story—it's brief.) We want status quo and lowest common denominator rather than Rocket Kid concepts. Rocket Kids blow past us with big ideas and paradigm-busting practices, and we're too busy, shotguns blazing, to discern the Holy Spirit speaking truth to us.

Rocket Kids walk into gay bars to minister to the lost people there. Rocket Kids question economic injustices perpetrated on the poorest of us. Rocket Kids take unpopular stands against the status quo. Rocket Kids see the flower growing in the crack in the sidewalk that others miss. Rocket Kids believe that Christ bids us come and die, and they walk out that death daily, no matter what other people think.  Rocket Kids are misunderstood, opposed, and hated in their time, sometimes even by "The Church," but go on to be enshrined in the pantheon of Christian greats.

How much would it cost us to listen to our Rocket Kids, even if we don't understand them, to see if what they might have to say is worthwhile? What if we drew alongside that Rocket Kid, much like Priscilla and Aquila took Apollos under wing, and helped him or her fuel the rocket? Are we more afraid that someone might leave us—pedantic and ordinary as we are—in the dust? Perhaps we're still standing on the sidelines yelling, "Stop that kid!"

God forbid that I should hold anyone back. I don't want to see the Church despise and stifle Rocket Kids. I want to engage Rocket Kid ideas and see if God is speaking truth to me through them.

More than anything, I'm glad we've got Christian Rocket Kids on our side. The worldly have their own Rocket Kids, so we need to treasure and encourage ours to the glory of Jesus Christ. Because, in the end, Jesus Christ made Rocket Kids for a reason.