Today, 'Beware of Complacency'! Among other things during my varied career, I have been and Industrial Chaplain and involved in various ways in Sports Ministry.
Some years ago, I was invited to speak at a Baptist Church men's breakfast in Hughes, a suburb of Canberra, Australia. I asked the audience to determine the difference between a professional athlete and a carton of milk. The answer: They both had a 'use by date'.
At the end of the talk, the Hughes Baptist Church Minister, in his vote of thanks, said he couldn't get the image of that illustration out of his mind.
He explained that, as a teenager growing up in England, he vividly recalled reading several newspaper articles which followed the pathways of champion EPL (English Premier League) soccer players about their life after football. He discovered that one was working on the wharves, but what was pertinent to my story, one was working in a milk factory!
The Bible tells us "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18 KJV). Complacency about the life you can lead as a highly successful and acclaimed sports person can prevent you from making plans to avoid a 'fall' after your sporting use-by date.
I related this story to an acquaintance who is a retired scientist and part of the Scientist in Schools program. She said she had 'fallen' due to complacency and pride recently, when she took kitchen ingredients into the classroom for the children to make some 'organic' hand cream.
She had done this experiment many, many times with students of all ages since 1976 and she thought she didn't need to revise the instructions or practice it at home. However, she made a mistake in making up one of the solutions and the cream didn't mix smoothly, so the children had a bit of an oily goo to take home to their mothers!
Even in large corporations, the idea of success can 'go to their heads'. Continental Airlines, one of the big five, thought they were on top of the game. However, management found that they were losing so much money that they sought pre-bankruptcy arrangements in the USA.
However, there was hope in the form of a new CEO, who actually made an effort to understand what the customers thought. His enquiries all pointed in one direction – customers wanted 'On time arrivals'.
He initiated a small but effective financial incentive for staff that focused on this one single area and within a twelve month period, Continental Airlines profits soared.
The old guard had become complacent about the success of the company, assuming that success itself would keep them on top – and it took fresh eyes to see that simple measures could reinstate the status.
Similarly, one of the issues of large church congregations is this ever-constant demand to stay on target for their congregation. The very success of the large churches, the increasing congregations, also increases the energy required to maintain high standards in preaching and the vast array of community welfare services.
There is no room for complacency, and a 'fall' from this position will surely come unless there is constant vigilance as to what the congregation members want and need – in the same way that the CEO of Continental Airlines ensured that his customers received the service they required.
Opulence is a constant area of concern for all Christian ministry and Mission activities and a major way where Christian witness can keep contact with the 'rank and file' of those whom the church, ministry or mission serves and ensure that their needs are continually met.
Success comes in many forms. An athlete might consider 'success' as a personal best achievement although not gaining a place in the event; my scientist friend may have the children make a smoother hand cream if she revises her recipe and protocols properly; corporations and churches are successful if their customers and congregations receive the services they need at the time they need them.
However, planning and vigilance are required in order to keep on being successful in any field.
But I can offer you a sure way to be successful. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has one formula for success, and that is when you falls at the foot of the Cross and seek forgiveness and seek His Salvation. This 'success' relies not on achievement or intellectual capacity, rather on humility; but even though this seems simple, you cannot be complacent because humility does not come easily and requires vigilance to be maintained.