Posted by: Chip Kooi | October 15, 2008

“Be the ball”: A Missional Anthropology

I commented recently, “be the ball,” on a post that asked how we could move churches to become more missional.  I love that line from Bill Murray’s character in Caddyshack — a character that embodied his mission completely.  Remember how he’s singing “The Balad of the Green Beret” as he attempts to eradicate the gopher?

To “be the ball”: what does that mean?  It’s kind of a Zen thing — to become so one with the ball that the whole process of putting the ball into the hole is seen as one thing rather than a series of small steps; the striking of the ball is only the beginning of the process of the ball reaching its goal: the bottom of the cup.  All is a whole that (according to Bill Murray) one can embody.  (Bill Murray is also an avid Cubs fan, so I’m sure he’s right about almost everything!)

Within the friendly confines of the community of faith we often try to persuade people to see our points of view through our logic and/or our exegesis of scripture.  Nothing wrong with that, and there is even biblical precedent for it.  What this approach misses, however, is that the biblical precedents also incorporate the concept of witness into the persuasion process.  Witness is more than logical or exegetical persuasion because it puts the person of the persuader into the equation.  Witness means that the character, indeed the whole life of the “persuader” is part of the “persuasion,” which is certainly how the book of Acts portrays the apostles, these “ignorant men” who speak with such force and are unafraid of the “powers that be.”

The Greek word for “witness,” of course, is martureo, from which evolved our English word “martyr.”  We are talking here about people whose lives so embodied the message that their deaths were also encompassed by it.

Frankly, I want that kind of life.  And though we do note, now and then, contemporary martyrs, for the most part in the Western world we do not produce them.  We do not produce them because we do not have the kind of communities that so embody the message that their members cannot help but to “become the message.”  For us in the contemporary West, the message remains an intellectual position to be propogated by rational argument.

So, we want what we cannot become because we are not the right kind of people that can produce the communities that would produce the kind of people we we want to be!

“Who will deliver us from this body of death?”

The Spirit of life in Christ.  Period.

Well, perhaps “semicolon” would be more correct.  Certainly we can participate in the process we crave — and the fact that we crave it is itself evidence of the work of the Spirit of life in Christ.  So it is not impossible.

On my office door hangs a “Calvin and Hobbes” comic strip in which the Tiger Hobbes asks why it is that kids play “war” but never “peace.”  Calvin’s answer is: “Not enough role models.”

What we need are role models.  The early church had the apostles and martyrs; the Israelites had the Nazarites; the medieval church had the monks.  Who do we Protestants have?  “Not enough role models.”

What I think we need in the Church of Christ is a good, strong and healthy monastic movement.  We need to embrace the path of singleness of Paul the apostle and of the traditional monastics and affirm it as a normal way of life.  But even for those of us who are married with children, there are avenues open — think of the Brethren of the Common Life in the late medieval Low Countries.

We need something like the Taize movement — a worldwide youth prayer movement.  It’s an amazing story, I think.  You can read about it here, and their main information page is here. In becoming people of prayer, we are, in essence, simply showing up and asking God to do in us what he will.

We can’t change the church merely through persuasion.  We have to be witnesses.  Be the ball.  This is our challenge — more to me than to anyone.  Be the ball.



  1. “Be the ball”! Great analogy. Love it! May we all be so focused in evangelism as to “be the ball”. God bless! Grace and Peace.

  2. For a little more on the “role models” idea, see this current article on Slate concerning the renewal of monasticism among Roman Catholics:

    It seems to me this article is quite relevant to the movement we’re seeking to ignite via this blog.

  3. Hi Chip,

    There are multiple ways to be evangelstic, certainly we need to be genuine, and live out our faith, but I get the sense that Paul didn’t wait for folk to get to know him, and see how consistent he was in living out his faith. I get the sense he started out trying to persuade folk about Christ and let the witness of his life fit in as may. Just a thought.

    It also seems that our culture does create opportunities for martyrdom. Not to the point of death, but our seeks to silence the voice of the Christian, or at least confine to within the halls of the church’s buildings. To live our faith in pursuit of holiness is mandatory (Heb 12:14) but we do not articulate the reasons for our faith, folk won’t know the motivation for our lives and why we live the way we do. As witnesses not only do our lives speak, but we must speak up as well, otherwise folk will not know the difference between us and the athiest who lives a lovely and exemplary life.

    Just a couple thoughts,

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