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A Wider Angle

In the 1960s, fledgling TV station ABC took a risk and signed a contract to televise NCAA football games. College sports was a challenging and risky contract because most people, other than a few die-hard sports fans, only cared about their school team. ABC could only show a few games each in each region, and for ABC's bet to pay off, it needed to make viewers care about games that didn't involve their home teams.

A 29-year-old named Roone Arledge decided to write a memo suggesting ways to improve the coverage of college-age football games. Arledge saw ample room for improvement. Sportscasters typically set up their cameras, focused on the field, and waited for something to happen in front of them. They ignored everything else – the fans, the colors, the pageantry, etc. "It was like looking out on the Grand Canyon through a peephole in a door," Arledge said. One Saturday afternoon, he sat down to write a proposal to his bosses: "Heretofore, television has done a remarkable job of bringing the game to the viewer – now we are going to take the viewer to the game!... After our opening commercial billboards, instead of dissolving into the usual pan shots of the field, we will have a pre-shot fill of the campus and the stadium so we can orient the viewer. He must know he is in Columbus, Ohio, where the town is football mad, or that he is part of a small but wildly enthusiastic crowd in Corvallis, Oregon. He must know what the surrounding country and campus look like, how many other people are watching the games in this part of the country, and what the game means to the two schools involved. The memo was three pages long. It discussed camera angles, impact shots, and opening graphics. The heart of the memo was a new way of engaging views that might not ordinarily care about a college game in Corvallis, Oregon. Arledge said the trick was to give people enough context about the game so they'd start to care.

Three things strike me about this story;
1) In our faith, we often "try to view The Grand Canyon through a peephole." There is so much to see, so much more than God longs to reveal about himself, yet we view the wonder and awe of our majestic God from such a narrow perspective. We must spend our lives seeking to grasp how "wide and deep and long" is the love of God.

2) Our Churches are about "bringing the game to the viewer." Our missional approach must change and align with God's mission strategy to 'bring the viewer the game.' We must show people more than the narrow action they see on Sunday morning, but call them to participate in the work of God in the world.

3) As a church living in such peculiar times, we must find "new ways of engaging viewers who might not ordinarily care about the game." The old ways that we have done mission, and the old ways that we have done Church, just don't work anymore. Our challenge is to present and invite Jesus contexts that people care about and are relevant to our life. Develop a bigger view of God.

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