By Randy Millwood, BCM/D Missionary for Missional Church Leadership, Small Groups, Seminary Extension, Spiritual Formation and E-Quip.net
You know the story…
Jor-El has a son, Kal-El, on the home world of Krypton. He rockets him to Earth before Krypton explodes where the Kent family of Kansas discover and raise him.
Clark Kent lives among mere humans in the New York-ish city of Metropolis where he makes his living as a mild mannered reporter working for the Daily Planet. When danger appears: “Look; up in the sky. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s Superman!”
Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel created the character in the Depression Era, first widely published by Detective Comics, Inc. in 1938. With America coming through World War II as a super power, it is little wonder that the Man of Steel became the iconic symbol of a nation!
If you saw Clark walking down the street you’d think: “geek.” But what you didn’t know was… he wore those over-sized clothes because he had to squeeze tights and a cape underneath them! And, right in the middle of that big, blue suit was a bright red and yellow “S.”
Whenever you saw the “S” you knew what it stood for: Superman! Able to leap tall buildings with a single bound. Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive.
He was the symbol of hope, power, and justice for a nation…and for generations.
Every vocation has its own version of a superman and in my world of ministry-people, I’ve seen the designated superman change through the years:
Early in my life, the Super Pastor wore the bright red “S.” He could visit all of the hospitals, homebound, guests, and members… each week. He could prepare an acceptable sermon, deliver it while stepping on toes, and still take home the bacon (literally…farmers would bring him bacon to take home).
While at college/seminary, the “S” moved to the International Missionary. You were humbled that God loved you enough to save you…overwhelmed that God called you to be an Ambassador of His Kingdom…but you only got the “S” if you were called overseas.
A few years into my local church years the “S” was ripped from the uniform of the International Missionary and affixed to the bowling shirts of the Mega-Church Pastors… anything they said, wrote, or thought was, well, super!
I AM NOT “DISSING” ANY OF THESE ROLES… truth be told, I don’t know a pastor (mega-church or otherwise) or an international missionary who ever asked for the “S.” It was awarded by others…similar to how judges on a game show distribute points.
In recent years the “S” has settled on a new group…Church Planters. These individuals set out into an under-churched culture to build friendships with people who are far from God; meeting in ballparks, theaters, schools; setting up and tearing down each week; decentralizing groups because there is no space to centralize them; a smart phone for an office; creative, if for no other reason, than necessity is the mother of invention!
You didn’t ask for the “S.” Others have awarded it to you.
Have you ever wondered what the “S” on Superman’s chest stood for? There is no agreement in “Geekdom:”
• Some say it stands for Shuster and Siegel – the creators
• Other say that they intended for it to stand for Superman
• Others describe it as a family crest from Krypton that only looks like our “S”
• A few say it is the Kryptonian symbol for hope
• Some say it is like a target for the bad guys, as in “shoot me right here… go ahead…”
• My favorite is, “The suit was too small… he should have gotten a medium”
The simplest and most profound answer is this: it depends on what storyline you follow.
In our contemporary culture, Church Planters, now branded with an “S,” must choose a storyline to follow – a way to deal with the “S.”
Will you think (and act) like it stands for Superman? Will you behave as though you are a man of steel…impenetrable? Will you think that you alone can overcome all the obstacles inherent in the task to which you are called?
Or, will you choose a different storyline?
That “S” could come to stand for servant. Jesus saw Himself as a servant. He recommended that others serve. He described the Kingdom economy as one where servants lead. It has been famously said that you know you are a servant when others treat you like a servant and it does not bother you. So, how are you doing?
Becoming a servant requires focused practice of selected habits over time…a sort of rhythm to life. Something other than the entrepreneurial qualities we often look for in church planters. This kind of soul care (another good use of the “S”) is essential for all of us who follow the Christ.
No, you didn’t ask for the “S” on the chest. I know that. And, if time is a teacher, it won’t stay there forever – folks will assign it to someone else. But, while it’s there, you can choose the storyline that it will represent.
Randy Millwood is the Team Strategist for Leadership Development and Support with the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (443) 878-4587. If you would like to build occasions to explore and experience varieties of spiritual exercises in a retreat setting, consider the BCM/D Restore My Soul retreats. You can find additional information at https://bcmd.org/restoremysoulretreats.