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Spock, Kirk and the Enterprise of Ministry

Picture of Greg Stier
Greg Stier

I love the cult classic original television series Star Trek. Sure it was undeniably cheesy, but there was something hopelessly endearing about it. Maybe it was the fact that every episode had the same plot line that went something like this:

Star Trek on a routine discovery mission…life detected on a nearby planet…small team beams down…the aliens look human and seem nice…they aren’t nice…the red shirted extra gets killed…Klingons attack the Enterpise while the team is on the planet…the team (minus the red shirted extra) beams up in the nick-of-time…Kirk blasts the enemy out of orbit…credits roll.

Sure you can replace one or two of these plot elements and throw in a eye fluttering, alien beauty to captivate the Captain from time to time but pretty much that was the storyline in every episode. Let’s just say the plots were as predictable as Spock in a chess match.

Okay, so it really wasn’t the brilliant writing that pulled me into the vortex of this corny entertainment. Nor was it the “special effects”. I’m sure George Lucas has dry heaves everytime he sees an episode of the original Star Trek.

So what was it about this television series that drew me in? To be honest I think it comes down to the interplay between the fact-driven Spock and the fight-happy Kirk that made these hour long episodes more than tolerable. Kirk, the renegade Captain and Spock the cerebral second-in-command. Spock always pushed the facts and Kirk always pushed the envelope. But it was the yin/yang tension between these two characters that created the canvas for the entire series.

In virtually every episode Kirk was ready to blast his enemies into hyperspace. Spock would caution the Captain with the stark realities of the situation. Kirk would listen to his input and then make a gut decision. Usually Kirk’s decision was the right one. But because Kirk respected Spock he took his input seriously and then made a decision that was a strange mixture of hard facts, gut feelings and guts.

Without Spock, Captain Kirk would have not made it through one episode. He would have made an uninformed decision based completely on hunch and would have gotten sizzled to an ash by a Klingon warship.

But if Spock were the captain he would have never won a battle. Wars are not won by the purely logical but by a tricky combination of facts, risk and courage. Real life Generals like Patton, MacArthur and Swartzkoff make a pretty strong case for the effectiveness of this kind of intuitive and bold battlefield leadership. None of them were researchers. But all of them made tough decision based on solid facts.

So what does all this Star Trek convention talk have to do with the “enterprise” of ministry? More than you might think.

There are a handful of “Spocks” out there who do analysis of the stark realities of the world we minister in and to. These Spocks are churning out more and more resources to give us ministry leaders the cold, hard facts.

But the interpretation and application of these facts to the non-theoretical battlefield of hands on ministry is up to warrior/leaders like you and me. Often times when I read these research books I rejoice at the sheer abundance of sobering, well researched statistics that they produce. Then I cringe when these “Spocks” try to tell us how and when to fire our phasors in the actual battle. Although these kinds of research books are excellent at diagnosing the problem they tend to be weak at prescribing workable and Biblical solutions.

Too many times pastors and youth leaders take what these Spocks prescribe and drink it in as undeniable truth. What these ministry leaders fail to realize is that, while their research may be accurate, their solutions are merely personal opinions based on their interpretation of the data. The problem is that solutions are not their strength. Analysis is. And winning a war requires more than analytical precision. It requires decision making in the mud, crud and blood of the battlefield.

Although this kind of strategic effectiveness is intuitive to every effective battlefield general, it is foreign to most researchers. Why? They are Spocks not Kirks. They may want to be Kirks but, whether they like it or not, they are fact-spouting Vulcans. And we need them to be that and nothing more. These statisticians need to embrace their inner nerd and be who God called them to be.

Whether you like it or not, if you are leading any kind of ministry from a small group to a mega church you are a Captain Kirk of sorts. You need solid intelligence from these excellent researchers so that you, along with The Ultimate Captain’s Log, the Word of God itself, and the-better-than-Sulu navigation powers of the Holy Spirit, can make gutsy decisions that may or may not sound “logical” to the Vulcan mind.

We need our Spocks for sure. But it is up to us Kirks to know when to fire full photon torpedos, when to engage our shields and when to turn tail and fly at Warp Speed in the opposite direction.

Working with our Spock friends we can make courageous decisions based on solid research. And together we can boldly go where no man has gone before (I couldn’t resist.)

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