The world of soccer is largely unknown to me. And, to be honest, that does not worry me in the least. But as someone who eagerly follows the daily news, I do also pick up news items about soccer. For a long time I have been utterly amazed about the exorbitant salaries of some of the star players. As far as I am concerned they are welcome to a nice salary, and if that enables them to buy a holiday cottage on the Spanish coast—well, more power to them. But earning annual salaries of hundreds of thousands of euros, or more, bears no relationship to the actual service they perform (of course, that would be true for some other groups of mega-earners as well!). Another thing I find very strange is the status of the wives of these top players. It is hard to explain why these ladies should get such a bizarre amount of publicity.
And then, there are these ridiculously high transfer sums that are demanded, and paid, when a top player ‘transfer’ from one club to another. This week I realized that there is an important deadline for negotiating these transfers. In the past week it was decided who would play where in the coming season. Of course, I understand that soccer has become big business, and that the major clubs must be run like companies, with shareholders who want to see profits on their investments.
But a soccer club is, after all, a club. It is about a group of people who are devoted to a sport. A club has members and a sporting club has supporters, who will support their club whatever happens (at times with too much enthusiasm). You cannot be a supporter of several clubs at the same time! Supporters and club members want to see their club win, or at least rise in the league table. The word loyalty, more than anything else, sums up what being a club is all about.
Is it not strange, however, that all stakeholders are supposed to show utter loyalty to the their club—except the players? They just hop from one club to the next, if that is good for their career and their bank account! They are just as willing to help AC Milan win a championship as to contribute to a victory of FC Barcelona. After a ‘good’ transfer, their loyalty shifts instantly. I continue to wonder how it is possible that a sport has deteriorated to the extent that for the key players loyalty to a club, to the members of a team, to a city or their country, has almost disappeared under the cloud of pure commercialism.
A church differs in many ways from a soccer club. Fortunately, a church is not primarily about human activity. But there are some similarities. A church also has members and supporters, and in most cases also a group of ‘players’ who earn a living with their work in the church. Occasionally some players opt for a transfer. It happens that a pastor—to use more straightforward language—opts for work in another faith community. There may be good reasons for doing so that are based on conviction and conscience.
Admittedly, there have been some moments in the past when I briefly considered that option. Not because such a ‘transfer’ would be financially advantageous. In fact, the salaries that are paid by the Adventist Church are not much lower (and at times even a bit higher) than what other denominations pay their personnel. But there can be issues in your own church that you find difficult to deal with, or things you totally disagree with. And at such moments the grass in another denominational pasture may seem considerably greener than that in your own ecclesial backyard. Yet, I have always been able to withstand that temptation. I continue to see more than enough solid reasons why I stay with the Adventist church as my spiritual ‘club’. And when I see the enormous loyalty of most members and ‘supporters’ of the church, and observe how they will do almost anything for their ‘club’, I feel inspired to nurture in myself that same intense loyalty towards the ‘club’ that has meant so much for me during my entire life.