Any basketball fans here today? March Madness… The Big Dance… Conference tourneys… The brackets with all the seeds, rankings, and pairing for games… Number one seeds… Final four teams… It’s fun to be a TV fan.
What about season ticket holders? That’s even better. From time to time we get tickets from a friend or relative and we get to go to a game. It’s a different experience in the stadium seating with the announcers yelling and fans cheering. Sitting the sidelines is fun. I don’t have to sweat or work out my muscles. And, I get to boo the players, the referees, and coaching staff when my team is stinking it up.
Anybody played basketball on a team? There’s a big different between being a fan and being a player. When I played basketball, I had to practice two hours a day five days a week. There was a lot of traveling to get to the games. And, my parents were required to do a lot of running around so that I could be on the team. There was a huge commitment level to being on the team.
What about coaching a team? Coaching takes on a new level of demands. You have to study and plan ahead. You have to know your stuff. You can’t just show up and expect a team to come together under your leadership. Coaching takes time, energy, and effort beyond game day. As a coach you have to know your players, and their families and friends. You have to monitor their behavior, and set a standard for their performance.
Sports Lesson. Sports really help us to understand how teams work together. Sports can shed light on the fundamental expectations of discipleship. At different stages in our discipleship walk we are fans of Jesus and the church, then we join the church to become season ticket holders. That seems pretty cool – we’ve all got season passes. But in the church we get to make the leap from sitting in the bleachers to sitting on the bench.
We all get to be on the team. When I first started playing basketball, I sat the bench a lot. I was the youngest on the team, and I had a lot of learning to do. But I had to practice just as hard as all the others. I had to know all the plays, and watch every bit of the game from the sidelines to know what was going on in the game. So when it was my time to play ball, I was ready. That’s the way it is in the church. We all participate equally hard on the team even when we don’t all play on game day.
The cool thing about being in the church is that we are all called to become coaches (not just the role of the pastor, or a few leaders in the church). We all are asked by Jesus to go into all the world and make disciples. We are asked to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and die to our self-will. We are to become coaches (followers of Jesus) who are skilled at helping people become better teams (churches), and better teammates (disciples).
Instead of March Madness… the church has Easter Madness! We all get to sit on the sidelines and remember that Jesus died for us. We all get season passes of forgiveness within the church. We all get to participate in the teamwork of loving God and neighbor. We all get to show others what it means to love one another.