During a recent discussion in the Cornerstone class, I used a sports analogy to get my point across. Before I even finished my statement, Frank Spelich, being a huge sports guy, knew exactly what I meant. Later, when he and I were talking, we were both in agreement with how often sport imitates life, not to mention faith. I have used sports analogies too many times to count during various lessons and small group discussions.
When you think about it, those first involved in spreading the good news functioned exactly like a sports team. They had a "big guy" upstairs, the owner (God). He had a multitude of help (the GM and all the inter-office people). They had numerous minor league teams and feeder organizations in cities like Phillipi, Galatia, Colossae, Ephesus and Corinth. They had scouts (Timothy, Barnabas, Stephen, Titus, Silas and the apostles themselves) seeking out talent in those cities and encouraging those that weren't quite ready to "move up" to keep working at it. They had a head coach or manager (Jesus) and then there was Jesus' coaching staff or "inner circle" (Peter, James and John). There were also the players themselves (all the apostles and other disciples). And last, but most definitely not least, there were the behind the scenes people, especially the women, taking care of the groups needs, which were many. Women like Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and Martha to name a few.
I coached basketball and baseball nearly 15 years and had some good teams, some not so good teams and was fortunate to coach a few great teams. The great teams were never the most talented and typically never had a superstar. However, when the chips were down, they had one thing in common, they all counted on each other and they all believed in each other. In the end, they were all working towards the same goal. Team was always first, because as the old saying goes, there is no "I" in team. I could tell you countless stories about how our #7, 8 or 9 hitter won a big game for us, or how the 9th or 10th guy off the bench made the big shot or big play. And none of us were surprised when it happened. Now don't get me wrong, those teams weren't perfect, far from it. We had many disagreements, shouting matches and players occasionally disciplined.
We had many changes, sometimes way more than I thought we could ever handle. Players changing positions, quitting, new players coming in and coaches often differing on how to approach a game, a practice, etc. And we as coaches were far from perfect, with me leading the charge for imperfection way more than I'd like to admit. But in the end, especially with the teams I was closest with and spent the most time with, the players knew we as coaches wanted only what was best for the team. They knew we loved them and yet would kick them in the butt if needed. We coached fairly, treated people with respect and always played by the rules, even if we did "stretch" them once in awhile.
And for the most part, those teams were a reflection of the coaching staff. Some picked up more of the fiery side of our staff, others the more laid back approach, while many had a mix of both. And they played the game hard, fair and did the things necessary on and off the field to be better players. Sometimes they reflected the not so good side of our staff, but for the most part, they were good sportsman, gentlemen and dedicated teammates. Boys and later young men you would be proud to call your son.
They were the true definition of a team. One for all and all for one. They didn't always get along, the leadership failed often, things were far from perfect and yes, sometimes pride got in the way. But they respected each other, they loved each other (though at that age, they probably didn't realize it) and in the end, they wanted what was best for the group as a whole. That's what true teams do. They're never perfect, but the successful ones are the ones that can put aside all their differences, whatever they may be, in order to do what's best for the team in the present and what's best for the future. And in the end, they become as close to perfect as possible when they put team and others first. Remember how I said earlier that sports imitates faith. Does any of what you just read sound familiar when it comes to our faith?
Now after reading all of that, let me present a few questions to us as a congregation. Do we truly realize that we at GUMC are all on the same team, that is, Jesus' team? Are the things we're doing in the church, either in service, in conversation with others or just in the general workings and functions of a church, making GUMC more cohesive or more divisive? Are we all working towards the same goals? Are we concerned more about self and what we want more than others and what's best for all? Are we concerned about the long term future of our church? Are we welcoming to new people at all times? Are we treating those we may have differences with respectfully? And finally and I believe most importantly, IN ALL THAT WE DO OR SAY, ARE WE REFLECTIONS OF JESUS?
I am asking all those involved at GUMC to ponder over these questions, myself included. These questions arose in my head, as did the theme for this post, out of my recent personal revelation that I have failed in every one of these areas and in some instances, I'm embarrassed to say, quite miserably. I have been far from a team player, which is something that I have been a believer in my entire life. I am struggling with so many of the changes going on at GUMC and in typical human fashion, was dealing with them myself. Well guess what, it's not working. I need to go through this with all of you and I am sure many of you are struggling in a similar manner. And that's OK. This will take time. We all knew that going into this journey. But in the end, if we put what benefits others and the church, first, I believe we will come out of this a more faithful, vibrant and stronger group. There is no "I" in Jesus either, but there is an US. And that, I believe, is exactly where all of us need to be, in Him and Him in us.