A Parallel between a Football Team and the Church
During a sermon I shared that for nineteen years of my life football (eight as player and eleven as a coach) had been the first priority in my life. I shared to explain how God transitioned me from coach to pastor. As folks filed past me on the way out following the sermon, someone made a remark that had an impression upon me. He said, “You never left coaching. Now, you are God’s coach and you are coaching God’s people.” As I reflected the comment, I began to draw parallels between a football team and God’s church.
A football team has an owner or a sponsor. Without a school sponsor or a literal owner as in professional football, there would be no team. A Church has God as its owner. He purchased it with the precious shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. You can’t belong to His team unless you have recognized and accepted the sacrifice that has been made for you. Churches that refuse to accept God’s ownership are churches in name only. They can never rise above what man can do. Those yielded to God’s ownership can look forward to experiencing God’s victories.
Every team must have a head coach and varying numbers of assistants. To be successful, they must keep contact with the owner. Their position is secure as long as they remember their ultimate goal is to please the owner. A pastor is much like the head coach. His assistants may ware the title pastor but in truth there must be a central figure to direct the day to day traffic. The role of the coaches is to determine where the players can best serve; to help them develop their skills; and to deploy them in the game at the appropriate moment.
Under the coaches are the players. They are the feet on the ground. In the eyes of the public some players are more important than others. Wise coaches know that it takes everyone for the team to reach its full potential. The team members who work diligently all week to assist in the preparation of the players who will actually be on the field on game day are as important as the ones scoring the touchdowns. Football is a team sport. There is no room for stars.
In a church the players are the folks who work behind the scenes to make sure things are ready for Sunday. They may not preach, teach, sing in the choir, etc. but they pray, visit, encourage, keep the nursery, contribute, clean, drive buses, etc. The important thing is they use the gifts they have been given to advance the work of the owner.
The spectators represent those who belong to the team but who do not participate fully. Instead, they are content to sit in the stands and occasionally give a cheer for those who are doing the work. Unfortunately, in most churches it is the spectators who make up the majority..
The parallel breaks down at this point. In football, only so many can participate on the field at a time. In the church, spectators are challenged to get out of the stands and into the game. They are constantly reminded their talents were never meant to be horded but were meant to add to the efficiency of the team.
Finally, there are the people outside the stadium. They have no interest in the game. Many have no idea the game is taking place. They often see people involved in the game as fanatics. They do not understand the thrill that comes when you know you have served well and honored your owner and king. It is the duty of those in the stadium to go into the community and to represent their owner well. It is their duty to tell others of the excitement the game of life can offer when it is played under the direction of the Heavenly Owner. Like exciting football games, the joys of fellowship in the church should be talked about in the factories, offices, homes, places of recreation, and other places by those who participate in the joys of serving the Master.
The question these parallels raise for each one of us is are we in the game or are we merely a spectator or are we outside the stadium completely? Speaking as one who spent most of the first half of his life in the stands watching, I can say there is nothing more exciting than getting involved and playing the game of life under the direction of the our Heavenly Owner.