Coaching a Team that Doesn’t Play Games

Coaching a pro football team is serious business because football teams have to play games.

Games they desperately desire to win.

At the end of the season, the standings don’t reflect how many practices were held by the team. No, the standings only measure the amount of wins and losses a team has accrued.

But practice is vital to a team having success on the playing field!

Though the pro football season runs through the fall and early winter, teams gather in late spring for workouts and meetings. In August the pre-season practice games begin. Finally, after so many meetings and so much practice, the regular season arrives! But then, soon after the first game – but not before the second game – the team gathers again for practice.

Why do they practice so much? One reason and one reason alone: to win games.

If a team is doing well, practice is meant to sharpen its skills and rub off rough edges.

If a team is not doing well, practice can often resemble an overhaul as coaches try to figure out how to get back on the winning side of things.

But for all time and energy poured into meetings and practice, what really counts is playing the games.

Without the games, the discipline of practice is pretty much meaningless.

Can you imagine a football team practicing without ever suiting up and taking the field? We would feel likely feel sorry for them.

In the same way, we should feel sorry for any follower of Jesus who is involved in spiritual practices (such as going to church, reading their Bible, praying, etc.), but doesn’t appear to put their practice…into practice.

Put another way, our times in prayer, in God’s Word and in fellowship are intended to better equip us for worshiping Jesus, relating to His people and reaching out to the world around us.

We gather together to pray, study, discuss, and learn with the idea that the investment of our time and energy will make us ready to live out God’s will for our lives.

Church is the practice. Our life at home, at work, at school and in the marketplace is where the game is meant to be played.

But sadly, there are some Christians who rarely get on the field. Why? Here’s my hunch: because they think “doing” church is the end goal.

But here’s the deal: church isn’t really for our pleasure or a sort of pastime. Rather, church is much more about preparation, perspiration and pruning.

Church isn’t meant to be an escape; it’s about things like equipping and mobilizing and launching.

Church isn’t about us resting so much as it is about getting us ready.

Church exists because the world is in the midst of war; a cosmic battle the Book of Ephesians describe as a “struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Sure there are moments of pleasure that come from being at church. The songs can encourage us. The fellowship may warm us. And the learning can inform us.

But if we make church “the end” rather than “the means,” we are missing out on what God intends.

Imagine a football team that is well-coached, but never plays a single game. To such a concept, one might exclaim, “Ridiculous!”

But worse than that, imagine a people who participate in a host of spiritual practices and preparations, but never actually apply what’s been learned. More than ridiculous, that  would be tragic.

Although church can be enjoyable, let’s not ever forget that church exists primarily to equip the saints for the work of ministry.

We come into church to be refreshed and recharged. We go out to love, serve, minister and reach.

May we not confuse our preparation with our ultimate calling.

 

 

 

 

 

Learning To Be Like More Like Mary

In Luke’s gospel we find a curious situation. Jesus is invited to be a guest in the home of a woman named Martha (who has a sister named Mary). Here’s how Luke describes the goings on:

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42 NIV)

Martha was a good hostess. She made sure the house was clean and the food was prepared. As we all know, hosting people in our home can be a lot of work.

But sister Mary parked herself at Jesus feet and listened to Him teach. Which, in time, got under Martha’s skin. As for Martha’s agitation, it got to the place where Martha felt justified to point out Mary’s lack of cooperation to Jesus.

Now, work is a part of our lives. Work is not bad or immoral. Jesus didn’t clap back at Martha because she was involved in toil.

No, Jesus responded back to Martha with a challenge for her to think about how she prioritized her life.

Here’s the big takeaway: time with Jesus is more important than anything else. 

We will have all sorts of concerns, worries and burdens in this life. We will be saddled with multitudes of responsibilities. Simply put, there is often a lot on our plate that demands our attention.

But a close, intimate, growing relationship Jesus is meant to take top priority over everything.

In fact, maintaining a prioritized, deep-rooted relationship with Jesus will help us better navigate all the challenges and difficulties and responsibilities life throws our way.

  • Time with Jesus will make us better at our jobs.
  • Time with Jesus will help us in our marriages.
  • Time with Jesus will form us into better parents.
  • Time with Jesus will shape us into becoming more effective servants of God.

On the day that Jesus came to Martha’s house, Martha opted for the kinetic. But Mary chose the intimate.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t times for us to be heavily involved in work. In fact, Paul wrote that if a man was unwilling to work, he shouldn’t be allowed to eat! The account of Martha and Mary isn’t meant to be a license for laziness disguised as a form of spirituality.

But life makes way more sense when we view intimacy and relationship with God as the horse, and everything that follows the cart.

Jesus spoke about this type of prioritizing when he declared:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33 NIV)

But here’s the deal: Some of us don’t feel wired for relational closeness. Some of us are downright afraid of intimacy. Some of us are naturally drawn to action and busyness. And thus, we often try to replace intimacy with effort. Or put another way, we try to exchange relationship in favor of religion.

In the end, such an effort-driven pathway winds up being a dead end. Why? Because we never get connected to the source of light and life, the fount of hope and healing.

Martha was so focused on completing her chores that she became agitated with Mary. Jesus had to remind her that there was no way he would rebuke Mary for doing the most important thing a person could ever do: get close enough to Jesus to hear his voice.

John Courson offered this comment about the importance of pursuing closeness with Christ:

What we do with Christ is infinitely more important than what we do for Jesus.

You might be performing this duty, caring for that obligation, or involved in numerous ministries. But in this passage, Jesus shows us that what we do with as a friend is far more important than anything we could ever to for him in service. Yes, we are ambassadors for Him. Yes, we are to look for opportunities to be a neighbor like Him. But our greatest call and highest privilege is to be a lover of Him.