On church and football

The Superbowl is near, and much discussion and speculation is bent toward the sport. Strange creation that I am, I look at a football team and see, of all things… a church. Let me explain

The strategy

Under the control of Christ, each part of the body does its work. It supports the other parts. In that way, the body is joined and held together.

Ephesians 4:16 (NIRV)

Just as the members of a football team work together to accomplish a common purpose, the members of a church also collaborate to achieve God’s purposes.

Different football teams have different personalities and skill sets, and the composition of a team affects the team’s strategy. Are they a running team or a passing team? Offensive or defensive? Do they tend to play short or deep?

In the same way, the makeup of a congregation will drive the strategy of the church. How much do they focus on community outreach? On missions? Do they attract young families? College students? The elderly?

In order to truly be successful, a football team needs to be able to execute well even in its weak areas; to play a well-rounded game. So too, a successful church must be able to effectively reach a broad demographic, through a variety of ministries.

The head

And [the Son] is the head of the body, which is the church.

Colossians 1:18 (NIRV)

In the world of football, the team manager is the highest authority. He formulates the overall strategy and orchestrates the execution during a game. He encourages and motivates the players before the game. He celebrates with them when they win. He comforts them when they lose.

The whole team executes according to the manager’s wishes, and if they don’t then they will need to answer to him. In order to succeed as a team, they must put their trust in what he instructs them to do.

In the same way, Christ is the head of the church. He also encourages and motivates us. He celebrates our victories and comforts us in our defeats. If we don’t execute according to His instruction, we are ultimately answerable to Him.

The leader

The Holy Spirit has made you leaders over them. Be shepherds of God’s church.

Acts 20:28 (NIRV)

While a manager is the director of the team, he’s not a direct participant in the game. During a match, it’s the quarterback who calls the shots. He is in tune with the manager’s vision, and on a play-by-play basis, it is the quarterback who relays the manager’s instructions to the rest of the team.

The quarterback is in constant communication with the manager, and on the field, speaks with his authority. If anyone refuses to follow the quarterback’s leading, then that person will need to account for his actions to the manager later.

If the quarterback misrepresents the manager’s direction, then he, himself, will need to answer for his failure. If a quarterback repeatedly goes against a manager’s leading, he most likely will be removed from his position and replaced with a more compliant player.

There are no authorities except the ones God has chosen. Those who now rule have been chosen by God.

Romans 13:1 (NIRV)

A pastor is Christ’s ambassador to a church. He guides the church’s day-to-day execution, in line with Christ’s vision and instruction. The church members are free to individually seek out God’s guidance, and even encouraged to do so. But just as a the manager of a football team would never give his players conflicting instructions, God would also never give His followers conflicting instructions.

God is not a God of disorder. He is a God of peace, just as in all the churches of the Lord’s people.

I Corinthians 14:33

The team

 If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If the whole body were an ear, how could it smell? God has placed each part in the body just as he wanted it to be. If all the parts were the same, how could there be a body? As it is, there are many parts. But there is only one body.

I Corinthians 12:17-20

If the whole team were a quarterback, who would catch the ball? If the whole team were receivers, who would block? The quarterback is extremely important, and is arguably the star of the show, but there’s no denying that he can’t play the game by himself.

If a football team were short even a single player (ignoring the fact that it couldn’t legally continue to play) then it would be at a significant disadvantage, regardless of which position was absent. Each and every player has a position to play, with an associated role to perform. Some roles are more glamorous than others, but none is dispensable.

In a similar way, in order to be successful, a church requires a variety of roles to be competently filled. The role of pastor gets a lot of attention, but without worship leaders, sound technicians, Sunday school teachers, nursery workers, and even toilet scrubbers, the pastor would not have much of a congregation to lead.

Don’t know where you fit into the team? Not sure what role you should fill? In football, one of the least visible of roles is that of a lineman. It’s a lineman’s job to protect the quarterback, or whoever else has the ball, by blocking the opposition. In front of any successful quarterback, there is always a strong offensive line.

There is a similar role in church: the prayer warrior. Behind any successful pastor, there is always a team of strong Christians praying for God’s blessing, protection, and guidance.

Unlike football, though, church is not a spectator sport. Christ, the head, fully expects everyone in the church to be an active participant. Get off the bench and get in the game. I am so thankful for my own role in my collaborative, cohesive, successful church.

 – danBhentschel