This week, I had the privilege to watch the United States soccer team compete in the World Cup. Every four years, the world’s best teams after a long qualifying campaign come together to determine a champion. Many spiritual lessons can be learned from watching sports and one lesson stands out to me from the World Cup: strategy matters.
We could talk about formations and styles of play, but one strategy stands out as perhaps the most important: having the right players on the field at the right time. And the lessons of the World Cup easily carry over to the church world. Let’s look at a few key ideas.
1. Most players play the whole 90-plus minutes of the game. They have to pace themselves so they endure. So it is in the Body of Christ. We have to run a steady race, knowing when to press forward with an initiative or lean back, defending truth and resting for the next attack. There is a danger in soccer, though, with leaning back too much. Your opponent is trained to spot when we lean back and is developing a creative counterattack. So the players who play all 90 plus minutes must be fit beforehand. We must know the Word and stay spiritually fit. Leaning back too much ultimately defeats the purpose, which is scoring goals (or to Christians, reaching the goals God has for us.
2. Some players come in at halftime or shortly thereafter. These players explore new tactics or shore up spots where others are failing. In the Church, these people could be traveling ministers or professionals who bring a specific gift to the table. They won’t always be at your church, but when they are, they spur the existing members to service. They inspire great passion and fuel projects.
3. Next, you have the last-minute subs. These players bring a spark to a tiring team. In the church, these are your encouragers and the next generation. Don’t begrudge them the opportunity to run with a dream. As they come on the field, you may think you have to tell them everything to watch for, but remember they have been watching the whole game from a more distant perspective and may have picked up on things you couldn’t see because you were focused on your assignment. Also, these players have probably heard all the coach’s instructions very clearly since they are next to him; they are there to breathe new life.
4. And lastly, what do you do with the player that didn’t play? The coach has seen fit to include them in the squad so they have talent. But maybe the coach is saving them for emergency use or having them watch the action before going in next game. Maybe they are an older player who provides leadership from the sidelines but tires easily in game action. Whatever the reason they are sitting, get them engaged. Get them excited. Get them ready.
So in conclusion, the point I’m trying to make with all this soccer talk is simply this: everyone has a role to play and if we are to succeed as the Body of Christ, we must all be ready to fulfill our destiny. Leaders, do not let anyone think that it is OK to sit back and do nothing. Conversely, make those who have sideline support roles feel valued and empower them for success in whatever ministry God is calling them to. And church, we don’t all have to be superstars. We are God’s team and if we all know our roles, we will reach our greatest goal, which is when the whole world knows that Jesus loves them and has a great plan for their lives.