What if the Church Played the Super Bowl?
TEXT: Ephesians 4:11-12
TOPIC: What If the Church Played the Super Bowl?
Pastor Bobby Earls, First Baptist Church, Center Point, Alabama
February 1, 2009
(Much of the following message is gleaned from John Maxwell's TEAM Ministry and his seminar notes on God's Master Game Plan.)
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
Eph 4:11-12 (NKJV)
Let’s have a little fun with the sermon today. It’s Super Bowl Sunday; we might as well join in the spirit of the game, even though I don’t have any particular feelings for who might win tonight’s game. Maybe you do. How many of you are pulling for the Pittsburg Steelers? Who would like to see the Arizona Cardinals win? How many of you are like me, you just don’t care?
But what if the church played in the Super Bowl? What if today’s church, the typical church, even our church here at FBCP, what if we played in the Super Bowl? You’d certainly have cause to tune in and cheer for the church wouldn’t you? Sure you would!
What I really want to do is to walk us through five scenes of what the Super Bowl might look like, if the church were to play the Super Bowl. Along the way, what I hope you learn about the church is this: "The average church does not need more members, it needs more ministers!
SCENE #1: THE COACH PLAYS ALONE
Imagine the scene as the teams are introduced to the crowds shortly after 5:00 p.m. this afternoon at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. You know the scene.
The players run onto the field. Bands are playing. Rockets explode. A squadron of Air Force Jets flies overhead. The players go crazy. Ben Roethlisberger and Kurt Warner, the team quarterbacks are shouting and pumping up their teams.
But the Super Bowl I’m talking about this morning is very different. The coin is tossed, the National Anthem is played and the opposing team runs onto the field. (We’ll call them the Devil’s Demons.) Then the cameras zoom in on the church still on the sideline, saying the Lord's Prayer.
But when the prayer is over, instead of the church taking the field of play, they stay on the sideline and the coach runs onto the field. And if the church is large enough to have some assistant coaches they run out on the field as well. Anyway, the coach lines up to receive the kick-off. Now we know what's going to happen. The ball is kicked and the coach makes the catch and takes a few steps forward and, "BOOM." Eleven of the Devil’s most talented special teams’ players converge at once on the poor coach. He dies and goes to Jesus.
Now who's the church's coach? Who? The pastor is the church's coach. In some churches, like ours, we're fortunate to have a staff of ministers. But do you really think the coach alone or the staff alone stand a chance against the Devil's Demons? About as much chance as the Cardinals have of beating the Steelers today.
I can see it now. They kick off. I set John and Danny up front to throw a few blocks. But all they hit is the ground. I catch the ball. Take a few steps forward and realize I'm about to make my wife a young widow, so what do I do? I lateral the ball to David Huffstutler across the field and yell, “Run, David H., run." That's why we brought you here. Reach those youth. Grow our Sunday School. I'm praying for you!"
No. That's not the way to play a football game, especially not the Super Bowl. But sadly, that often illustrates the way too many churches try to do the work of ministry in the church.
Remember our text, Ephesians 4:11-12, He gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
Let me give you another Example of Lay Ministry the way the church ought to play the game.
Acts 6:1-7. Observations
1. The pastors were unable to meet all the needs, Acts 6:1
The average size church in America has 112 members with an average attendance of 70. Do you know why? That's all one man can effectively serve. After that, the church stops growing. The pastor and staff can't do it alone.
2. The church meets to discuss the problem, Acts 6:2a
3. The many needs force the pastors to list priorities, Acts 6:2b, and 4
4. They decide to share the ministry with the laity, Acts 6:3a.
5. The people were to be qualified.
1) members of the church "from among you"
2) good reputation
3) spirit-filled believers
4) full of wisdom
5) full of faith
6) responsible and reliable "put in charge of a task"
How do you measure up?
6. The leaders approve and pray over them, Acts 6:6.
7. The church grew because the laity started to minister, Acts 6:7.
SCENE #2: THE TEAM STAYS IN THE HUDDLE
After the coach is carried off on three of four stretchers, the team or the church finally realizes they had better get in the game. So they run on the field and get in the huddle, and they huddle and they huddle and they huddle.
The referee throws a flag. The church is penalized for delay of game. Five yards is marked off against the church. So they get back in the huddle, and they huddle and they huddle and they huddle. The ref blows his whistle, and throws his flag, five more yards.
The crowd starts to boo. What's going on? Why's the church staying in the huddle? Let's look inside the huddle to see what's going on. We hear one of the church's players say, "Boy, don't we have a pretty huddle." Another one says, "I love it here in the huddle." Still another says, "I love the closeness and the fellowship we enjoy with one another in the huddle." So the church joins hands and begins to sing choruses in the huddle. “We shall not be moved.”
We like it in the huddle. It's safe in the huddle. You can't get hurt in the huddle. And while we're safe and secure in our HOLY HUDDLES, the church continues to lose ground in the Super Bowl of life.
I got this idea for this sermon from John Maxwell years ago. Let me give you Maxwell's definition of fat. "It involves scores of passive parishioners sitting week after week and soaking up what is in some cases gourmet preaching, but who are still infected with a disease called "spectatorism." This mass of untapped potential is generally educated far beyond their level of obedience, and is not translating Christian theory into practice. Spectatorism generally creates flabby, weak, spoon-fed believers who have grown old, but not up, in the Lord. They know more about church policy than evangelism, and are better acquainted with parliamentary procedure than with discipleship."
SCENE 3: THE TEAM BEGINS TO ARGUE AMONG THEMSELVES
You can only stay in the huddle so long before you begin to find fault with something or someone in the huddle. "I don't know why you always get to play quarterback. I can throw the ball as well as you can!"
"Why are you wearing that number? That use to be my number." "You know I'm really tired of these uniforms. I think we ought to have different color uniforms! And while the church argues among them in a HUFFY HUDDLE, the mass of spectators are left in frustration wondering when the church is going to get in the game.
Three Things Needed to Develop Teamwork
and Bring the Church Out of the Huddle
1. A Leader on the Team
When I played the game, about one hundred years ago, there was a rule every player understood and every player obeyed. When you're in the huddle, the quarterback calls the plays.
Few people are successful unless a lot of other people want them to be. There's an old Chinese saying, "He who thinks he leads and no one follows, is just taking a walk." Now we can just take a walk together, or I can lead you. But to be a winning church, we all have to work together, with every player executing his responsibilities under the leadership God has given us.
2. A Cause Worth Fighting For
If we're going to get the church out of the huddle, we need a cause worth fighting for. In Super Bowl XLIII, two teams will battle for the right to be called "the best in the NFL." For the church, that which motivates us to come out of the huddle should be the souls of men and women. But we don’t stop there. We must be united in our effort to fully disciple every believer who attends our church.
3. We Need an Understanding that "Everyone is Needed."
There are no unimportant saints in God's church. Another important principle in team sports is this: No individual player is more important than the team as a whole. The church needs to learn to play as a team.
On December 28, 1967, the Green Bay Packers lined up on the one yard line of the Dallas Cowboys with no time outs, and 13 seconds left in the game. Dallas was ahead 17 - 14. Twice the Packers had sent running back Donnie Anderson into the line only to slip on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field in Green Bay. The temperature at game time was 13 degrees below zero with 15 mile-an-hour winds swirling around the stadium. As the Packers came to the line of scrimmage for the last play of the game, the quarterback, Bart Starr, called his own number, and dove in behind right guard Jerry Cramer who had managed to place a crushing block on the bigger and stronger Jethro Pugh of the Cowboys. The Packers won the game and went on to win their third straight NFL championship. Bart Starr may have scored the touchdown, but it was Jerry Cramer who made the block.
Everyone is important in the work of the Kingdom! We can't do it alone.
SCENE #4: THE TEAM BREAKS THE HUDDLE BUT THEY’RE NOT EQUIPPED TO PLAY THE GAME
Suppose the Steelers are so over-confident that they’ve spent the last two weeks celebrating their victory over the Ravens to earn the right to return to the Super Bowl. They haven't even thought about the Cardinals. They know they should win by three touchdowns. They haven't practiced. They haven't watched a film. They haven't put together a game plan.
Here's another sport's principle: "You play like you practice."
The same principle is true when applied to the church. "You play like you practice." When it comes to the lay leadership in the church, we too often find ourselves performing poorly because we have failed to effectively train our leaders.
Too often this is how we recruit our leaders. A member of the church nominating committee walks up to Sister-Do-It-All two minutes before class and says, "Sister Do-It-All, the Lord has laid it on our hearts that you ought to teach our three year-old class. We know how much you love children since you have seven of your own. Besides, if you don't do it then no one else will. So we give Sister Do-It-All a Sunday School quarterly and shove her in the class room door and lock the door behind her.
One of the most important things we have learned is that the reason our people refuse leadership in the church is because they have tried it before and had such a terrible experience that they promised themselves, "I'll never do that again."
The church is out of the huddle but they're still being defeated because they haven't been trained.
SCENE #5: THE TEAM TURNS IT AROUND
Halftime finally comes. The church drags itself into the locker room, bruised and embarrassed. But to our surprise the coach has returned to the team. And he has this confession to make. He gives them this pep talk.
"I have a confession to make. First of all, I've failed to equip you to do the job. I've tried to do it by myself. I know you don't feel adequate to do the job. I know you don't know what to do or how to do it. But from this moment on, it's your game. I'll teach you and I'll show you how, but you've got to play the game. I believe in you. I know you can do it. Now let's get out there and win one for the Lord!"
And the church charges out of the locker room back onto the field for the second half. We take the kick-off and return it for a touchdown. We intercept a pass and carry it all the way for another TD.
Our front line, led by All-American Deacon Terry Leesburg is opening holes so big you could drive a church bus through them. Our running backs, Deacon George Franklin and Usher Chairman Dorlin Terry carry the ball with a new abandonment. They can't be stopped! Our wide receivers, Sunday School Director Bud Hartsfield and Senior Adults Leader Mavis Moore, catch everything thrown their way. Our defense consisting of our choir members and musicians drive the enemy lines back with their choruses of praise to the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Special Teams players, the Youth and Children, add several other scores.
Finally, on the last play of the Super Bowl, with no time outs left, and the clock running out, the quarterback dives over for the winning touchdown. But the star of the game is not the quarterback, but the team. It's been a total turn around, a total team effort!
And as the Commissioner awards the church the Super Bowl trophy, we humbly bow and place our award, our victory and our recognition at the feet of the Team Owner, the Lord of Lords as we say, "Worthy is the Lamb to receive honor, and glory, and praise. For He alone is our prize for which we press on to receive that high calling which is in Christ Jesus alone. To God be the Glory forever and ever. Amen!”
Now that’s a Super Bowl for the Ages!