I love football season. The start of NFL camps got me fired up and ready for some football. I wrote a tongue-in-cheek reference to football in my book When Bad Christians Happen to Good People. I looked at how we assemble our church “team” using football imagery.

You start with a couple of All-Conference performers and a few other pretty good players. But you also have several who just started playing and don't even know the rules or terminology of the game. Add some dreadfully out-of-shape, middle-aged players who have been around for years, who never work out or train, but who expect to get playing time nonetheless. You have a few who just don't care anymore and don't want to practice, learn the plays or listen to the coach. But you can't cut them from the team or even bench them without causing big problems. There are some who try hard but are too weak or injury prone to be effective. A few regularly miss games and practices without notice and then reappear expecting to play and even start. Toss in some ... umm… "mature" players who remember the way the game was played back when it was really good. You also have some players who think the coaches and assistant coaches are total idiots. Some passionately believe that the offensive game plan is totally wrong and that all the other players need to change to comply with their personal team philosophy... now! And then you have some who try to run their own plays when they go into the game. Many of the players meet regularly at Denny's after each game to disparage the coach and staff after saying grace over a Grand Slam breakfast. How do you think this team would perform? If they ever won a game, it would be a miracle. 

Yet that is a rather common blueprint for a church. A team that is all over the map in maturity, knowledge, experience, passion and ability. Is it a surprise that our church team sputters at times? Maybe we should function more like a football team. Hold spiritual tryouts before you let anyone join the church. Cut the most of the rookie believers or send them to another church to gain experience. Waive all of the Christians with bad attitudes or poor work ethic. Fine any church members who are late to meetings or services. Make the deacons run laps when they miss a row while passing the offering basket. Fifty pushups for the pastor if he goes too long (poor clock management). With that kind of discipline you could shape up the church and it would cease to be the body of Christ.

The church will always be a little (or a lot) dysfunctional because people like me and you are on the team. So don’t be surprised when a committee member fumbles, an elder misses a block or a staff member tosses an interception. Part of our assignment on our church team is learning how to love those we would like to trade or waive. So we might as well keep our eye on the Coach and look for the fun in our dysfunction. Jesus established this team (church) and I am just glad to be on the roster. Paul wrote this to the church at Galatia.

Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day's out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ's law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.  Gal 6 Msg

Our training camp paraphrase of Paul's words:

Be a good teammate. When someone makes a mistake, get over it, encourage them and be a leader. You might need some encouragement too before the game is over. Help them up and reach out to a teammate that is down. Play as a team according to the Coach’s playbook. If you think you are better than your teammates you will hurt the team and yourself.

Have a great season!

Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com