After attending the Calgary/Edmonton Labor Day football game, This analogy came to mind: “Christian work could be compared to a football game - 35,000 people who badly need exercise watching a couple dozen players who badly need some rest.”
I began to wonder if the analogy could be expanded. Why do some play while others prefer to sit and watch? Here are a few suggestions:
First, some people are more skilled than others. In sports that means the difference between winning and losing, so it only stands to reason that the players are the very best that management can find or afford.
But is it like this in the church? Do we have a mentality that says only the “more skilled” can effectively do the work of ministry, and the others who think they are less skilled should sit and watch? Christians who think this way have let the thinking of the (sports) world invade their theology. The Bible says that spiritual gifts are “given to everyone, to profit all,” and “those members of the body (of Christ) that seem to be more feeble are necessary,” not just to sit and cheer, but to use what they have to complete and complement the work of others.
Secondly, those in the playing field must exercise time and energy to become what they are, while those in the stands have other priorities. Certainly, not everyone can be a big league pitcher, or a hockey player, yet priorities are a major theme in Scripture. None of the commands in the Bible say anything like this, “Study to show yourself approved unto God, except of course if it cuts into what you want to do.” Or this, “Abstain from fleshly desires . . . unless you find it too difficult.”
Self-denial and hard work are the foundation for excellence in athletics. Certainly they have a key role in Christian ministry as well.
Thirdly, some spectators do not play because they simply don’t know anything about the game. In fact, no coach in his right mind would play a person that has never read the rule book, or never been in training camp.
Christians sometimes sit because they feel inadequate and ignorant too. In contrast, God says that we are “complete in Christ” and have all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1) We also have a “rule book,” the Spirit of God, and the example and encouragement of others who have gone before us for our instruction. Furthermore, the Lord promises wisdom to anyone who asks for it. (James 1) Ignorance and a sense of inadequacy are no excuses to sit and watch.
Another reason that some don’t play is that they prefer to coach from the sidelines. Listen at any game - most armchair quarterbacks, baseball players, and hockey fans know exactly how to call the plays, hit the home runs, and keep the opposition from scoring. Sadly, the same is true of many “armchair Christians.” They could preach a better sermon, give a better witness, teach a better class. They know all about how to do it. They just don’t do it.
Perhaps This analogy could continue. There are spectators who attend the games for a break in their routine, and there are those who go because they would like to play but are afraid to try. Others use sports to socialize, or to impress their colleagues.
Still others get a thrill from watching the action. Whatever the reasons, none of them are valid according to God’s game plan. The work of the church is successful only if everyone is involved, doing what they can at the level of skill that they have, motivated by a love for their Coach and a desire to please Him.