GET IN THE GAME
Pastor Vernon Giesbrecht
Bud Wilkinson, once the football coach of Oklahoma University and part of the President’s Physical Fitness Program, was asked: “What contribution does professional sport make to the physical fitness of Americans?” To the surprise of everyone, Wilkinson answered, “Very little! A professional football game is a happening where 50,000 spectators, desperately needing exercise, sit in the stands watching 22 men on the field desperately needing rest.” I know, instead of “sitting in the stands”, during this time of stay-at-home orders, spectators are sitting on their “couches”.
Does that sound a little like the church? Too often there are a host of spectators and a handful of participants. People flock to churches by the thousands on Sunday mornings to watch the professionals perform. If the professional is a champion, chances are the stands will be packed. If he doesn’t quite measure up, it will probably be a different story. The old adage is most likely true: Eighty per cent of the work of the church is done by twenty per cent of the people – the “80/20 rule”. How far from God’s ideal for the ministry of the church, when He desires that all Christians be involved in some sort of service. Can it be different at Trinity Church?
Admittedly, during this COVID-19 pandemic, there is less opportunity to be physically involved in a ministry. Thankfully, a number of people in our church have used this time of social isolation to minister in creative and useful ways – writing emails, texts, or cards, making calls to check on and encourage people, doing grocery runs for others, praying for those close to the virus and those affected economically, and, those with technical skills, ensuring our services and other ministries are available online. But, might this also be a time for self-reflection on how we/you could “get out of the stands and into the game” once the physical restrictions are lifted?
The Scripture is full of challenges to meaningful service, giving God glory by serving and building up His church. Here are just a few important verses from Scripture that speak to this. They are part of longer passages that enlarge on the theme of service. They are for everyone whose life has been changed through faith in Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:17-19 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”
If you are a believer, if you are “in Christ”, you have been reconciled to God; your relationship with Him has been restored; you are a new creation. As a result, Christ has entrusted us with the same message that has radically changed us. It seems there are two aspects to this truth. One, we have been given a trust to pass on what God through Christ has done for us. Will we fulfill it? Two, we owe a debt of love to Him that translates into active involvement in this reconciliation ministry. A question, then: “Am I taking this trust seriously, and will I “get in the game” out of love for what Christ has done for me?”
In his earlier letter to the Corinthian church, Paul exhorts them that everyone in the church has been given gifts of service by God’s Spirit to serve the body and the community. Again, here are excerpted verses from 1 Corinthians 12.
“1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
Everybeliever (each one!) has been given at least one spiritual gift by the triune God. (Did you notice that all the members of the Trinity are represented? They are our resource!!) When coupled with our personality, our talents, and our experience, these gifts are to be used to build up the church in every aspect. Do you know your spiritual gift(s)? If you don’t, the church has a short assessment that can help you identify your gift(s). If you are a member of the church, you will have completed one. Interestingly, when your gift is used to serve the Lord, you will experience a certain sense of “yes, this is in my wheelhouse”!
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts yet one body. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
If you were to read the entire chapter, especially the later verses, you’ll quickly note Paul’s sense of humor. He compares the church and its members to a physical body and its many parts. Without the eye, ear, tongue, arm, legs, toes, etc. the body cannot function as it should. Or, if the ear thinks it is the most important or only part of the “body”, it wouldn’t be a body. It would just be an ear walking/rolling around! All parts are necessary for the body to function properly. So it is with the church. Every person has a part to play, using their God-given gift(s), in order for the church to fulfill its God-given purpose, whether its more prominent or behind the scenes.
With these Scriptural guidelines – should we say “commands or “exhortations” – why do we shy away from ministry? Why are we content to be spectators? Why do we feel like not getting involved? Is it our frantically busy life? Do our priorities need adjusting? Is it our tendency toward a self-serving attitude? Jesus came to serve…us! Now, He calls us to be conduits of His blessings, finding our place, using our gifts, to build up His church and the common good. I think we can change the “8/20 rule” here at Trinity if we all “get in the game”.