Did you know that church is a lot like football? Here are some football terms that we can apply to church …
Quarterback sneak – Church members sneaking out the back of the church before the service is over.
Draw play – What many children do with the bulletin during the service.
Backfield-in-Motion – Making a trip to the restroom during the service.
Staying in the Pocket – What happens to money when it’s time for the offering.
Blitz – The rush for the restaurants following closing prayer.
Two-Minute-Warning – When the sermon is almost over and you begin to gather up your kids and belongings.
Sudden Death – What happens to the attention span of the congregation if the preacher goes into “overtime.”
I thought it would be interesting to think of some ways that football can teach us about faith.
Before getting to the positive parts about football, let me say that it’s way too easy for sports to take the place of that which should be ultimately important.
Here are two cautions.
1. Don’t let sports become all-consuming. It was Gordon Dahl who said, “Most Americans tend to worship their work; work at their play; and play at their worship … That which we worship, we serve and that which we serve we will give our all – heart, soul, mind and body.”
2. Be careful of idolizing athletes who are just human. While it’s important to have role models to look up to, arrogant athletes can also let us down. Do you remember when T.O. played for the 49er’s? After scoring a touchdown on a Monday night, he took a Sharpie out of his sock, autographed the football and handed it to his financial advisor sitting in the stands.
While we certainly need to be cautioned so that we don’t end up serving sports, God has given us sports for our enjoyment. I think there are at least three connections we can make between faith and football.
1. TALENT. Every talent you have is gift from God. James 1:17 says: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights …” This should make us thankful and keep us humble.
You matter to God, no matter how well you do in a game, or in life itself. You have been given talents and abilities and God wants you to use them in a way that gives Him the attention, not you. Use what you have for His purposes.
Chicago Bear Devin Hester, who has achieved many accolades and received many awards for his electrifying punt and kickoff returns, made a comment a couple years ago that shows he understands the ultimate source of his skills: “It’s not only me,” Hester said. “First of all, I thank God for everything He’s doing in my life. Second of all I want to thank my teammates. Those are the guys that deserve this award.”
That leads right into the second connection between faith and football …
2. TEAM. We all have different gifts and abilities – and they’re all needed on a team. We are made to live in community, not in isolation.
One of the cool things about football is being on a team. There’s something about tackling a goal together, of being a band of blood brothers.
The Disciples of Jesus were a team, though they weren’t always running the right plays. But they trained together, worked together and suffered together. In the New Testament book of Acts, the brand-new believers formed a team.
All the believers were together and had everything in common. —Acts 2:44
God designed His church to be a place where we can function as a team. But let’s face it, most men are isolated and independent and don’t automatically gravitate toward a faith community. Leon Podles, in his book called The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity, states that “women go to church, men go to football games.”
According to his research, women are twice more likely to attend church in a given week than men are. Men want to matter, to make a difference, to leave a mark.
May I suggest that if you’re not involved in a church, that you become involved in one that preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Here are two statistics from recent research:
Religious participation leads men to become more engaged husbands and fathers.
Teens with religious fathers are more likely to say they enjoy spending time with dad and that they admire him.
Make sure you find a church team and be open to doing life together with a band of brothers and sisters.
3. TRUST. First, view your talents as a gift from a good God and second, use your talents on a team. The third connection between faith and football is trust. When you play football you have to trust your coach. That means listening to him and fully believing that the right play has been called.
Football cannot be played without trust – you need to trust your coaches and your fellow teammates. Relationships are built on trust as well.
I’d like to suggest that the game of life cannot be played well without trusting in God.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” —Psalms 91:12
Do you remember the incredible catch that David Tyree made in the Super Bowl several years ago? “ESPN Sportscenter” called this the “Greatest Play in Super Bowl History.” Sports Illustrated put him on the cover of their magazine.
What you may not know about David Tyree is that he’s a man who has put his trust in Jesus Christ. But that’s not how he’s always been. Here’s his story as told to the New York Times:
The first time he can remember vomiting after drinking alcohol was in eighth grade. By his junior year at Montclair High School, he celebrated the same way after every football game — drinking a 40-ounce bottle of malt liquor and a half-pint of Jack Daniel’s whiskey, and smoking a blunt, a skinny cigar hollowed and filled with marijuana.
In college at Syracuse, Tyree often drank until he blacked out. One morning, he woke up naked. Another morning, he woke up covered in mud. Each time, he could not remember why.
Near the end of Tyree’s rookie season, Coach Jim Fassel fined him $10,000 for being late to a team meeting. Tyree apologized the next day and thanked Fassel for the lesson in maturity. Fassel said he could not remember anyone ever thanking him for a fine.
Privately, Tyree figured he would recoup the fine. “I’m smoking the best bud, so I might as well start selling it,” he said of his thinking. “That just shows you the mindset that you have. That’s the life I was living. So it made sense, man. ‘I just lost 10 G’s. I’ve got to hit the streets and get my money back.’” The morning Tyree left jail, in March 2004, his estranged girlfriend, Leilah, sent him a text message. It read, “I’m with child.” She was pregnant with their second son.
He promised to visit her in Syracuse and went home and downed a bottle of cognac. During the visit that month, Leilah presented Tyree with an ultimatum — her lifestyle or his. Tyree promised change, just as he had promised before.
He glimpsed a Bible on her bed, and when he picked it up and started reading from the book of Genesis, for the first time, the words on the page made sense. He went home and “called every woman and told them, ‘Things are about to change.’” Tyree said he never drank again.
Then one day, for no reason in particular, Tyree went to the Bethel Church of Love and Praise in Bloomfield, N.J. He sat in the back, about a month after the arrest. A woman started singing before the congregation, her voice, loud and passionate, filling the room. As Tyree listened, he felt her joy and realized he had none. He lowered his head into his hands and started crying, first sniffles, and then sobs lasting 25 minutes.
“I’m a successful player in the NFL, having what most people would desire for their lives,” Tyree said. “I’m at the pinnacle of sports. But I had no joy. I had no peace. My life was obviously in disarray.” “It’s more than just a feel-good story,” Tyree said. “It’s not about David Tyree. It’s bigger than this Super Bowl catch. It’s about destiny and purpose.”
Trusting in Jesus for forgiveness and fulfillment is what led to his transformation.
There’s a bigger game out there than football. It’s the life of faith … and you have the opportunity to use your talents for the glory of God, to join up with a team of believers in a faith community, and when you trust Jesus for your salvation you can be totally transformed.
That’s a game worth suiting up for!