Not much happened in the Super Bowl last week… so as I watched, my mind began to wander a bit.
There is a rhythm to the game.
First the players gather in a huddle and the quarterback tells them the play, then they go the line of scrimmage and run the play. Then, they go back to the huddle to be told a new play, and then back to the line of scrimmage, and over and over it goes.
When the teams actually score, this rhythm is much more interesting to watch than it was on Super Bowl Sunday!
Jesus’ ministry has a similar rhythm.
First He teaches His disciples, then He sends them out. They come back to talk about what happened, and then they go do ministry again.
Jesus never seems to be very excited about the crowds gathering to hear Him teach. In fact, He often flees the crowds or drives them away by His teaching. But He was very excited to equip His disciples and send them out to do ministry.
Jesus developed an “Equip and Send” ministry, but if you look at most churches, we develop a “Come and See” ministry.
It is all about getting people to come to our activity, whether it is a worship service or youth event or some other program. We measure success by the number of people who showed up. (Of course, there IS some value in this because, if these events are worth doing, we should want people to be a part of these activities.)
But, if we are honest, a lot of church activity is really like a football team meeting in a huddle.
We huddle up to talk about how God has called us to live, about the importance of loving others, and about sharing our faith. But no action ever happens in the huddle.
The important work of the church happens AFTER the huddle… when we go home and live out our faith in our neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces.
This does not mean huddles don’t matter.
We need the huddle.
We need to know the play.
We need the encouragement of the team.
We need a little inspiration.
We need to be reminded of the goal.
But, the temptation for many of us can be to stay in the huddle.
We often spend as much time as possible in the huddle, filling our lives and our church schedules with one program and activity after another. We can even make church about enjoying the huddle and not winning the game.
We do that anytime we put our comfort and convenience ahead of the mission of making more and better disciples. Sometimes our traditions and our relationships matter more to us than running the play, making the first down, and scoring the touchdown.
Imagine how frustrated a coach would be if the players never left the huddle.
If they told stories of great plays from the past, but never ran any of their own. If they were so focused on getting along and being nice that they never held anyone accountable for actually running the play.
The coach would be furious and might start looking for a new team because his team clearly didn’t get the point of the huddle. They made the game about the huddle instead of using the huddle to play the game better.
Similarly, the ministry of the church does not primarily happen through programs and activities in our building (the huddle), but through its people in their relationships: loving their neighbors, actively sharing their faith with those who don’t yet believe, discipling a friend who just came to Christ, embracing God’s call on their lives to live and love like Jesus.
What might God do in our churches if we became churches that “Equip and Send” their people as missionaries into their communities?
It’s exciting to think about!