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A Key to a Winning Team (and a Healthy Church)

Updated: Sep 9, 2021

College football fans are rejoicing as a new season has begun. Many of us have a lot of fun pulling for our teams and predicting the winners. Who will win the championship? I don’t know, but I can tell you who WILL NOT win it.

Let’s begin with the big picture. Did you know NCAA Division 1 has 10 conferences, 130 schools, and have an average of 110 players per team? That is more than 14,000 total players in that division alone!

Each player and coach dreams of winning the national championship. Here are my picks on who will not win it all.

This may surprise you, but the championship will not be won by Nic Saban, Dabo Swinney, Lincoln Riley, or Kirby Smart.

Surprised? These are some of the best and most successful coaches in the nation.

Neither will it be won by Spencer Rattler, Derek Stingley, Jr., Kayvon Thibodeaux, or Evan Neal.

That’s right. These men may be among the best on the field, but they won’t win the championship either.

Here’s the shocker:

The college football championship in January will not be won by a coach or a player; it will be won by a TEAM.

In response to a comment about offenses winning games, two-time national champion coach, Dabo Swinney said,

“I think teams win. I don't think offense wins. I don't think defense wins. I don't think special teams wins.”[1]

No single coach or player will win the championship by themselves. The winner of the NCAA D-1 National Championship must be a team.

That’s right. Teams win.

I’ve given pre-game talks before running out on the field with teams, but this isn’t one of them. This article is not about football. It is far more important than following college football; it is about following Christ—together.

Americans are known for individualism. We love when people excel at what they do. We admire people who are willing to stand up alone and lead the way.

For a team to win, everyone must contribute. Every player has personal responsibility. But players cannot win a game by themselves. They may have the talent to carry the team to victory, but it is impossible for one person to single-handedly win a team sport.

This is not to minimize the importance of each person’s contribution. In many ways, a team is no stronger than its weakest player. So, as a coach, I know I must invest in each player’s improvement.

Similarly, God knows each of us individually and will hold each of us individually accountable (Lk. 12:6-7; Ro. 14:12). So, personal responsibility and accountability, as rare as this is in some circles, are essential in forming great teams.

Look through the roster of your favorite football team and notice the differences. Each player is unique in height, weight, experience, skills, and position.

As a wide receiver, I never understood the value of head-on drills with my buddies like Danny, Jack, and David, who were huge, strong linemen.

As much as I disliked facing my friend Danny Andrews in a one-on-one drill (that always ended with me on my rear), I have no doubt Danny would have felt a bit awkward running a route as a split end.

We are all different, but our differences make us better.

My late pastor, Adrian Rogers, explained the importance of uniting around our Lord even with our God-given uniqueness. He would always bring a laugh when he told us how grateful he was that God made his beloved wife, Joyce, different from him and adding, “Viva la différence!”

Rogers summarized the importance of unity or teamwork by saying,

“He made us different that He might make us one!”

You say, “This is nice, but everyone knows this!”

True. Everyone knows individuals should strive to be their best and work together to accomplish their mutual goals.

What is revealing is realizing how many know this but choose not to practice it.

If you have been on a team with players who act like prima donnas who expect privileged treatment and to always get their way, you know just how sickening it is. The rest of the team resents the self-centered player, and the team is weaker as a result.

Have you witnessed or played with a team that fought among themselves?

Again, it is pathetic.

I’ve seen this first-hand on teams of which I was a part and I’ve seen it on teams against which we have competed.

The likelihood of a team winning while there is infighting is decreased proportionately by the degree of division.

The likelihood of a team winning while there is infighting is decreased proportionately by the degree of division.

Self-centered players who refuse to back up and assist their teammates, as well as players who blame and criticize one another are losers who bring the rest of the team down with them.

When devoted coaches and fans witness this type of behavior on a team, they are naturally disappointed, disgusted, and embarrassed.

How different are the teams that are unified around a goal and love one another! It is a beautiful thing to see players lay aside all their differences and sacrifice for one another to be their best as a team.

Perhaps this article will encourage some coaches and players and if so, I am glad. But that is not my goal.

I can think of many churches that are healthy, loving, and unified. They are making a difference for the glory of God and influencing generations to come.

...some churches have been diverted from their God-given mission by the same dysfunctional behavior that extinguishes the hopes of football teams.

Sadly, I can also think of some churches that have been diverted from their God-given mission by the same dysfunctional behavior that extinguishes the hopes of football teams.

In previous articles, I have emphasized the importance of knowing God’s purpose for His church and subordinating everything else to Him. Today, I am humbly reminding my brothers and sisters to not only know what God wants His church to accomplish but also, and even more important, to be what God wants His church to be.

A dysfunctional church family is a sad and pitiful representation of the Bride of Christ.

But how beautiful it is when God’s people worship and serve together in unity (Ps. 133:1)!

The “faith that was once and for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3b) is worth standing for, and if necessary, it is worth dying for. But in nearly 40 years of full-time ministry, I have yet to see a church divide over the matters like the deity of Christ, the inspiration of the Bible, or the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith.

If there is dissension in your church, I doubt that cause for division reaches the level of non-negotiable essentials the Lord prescribed for His Church.

What do you think is worth dividing God’s “team” and distracting her from her Lord and His mission?

What do you think is worth dividing God’s “team” and distracting her from her Lord and His mission?

Rather than a group of prima donnas who want to be served and insist on having their way, may our churches be filled with humble Christ-followers who submit to one another out of love and guard the unity of the church in the bond of peace.

This is the kind of unity the Lord prayed His followers would have. It is also one of the strongest pieces of evidence proving that Jesus is the Son of God sent from the Father.

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me (Jn. 17:20-23).

For the glory of God, may it be!


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