GETTING IN THE GAME! Pt 4 – ‘When Everybody Plays Their Position’ 6.22.03
Well, today we wrap up the series we began 4 weeks ago, called “Getting In The Game!” Here’s what we’ve covered so far:
Part one: ‘The Heart of a Team Member’
Part two: ‘Out of The Stands and Onto The Field’
Part three: ‘Leaving It All On The Field’
Part four – today: ‘When Everybody Plays Their Position’
30years ago, the Miami Dolphins embarked on an unforgettable & unparalleled season. 14-0 regular season, then a 3-0 run through the playoffs culminating with a Super Bowl victory. No other team has matched that perfect record. Every year 30-some odd teams try, but for 3 decades, it stands alone. Sports enthusiasts all have their own opinion about who might be the “Greatest Team of All Time”, but one of the 1972 Dolphin team members put it best: “Perfection has a way of shutting peoples mouths.”
The opposing coach going into the’72 Super Bowl was asked 2 comment on stellar Miami defense. "I cant recall any of their names," he said, "but they are a matter of great concern to us." Who knows the nickname of the ’72 Dolphins Defense? The "No-Name Defense."
What made that team special was not the handful of superstars – it was the dedication of every team member. The willingness of every player to execute his position with excellence for a common purpose. Something special happens when everybody plays their position. The whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. They had some great players, no doubt. But plenty of other teams over history have had better personnel. More Pro-Bowl players, superstars, Hall of Famers. Yet no team has reached level of achievement that they did.
What would have happened if 3 players on that Dolphin offense decided they didn’t matter that much? In the huddle, they call a sweep to the right with Mercury Morris running the ball. But after the ball is snapped, Larry Little, Jim Langer & Norm Evans decided that blocking wasn’t all that important. They just stood there saying, “I ain’t doing that. They’re just gonna knock him over eventually anyway– why even make the effort?’ Is that the mindset that took them to Super Bowl? No.
What if 9 different people wanted to play running back? “If I don’t play running back, then I’m not important. Guards never make the highlight reels, so forget it.” Is that the mindset that took them to the Super Bowl?
Well, the world of sports isn’t the only place where “Positional Confusion” can take place. It happens everywhere, and it happens in the church. The positions and roles in the Kingdom are more varied and more critical than any game any day, anywhere. The church is chock full of people who are uniquely gifted for the position that God has called them to play. So when God taps u on the shoulder to send you into the game, chances are you’ll probably say to yourself, ‘With God’s help, sure, I can do that.’ It doesn’t have to seem off-the-charts miraculous or inherently super-spiritual. But don’t kid yourself. God’s call is just as certain to those roles, as to any other.
Being called by God to serve in the Kingdom encompasses far more than just teaching Sunday School, singing in the choir, or being missionary. The possibilities are endless. There’s always vision, there’s always need. Some think all the ‘other areas’ are trivial. Couldn’t be further from the truth. Some think, ‘Well, I just serve cookies in the guest reception.’ Well, you know what? U don’t ‘just’ do anything! The enemy would love for you to think that what you bring to the table isn’t important. All of Hell is dead set on keeping you from the truth about how valuable and indispensable you are to Gods plan in this place. The thruth is that you have an opportunity to impact eternity in ways you hadn’t considered. So don’t fall for the lie.
There’s an interesting look at this subject in scripture. It shows just how significant it is when volunteers “get in the game” and begin to work for the greater good of the kingdom.
Acts 6:1-7 rd “So the Word of God spread.” Why? Why did the Word of God spread? Because they preached better? Because they finally sang the songs I like? Why did the word of God spread?
Because people did what they were wired up to do. Gods plan was executed because spectators became players – because people got out of stands, onto the field, found their position.
They took the abilities God gave them, and used them for eternal purposes. ‘the number of disciples increased rapidly.’ Lost people came to faith because believers stepped up and got in the game. Souls went to heaven, because believers served food! God is amazing.
Think of how we’d miss out if believers didn’t use their gifts here. What would happen if we all assumed our abilities couldn’t help the kingdom?
What if Brian & Jayme the others said, “We’re just actors. How can that possibly help the kingdom?
What if the band, the choir, and the orchestra “I just play an instrument or sing – how can that help the kingdom?
What if greeter crew just said, ‘I just like greeting people and being friendly. How can that ever help the church?
What if all the video volunteers said, ‘I work creating video stuff – how could that possibly help the kingdom.?’
What if the children’s church workers said, “I love kids – how can that possibly help the church?
What if media tech volunteers said, ‘I like sound and lights and tech stuff. How could that ever help the kingdom?’
What if all the IT volunteers said, ‘I’m good with computers. How could that ever help?’
Friends, the list goes on and on. This church only has a great vision for the future because we stand on the strong shoulders of volunteers. The church is us!
Here’s what I’ve found over the years: When people become servants and find their spiritual gifts, they’ll b led by God to a ministry in the church that they’re fired up about. And its the most fascinating thing to watch, because God uses a couple different ways to seem to lead them. Here’s how:
II. FINDING MY POSITION
* He’ll make your heart beat fast about some area of ministry
There are Care Pastors here. I don’t have to fire them up to have their groups. They have a spiritual igniter inside them. The Holy Spirit has given them a love for people. I look at people in Mercy Ministry who serve the poor in our area. These servants don’t complain about their day off being spent with people whose faces they don’t know. They say, ‘We get to do this! We get to bring food and clothing and talk with people who’ve fallen on hard times. When we do this, it’s like recess. We get to do this.’ I could just go from ministry to ministry.
* You’re open to serving where there’s a current need. I didn’t get involved in volunteer ministry because I was passionate about it. At that stage of my life I wasn’t passionate about anything too far from the golf course. I jumped in, cautiously, because I was asked. There was a need, and it didn’t sound too awful. So it wasn’t passion at first, it was need. Before long, God used that experience to maneuver me to my area of passion. Incidentally, it was an area I would have never found had I not responded to need first. So many of us are experiencing ultimate fulfillment, and I fear that some of you will never experience that. That thought makes me sad.
Now here’s the deal, friends– we cannot remain spectators. Takers. You can’t be healthy just being a taker.
Here’s the kink in the hose: You have this thing called a life. Volunteers have a life. You’ve got real jobs and spouses and kids and bills to pay and lawns to mow. You have a life. Your time is your most precious commodity.
So, when a volunteer like you steps out of the shadows and decides to discover your gifts and begin to use them, when you work hard all day, then drive straight from work over to the church – sometimes missing dinner and everything, something happens. When you come to serve, when you show up to work with kids or teens or work in the nursery, be an usher or greeter, serve coffee, play in a band, set up a room, lead a Care Group, whatever, you may find yourself looking around from time to time, saying, "Man it’s a good thing I’m here. This place would be in trouble if I weren’t doing this. I’m needed."
Friends, I want to affirm the dignity of volunteers. I’m telling you, there’s something inherently holy in volunteerism.
II. What Jesus would say to a volunteer:
What you do really matters for all eternity.
A while back, Bonnie and I were taking a walk in our new neighborhood, and stopped into a museum we always wanted to visit but never had. When we walked in, the hostess there kept looking at me funny. Then she finally perked up, “Oh, I know who you are. I didn’t recognize you without your costume.” She meant, “suit”. This was a while back, when we used to wear suits on Sundays. She was a member of Calvary, and she sees me from afar, because she sits in the back of the auditorium most of the time.
Anyway, after some small talk and visiting, it was revealed that she helped lead a Calvary Care Group from way back when. As I probed a bit further, I discovered that it was actually the same Care Group from the late ‘70s that my parents attended. This woman I was speaking with joined my parents and all the other parents there in that group, in praying for all the kids to find Christ. I had just met a woman who helped pray me into the kingdom of God!
Chances are, she did not realize fully that her prayers would lead to a small avalanche of souls coming into the kingdom. But they did. I think Jesus would say to her the same thing He’d say to any one of us: “What you do really matters for all eternity.”
There’s something else I believe Jesus would say to a volunteer. And I’ll take the circuitous route in order to tell you what that is.
Not long ago, I met with a guy here in the church who serves faithfully in our production department. He uses his gifts in service to the kingdom here with total abandon. During Christmas and Easter time, when we’re doing some large-scale productions, he’s here long hours, deep into the night, after a long day at his paying job. He’s a model volunteer and an inspiration to many. But in this moment, he said to me, “Chip, this is what I’m struggling with. You know how much I volunteer here, don’t you?” I said, “Oh, yes I do.” He said, “Well, I just need to know, I’m not crazy, am I? I mean, some people that work at my other job think I’m crazy, they know how hard and long I work for the Lord and the church. Some family members think I’m crazy. I’m not crazy, am I?”
Ever have a moment like that? When you’ve used your gifts until you’re just tapped? Anybody who takes God seriously, who loves the church, cares for lost people, anyone who gives himself fully to the cause of Christ, knows what its like to come home at midnight from a ministry event where you gave your all.
You know what its like when things go until 1am, or where the production people work literally all night long. You know what it’s like when things break down in a ministry and it’s just hard. You volunteers have jobs and families and pressures and all of that - and on top of it you carry a full load here at the church. You know what it’s like to drive home and say, "I must be crazy." Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about.
We’ve been through big seasons around here before, where there’s intensity and focus and steep hills to climb. We’re digging in for another one. We need all hands on deck. There’s no spectators on a battleship. Everyone to their position, and we’re going to advance this thing together. Will it be easy? No. But I won’t insult you by asking you to do something easy. I want you to drive home some night saying, "I must be crazy."
1 Corinthians 15:58 "You be steadfast, immovable. Keep abounding in the work of the Lord because your work is not in vain.’
Jesus used to tell his followers, ‘The Father who sees in secret will richly reward you.’ What’s he saying? He’s saying you’re not crazy! Jesus would say to his followers, "I tell you, no one who has left houses, or land, or mother or father or sister or brother for my sake will regret it because he / she will receive 100 fold in this age and in the life to come."
What was Jesus telling his volunteer followers (who weren’t just tired occasionally, but whose lives were on the line)? What did he tell those who were being fed to the lions and had family members killed for their beliefs? What was Jesus saying? "You are not crazy if you follow me with all your heart."
People like me, people like you have to look each other in the eye every now and then and say, you’re not crazy. We need to tell children’s ministry workers that the child you’re holding or teaching might just be a critical player in world redemption someday. You’re not crazy for serving every week in there.
We have to tell ushers / greeters / traffic people that the first impression a visitor has of us might be the difference between coming to Jesus or walking back into the darkness they came from. You’re not crazy.
The production people - we’ve got to remind you that the next drama, or video, or song that you do might mark someone’s heart forever. You’re not crazy.
And so volunteers, hear it from me. You’re not crazy! You will thank God for all eternity that you left the spectator stands, got onto the field and gave it your all for Him. He deserves nothing less.
Let me just share author Max Lucado’s thought on a very familiar scripture story, then we’re going to close in a way that’s a bit different. John 12:1-11
Mary, Martha, Lazarus. They all played different positions. They loved God, got along with each other, wanted to serve Jesus. But because they played different positions, they went about it in a different way. Martha was a tireless servant, Mary was a total worshiper, and Lazarus had powerful testimony.
They were like family to Jesus – after He raised Lazarus from the dead, they decided to have a dinner party to honor Jesus. They didn’t try to outdo each other, all three worked together with one purpose.
Martha served; she made sure all the pieces were in place so the event was a success. Mary worshiped; she anointed the Lords’ feet with an extravagant gift, and the aroma filled the room.
Lazarus had story to tell, and he was ready to share it.
Three people. Each with a different gift. Different abilities, equal value. All three were needed. Much like our spiritual family – every church needs Marthas. Sleeves rolled up and ready, they’re the pacesetters. Because of Marthas, he writes, the room is set up, the lights and sound are on, the ac’s working, and the sign up sheets in the right place. U don’t appreciate Marthas until Martha’s missing! Then everyone’s scrambling around trying to find things, wondering what went wrong and how to fix it. Marthas have a mission. ‘Lets do Kingdom stuff!’
Meanwhile, Mary sits at Jesus’ feet, worshiping, and inspiring others to worship. Pouring out her most precious possession to her Lord. The fragrance fills the house like praise fills a church. Just like there’s a place for sacrificial service, there’s also a place for extravagant praise. Marys have 1 foot in heaven, and the other on a cloud. We need Marys, because we forget how important worship is, but they don’t. They’re good at that.
Lazarus, on the other hand, had a different assignment at the dinner. His responsibility was outside with the crowd. Verse 9 He had a testimony to share, a message to communicate that would point people to Jesus. God used him mightily. God wants us all to proclaim His love and hope and goodness, but some are really good at it.
Look at is this way: Laz specialized in testifying. But he also served & worshiped. Martha specialized in tireless serving. But she also worshiped & testified. Mary specialized in worship. But she also testified & served. That should be a portrait of us. A position we gravitate towards, but we’re all in this together. All on the same team. They all found their position, with one exception: There’s a fourth character in this story.
Judas. Though he had spent the most time with Jesus, he was a phony. He was in it for what he got out of it. When Mary poured out the ointment on Jesus, he acted all hyperspiritual – “This could have been sold – and the money given to the poor.” He didn’t care about the poor. He was a thief – Jesus said it. He was a taker.
Like Martha, we need to take time to serve. Like Mary we need to take time to worship. Like Lazarus, we need to take time to testify. But there are those like Judas who take, take, take, and never give.
If you’re a Martha, be strengthened – God sees your servanthood. If you’re a Mary, be encouraged – God receives your worship. If you’re a Lazarus, be strong – God honors your conviction. But if you’re a Judas, be warned – God sees your selfishness.
Don’t squander your one and only life. Whatever else you’re doing isn’t as important as serving God and serving others. Find your position, play it to the best of your ability before God. This is the stuff that life is made of. And when you’re laying on your back in a hospital bed, looking at the ceiling, and just about ready to go to eternity, you’ll look back on a well-lit, well-invested life and say, "I got out of the stands and onto the field. I got in the game. I found my position and did it with all my heart. I left it all on the field. Outta here.”