Bible authors long ago identified the usefulness of sport to illustrate faith. For example, Paul in 2 Tim 4:7 talks about the need to be like an athlete to fight the good fight and finish the race (of faith) well. Sport is a powerful tool to teach us about faith.
In sport there is a saying that there is no “I” in TEAM. The idea is that to achieve the overall goal individuals must work together. The individuals find their purpose and meaning in the community and the wider goals of that community. Great teams are not always made up of great players but of individuals focused on the group’s success, rather than their own glory.
Take your favourite sporting team as an example. You could name the profile players and captain that help the team shine. However, they are surrounded by a team with a bigger heritage and legacy than an individual.
The church’s problem
Our Western World places the emphasis on the individual This impacts our view of God and the way we see “church.” For example, when we go to a church it is often for our need. We choose a church for what it offers us.
If a church stops meeting that need we often move to the next church in search of meeting our individual needs. There is no concept of being an individual as a member of a wider body of believers striving towards Christ’s Kingdom.
The same can be said with our often individualistic reading of the Bible. We can have a perspective that the Bible is a specific love letter just to me. However, it has an original audience, mostly to a group of people. For example, the nation of Israel, the church of Rome, the Church as the body of Christ.
A classic example is Jeremiah 29:11 which says,
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
The subject YOU here is in the plural. It is speaking of God’s people, Israel. It is not referring to me, an individual, from Australia. To apply it to myself I have to view it, not as an individual, but as a group belonging to God. This means that my individual life- plan is infused within God’s master plan for His Church/Israel.
God saves a people, not an individual. The call for God’s people is to be a team player and put His goals first. His saving covenant is with His Church, not an individual outside from this. It is about viewing my individual plans in context of Jesus’ salvation plan. There is no I in God’s Team.
Jeremy Dover is a former sports scientist and Pastor
Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover1.html