In his book “Autopsy of a Deceased Church – Twelve Ways to Keep Yours Alive,” author Thom Rainer tells the following story regarding the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team: “The United States hockey team was not supposed to have a chance in 1980. The Soviet Union seemed invincible and unbeatable. Their team included elite professionals who had played together for years. The Americans, on the other hand, had teammates who had never played together. None of them were professionals; they had come from colleges and universities across America.”
The American victory over the Soviets in the medal round seemed improbable, if not impossible.
According to the movie based on these unlikely heroes, the turning point for the Americans came in a practice led by Coach Herb Brooks. The coach was demanding, perhaps driven to a fault. Brooks was not happy with the play of the team, so he had the players skating sprints to the point of exhaustion. Some of the assistant coaches were worried that the players would either pass out or quit. They urged Brooks to stop. Brooks pressed forward.
During the practices Brooks would ask a player who he played for. The player would respond proudly with the name of his college. Brooks was asking the same question during this practice of total exhaustion.
One of the players, recalling Brooks’ persistent question, looked up from his prostrate position after his last sprint. Gasping for breath, he declared, ‘I play for the United States of America.’ It was a defining moment. They got it. They did not play for the disparate colleges from which they came. They played for the United States of America.
And the team responded. They would beat the mighty Soviets in the first game of the medal round, and they would ultimately defeat Finland for the gold medal. … Most everyone who was alive in 1980 still remembers ‘the miracle on ice.’ The American hockey players got it. They not only knew the game; they knew for whom they were playing …”
I believe the church in America today is much like the United States hockey team prior to the workout of total exhaustion given to them by Coach Brooks. Our churches are comprised of many talented individuals from many walks of life. The problem is, as with the hockey team, their members are still playing for the teams from which they came instead of the team they have been chosen to form.
As churches, we have different denominations for a reason. I am not ignorant of that fact. But may I suggest to you the possibility that the reason Team Satan is having a field day in America, reeking total havoc, is because his team is unified while ours is comprised of Team Baptist, Team Methodist, Team Presbyterian, Team Catholic, Team Pentecostal, and Team Whomever? No doubt we have talented players, but we’re still playing as members of the teams from which we came. We must gel as members of the team for which we were chosen: Team Jesus!
There are three prominent teams in life:
Team Satan: Comprised of those in total opposition to God
Team Church: Comprised of those who are interested in making and developing church members and maintaining budgets, buildings, personal preferences, and the status quo.
Team Jesus: Comprised of those interested in making disciples by winning the lost, discipling the found, and mending the broken.