Those who know me well, knows that I am a huge college football fan. The team that I am 100% devoted to is the Alabama Crimson Tide. Football is a wonderful sport. There is something special about late summer and early fall as the football season begins. There is a certain smell in the air as we approach the first game of the season. There is a lot that you can learn from team sports like football. There are many valuable spiritual lessons that we can learn from it. Sometimes I think God created football in order to teach us such lessons.
In Romans 12:3-8, Paul talks about the body of Christ and how we are to function as a team. Just like in football, the success of the team is dependent upon the cooperation and function of each team player. My hero in college football is none other than Coach Nick Saban. He is one of those guys that you either love him or hate him. However, he is certainly one of the best college football coaches of all time. Coach Saban is known for his ability to identify the strengths and weaknesses of his players and place them in the proper position to make the team successful. He has tremendous organizational skills. When I think of a college football coach, I tend to think of the pastor of a church. It is the pastor’s responsibility to help each team member to discover their spiritual gifts, equip them to use their spiritual gifts, and to place them in the right position to help make the team successful. One of the things that a good coach will drill into his players is the need for everyone to do their job and do it right. When everyone on the team does their job, the team is most successful. A good coach also understands the ups and downs that come along with coaching a group of people. There are moments of success and there are setbacks. A good coach will be flexible and will have the ability to make proper adjustments to ensure victory. The same is true when it comes to a pastor. The pastor of the local church will equip his people in how to use their gifts for the uplifting of the church. He will be flexible. With the ups and downs of church life, a good pastor will make proper adjustments in order that the church is focused on its purpose and mission.
When it comes to all of the players on the team, there are certain things that everyone needs to understand. In order for the team to function and be successful, every player (including the coach), must understand three basic truths.
Be humble. Notice what Paul says in verse three. “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” The first step to being a successful team is simple to understand that we are a team. The best football teams of all time has been those who did not have one particular superstar; rather, it was those who had ordinary players that worked together as a team. In order for the church to be successful, it must understand that no one person is better than another. We are all in this together. When a member of the team begins to think to highly of themselves, the whole team will suffer. Humility is the key to success. “Paul was fully aware of the devastating consequences of pride in any group of believers. So he cautioned the Christians at Rome not to think of themselves more highly than they ought.”  Pride can destroy a church. When people start to think that they own the church; that they are the ones in charge, look out, trouble is coming. One of the biggest causes of church splits is often the issue of pride. Often time problems in the church on the surface will appear to be doctrinal differences or differences in preferences or differences in the way things should operate and so forth. However, when you examine those issues and you dig into the real heart of the matter, you will always find pride. To keep from such destructive pride, each member of the team must have a clear understanding of their role and responsibility. Each member must focus on doing their job. Each member must encourage the other members, rather than lording over them. Being a good team player is understanding that I am a part of a team. As a team member, my role is no greater or no less than anyone else. We all have a job to do. We all have a role to play. When we start to think that what we do is better than what someone else does then we will destroy the team. When we start to think that we know how to do things better and everyone should follow our way then we will destroy the team. Such pride has no place in the church.
Embrace Differences. In verse four, we see how that we are all different members of one body. “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office.”The first thing that we see in this verse is simply that we are one body with many members. Everybody on the team is different. There are no two people on the face of this planet that are exactly alike. We all have different God-given personalities. We all have various strengths and weaknesses. We all have different tendencies. With such differences, comes great challenges. Within the team, the local church, there are different people with different backgrounds. We look at things differently. We say things differently. We understand things differently. As a team, we must learn to embrace our differences and work through them together. Our differences can either divide us and destroy us or they can unite us and make us stronger. The choice is really up to us. Will we embrace our differences and use our differences in order to make us stronger or will we allow our differences to divide and destroy us? This is where fellowship and community is so important. The more time we spend together, the more we know each other, and the more we know each other the better we will be able to work together.
Be Responsible. In verses 4-8, we see that each of us has a gift and we have the responsibility to use those gifts within the local church for the glory of God. “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; 7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; 8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.”  Paul mentions that not only are we different, but we also have different responsibilities. In order for a football team to be a winning team, each member of the team must do their job. There are some valuable lessons here. (1) Be the best at your job. God has given you a certain spiritual gift. Therefore, us that gift to the best of your ability. Paul gives a list of some spiritual gifts in these verses. This is not an exhaustive list. The point here is that every believer has a gift. God has given you something to use for the uplifting of the church. God has also given you certain talents and abilities through which you can use your gift. It is the responsibility of each member to strive to be the very best at what God has given them to do. (2) Do your job. If the center on the football team thinks that he should also be the quarterback at the same time, how will that work? Will the team function well? Will they be successful? Of course not! The same is true in the church. Not everyone can be the pastor. God has designed the church in such a way that there is one pastor. Now, there may be multiple elders or staff people, but there is only one lead pastor who has the overall responsibility of leading the church. Not everyone can be a Sunday School teacher. Not everyone can lead the music. Problems arise in churches when people try to be something and do something that they are not. God has given you certain gifts and abilities. Embrace those gifts and abilities and use them in the church for the glory of God. Problems also arise when members simply do not do their job. You see, everyone in the church has a place. We all have something that we can do. Work with your pastor and teachers to find out what that something is for you, and get busy. The church is not a place for spectators. God does not want you on the sidelines. He wants you in the game. So, be responsible and learn and grow and develop your God given gifts so that you can be a contributor to the whole team.
Alabama has won 3 national championships under Coach Saban within 4 fours. What was their key to success? What is the one thing that is unique about an Alabama football team that makes them stand above the rest? It is teamwork. Coach Saban has developed such an organization that enables every player to be the best at what they do within the framework of the team. Everyone understands their role clearly and they all perform at the highest levels. God has put together a team. It is called the local church. The coach of the team, the pastor, must work hard to help the team members to use their God-given gifts and abilities to function in such a way that it fulfills the mission and purpose of the church. It is the responsibility of each member to get into the game and use their gifts within the framework of the local church in order to ensure the success of the whole team. What about you? Will you get into the game? Will you be a team player?
 The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ro 12:3). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
 Mounce, R. H. (1995). Romans (Vol. 27, p. 233). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
 The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ro 12:4). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
 The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ro 12:4–8). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.