Friday, September 17, 2010

Football and Church Planting

Ok, it’s fall and football time, so suffer me a related thought or two.

One of my favorite lines from the movie, Remember the Titans, is from Coach Boone when he was questioned about his small playbook. He said,

“I run 6 plays, split veer. Like Novocain, just give it time, always works.”

I guess you have to have played football for (or against) a veer-offense team to fully appreciate that quote. The veer is a fast attack, running offense, that forces the defense to make decisions and exploits them. To the casual observer, it’s not really that pretty. But to the educated eye, it is a thing of beauty. The bread-and-butter play is the triple option. The quarterback is the key. After taking the snap, he must make a decision based on the defense’s reaction to give the ball to the running back, keep the ball himself, or pitch to the other running back.

Many times a characteristic of veer-offense teams is that they will run two plays resulting in very few yards gained, followed by one that breaks for 5-9 yards, and slowly move down the field, eating up the clock. The offense keeps this bam, bam, break; bam, bam, break; pace going—daring the defense to stunt and take risks to stop it. When they do, a long break happens, many times for a touchdown.

What does this have to do with church planting? Let me name three things. As with veer football teams, church-planting churches must: 1. Believe in the strategy, 2. keep the offense on the field and the defense on its heels, and 3. learn from and reduce mistakes.

This might demand some translation/explanation for you football novices.

1. Believe in the strategy:
A veer team can’t be thrown by plays or series that don’t produce first downs or touchdowns, respectively. Losing teams panic and give up on game plans when the first drives fail or switch offensive schemes during the season. Winning teams stick to the strategy. Patience and execution will eventually yield results. Church planting is Providence Church’s primary strategy for culture change. It’s biblical and it works. It’s not glamorous. It is hard. Some plants don’t make it. Some struggle. Some need additional help. Mistakes will be made. But eventually, “like Novocain,” it works. Sometimes you get a big break for long yards. Over time, thousands of people’s lives are changed, and more churches are multiplied!

2. Keep the offense on the field and the defense on its heels:
Check the stats yourself. The team that wins almost always controls the ball longer. Football is also a game of aggression. The veer is an offense that goes forward almost always. It takes it to the opponent. The church is to be on offense. Jesus said, “Go.” We dare not take the foot off the proverbial pedal. It is Hell’s gates that are on the defensive. When Satan’s forces attack us, we must quickly respond. We must never rest. We must always move forward. Even when it is hard we must keep planting and keep planting. God will do the rest.

3. Learn from and reduce mistakes.
My dad used to say it all the time. “We’re not playing the other team. We’re playing ourselves.” This is a statement of confidence. When we work the game plan and run the offense WITHOUT turnovers, penalties, and execution mistakes, we will certainly win. But mistakes WILL be made. The opposition WILL throw schemes at you that you did not expect in order to try to stop your offense. This is where discipline is important. Patiently figure out what they are doing and how to respond. Make adjustments at halftime. More importantly, watch the film, evaluate, and correct mistakes for the next game. Get better. With church planting there are universal principles, but every context is different and demands adjustments on the fly. Mistakes ARE made. We must not become shaken. We must learn from them and move forward.

Believe me, I could compare many aspects of church planting with football! Perhaps later. Pray for the elders right now as we are considering some church planting-related opportunities that have come our way. You will no doubt hear about these soon.


Lisa said...

Is there anything you could NOT compare with football? lol

Chad Sparks said...

Hahaha...For the first 23 years of my life it was virtually all I knew, so the answer is "no."

Phil Breedlove said...

I was listening to Matt Chandler talk about church planting today, and he said far too many in the church expect a new church to look like Acts 2, when in reality its usually a lot more like 1 Corinthians 1. :-)

Chad Sparks said...

You know, I think there's a lot of truth to that.