Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always.”
March Madness is alive and well in Wisconsin. Wisconsinites are proud of the 2014-15 University of Wisconsin-Madison Men’s Basketball Team, who received a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. After winning two tournament games over the weekend, they are in the Sweet 16. On paper, their biggest threat is Kentucky, who beat the Badgers last year in the quarterfinals. If the Badgers and Kentucky each win two more games, they will again go head-to-head in the quarterfinals.
As a UW-Madison grad, I am a Badger fan. During my college days, the UW-Madison athletic department struggled. There were no Big 10 Championships or NCAA tournaments. I cannot name one Men’s Basketball player from my college years. Today’s program is stellar. The guys are talented and fun to watch. They seem like a great group of coachable men working towards the same goals. This team has inspired me to contemplated how I, as a pastor, and the church can learn from them. Here are my lessons from the bleachers:
- They know their mission and work daily towards this goal. After the team won the Big 10 season and tournament, the players spoke of accomplishing two of their three goals. Their third goal is the NCAA Final Four. Every day, they prepare for these goals. Lesson for the church: Jesus gave us our mission – to go and make disciples. Do we work diligently towards this goal? Do we understand our daily practices determine whether we accomplish it?
- They know they are best as a team and set aside personal ambitions. Yes, Frank “the tank” Kaminsky is the odds-on favorite to be the NCAA MVP. But the team’s other players are critical. No one expects Frank or anyone else to carry the team. They win together; they lose together. Lesson for the church: ministry is best as a team approach; 1 or 2 people can’t do it. When people share their gifts and talents, God’s kingdom is dramatically affected.
- They have a great leader. Coach Bo Ryan is known for taking the less talented player who shows passion and coachability. He is interested in developing young men who will have impact beyond the court. Lesson for the church: when Jesus recruited his team, he chose some of the most unlikely candidates: fishermen and a tax collector. In skipping over religiously trained people, God doesn’t only call the qualified. God qualifies the call.
- Having fun is imperative. Frank could have left college early for the NBA. But he chose to have fun playing college ball. This past weekend, Frank and teammates Sam Dekker and Nigal Hayes became fascinated with a stenographer after a press conference. They went behind the scenes and discovered what she does. In the next media conference, Nigal threw in the words cattywampus, onomatopoeia, quandary and Xylophone to make her job more interesting. Lesson for the church: sometimes, we take ourselves too seriously. Jesus knew how to meet people and attract them to God’s kingdom. That’s why he went to parties, ate with sinners and hung out with society’s fringes. He met people in their daily lives and lived as a real person.
Yes, my husband and I will be cheering on the Badger’s in their next game(s). Win or lose, I pray the team and coaching staff will continue to reflect who they are. I thank them for the lessons they are teaching me how I can impact God’s kingdom on and off the court.
Lord God, as Jesus took the very simple things of his day – a seed, a lamb, a fish – and used them to teach us about your Kingdom, I pray we can see examples in our daily lives that teach us about you and your Kingdom. Thank you for these. Amen.
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