Just as the Superbowl was about to kick off, my sister, who lives in Seattle, posted this facebook status,
I thought it was a brilliant comment on the way the two teams had been portrayed. I'm a big Manning fan, so if he had run out onto the field in the Superbowl in a Seahawks jersey I'd have been cheering for the Seahawks. I suspect that many others around the country allocated their Superbowl loyalties based upon their like or dislike of Peyton Manning. He became a larger than life character in this sporting drama.
"Still trying to understand the rules of this American football game. Why are there 12 players for the Seahawks and only one player for the Broncos (Peyton Manning)?"
In contrast, when I reflect on the persona projected by Seattle I keep coming back to the ideas of team and community.
1. Seattle has successfully embraced fan enthusiasm by honoring the crowd as The 12th Man. (11 players are on the field at any given time.) This relationship with fans has made Seattle one of the loudest stadiums in which to play and helped Seattle to only one loss over the past two season. Seattle actually holds the world record for the most crowd noise at a sporting event. That roar even created a small earthquake!!
2. Although Russell Wilson has provided some great quarterback play and team leadership, the heart and soul of the team is it's defense. Richard Sherman has attracted a lot of media attention in the role of a bad boy with a big mouth. But the strength of the Seahawks defense has been a group of players labelled "The Legion of Boom". When compared to the singular focus Peyton Manning has received, the fact that Seattle's engine room consists of a group of players makes a significant point. Individuals can't win championships in a team sport.
3. As this story describes, even Pete Carroll, the Seattle coach, was willing to take a tackle for the benefit of the team. This style of leadership and commitment are contagious and help establish a team first mentality among the players.
There are so many ways to take these points and apply them to churches. I think I'll let you do most of the heavy lifting on this one. But here's a couple of summary thoughts.
1. The concept of the 12th Man is all about giving fans a slice of ownership in the team. As this article describes this ownership creates community that (at least for a little while) energizes a city. Churches need to have this same goal. Members want to be part of something bigger than themselves. People long for community and contributing to a greater good. How does your church communicate inclusion and value to each member?
2. Church isn't just about the individual. Yes, it's a community that God uses to speak into the lives of individuals, but it doesn't stop there. Being part of the body of Christ means that sometimes we'll put our bodies on the line for the benefit of others. That's teamwork. That's church. That's Jesus. As a church leader I have to regularly ask myself how I'm modelling this value.