Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Other National Football Championship

It's football's championship season! On January 10th a national college football championship was played. The winning team wore green and gold uniforms... but they weren't the Oregon Ducks.

No. This was the NCAA's 2nd tier championship: The Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). This year North Dakota State won their fourth consecutive FCS title.

Off the top of your head, do you know how many divisions there are of NCAA football?  Quick now... Don't Google it... Keep thinking...

The answer is four.

Did you get that right? Now can you tell me who won those four national championships?  I have no idea... So I went to the source: the NCAA website.

The answer is:
  • FBS: Ohio State University
  • FCS: North Dakota State
  • Div II: Colorado State - Pueblo
  • Div III: University of Wisconsin - Whitewater
You probably knew the FBS. Perhaps you knew the FCS. But Div II & III? I don't know that anyone other than current students, alumni and players' mothers knew those results!

The players in those lower divisions will almost certainly never play football professionally. They risk injury and take time away from their studies with no big pay day in sight. They win national championships, and no one knows about it.

The players on these teams train as long and as hard as the players on national TV on Monday night. They sweat and hurt just like the Buckeyes and the Ducks. But no one's watching.

Yet for these players each victory contains the same elation as the victories the big schools experience. Each loss hurts as much as it does for the big programs. Each personal failure causes a crisis of self-confidence just like the big boys. Each dominant performance makes them walk a little taller, as all athletes will tell you.

The only differences between most of the players on these teams are skills and physical limitations. Perhaps they didn't receive as high quality coaching in high school. Perhaps they'll just never be fast enough. Maybe their minds don't quite analyse the situation as quickly as the FBS players. But the passion they bring to each training session and each play is consistent throughout the divisions.

Churches are always looking for their members to get more involved. Most of the time they're not looking for leaders, they're looking for members willing to complete tasks. The baptistry needs cleaning. We need greeters in the parking lot in winter. We need someone to make coffee. There are never too many people willing to send cards of encouragement.

I wonder if too often we don't rank the importance of particular tasks and pay little attention to those we consider Div II or III.

Unlike the players on the Div II & Div III teams we often don't bring the same passion to the tasks we judge as less important. They require less skill. No one will notice them. No one cheers for us like they do the song leader, or the prayer, or the small group leader.

Jesus was the Messiah, but he wasn't seeking the limelight. If anyone deserved to have his name up in lights, it was God in the flesh. Yet Jesus gives us the example of someone willing to wash feet.

I wonder if our churches really do a good job of communicating the values of humility and service. Do we elevate the efforts of talented individuals while overlooking the work of humble servants of God? Do we portray to our church members that the people in the church that are in the public eye are more important than others? May God have mercy. 

We all have the same goal and we should all play a role, whether we're sweeping the floors in a minichurch of 80 or a megachurch of 8,000.

Whatever you do—whether you eat or drink or not—do it all to the glory of God! Do not offend Jews or Greeks or any part of the church of God for that matter. Consider my example: I strive to please all people in all my actions and words—but don’t think I am in this for myself—their rescued souls are the only profit.  1 Corinthians 10:31-33

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