Team identification is a fascinating thing. At work, men boast about the athletic accomplishments of players they don’t even know. “Did you see the homerun Joey Gallo hit? He’s my man!” “Did you see Luka Doncic hit that incredible three-pointer last night? Wow!” Of course, team identification isn’t always fun. If Dak Prescott throws an interception that costs the Cowboys the game, we may go to bed and relive the disappointment in muddled dreams.
Team identification is fascinating, and it seems to show up in the church. Christians often take pride in things they don’t personally engage in or support. “Our church has excellent teachers, but teaching isn’t my thing.” “Our church is very generous, but I’m saving my money for a rainy day.” “Our church has beautiful singing, but I keep my mouth shut.” “Our church really knows the Bible, but I don’t have any time to read myself.”
Christian faith is not a spectator sport. The Bible says that “since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2). These “witnesses” are not living Christians watching others run the race. They are men and women of great faith who lived in the past – Abel, Noah, Enoch, Abraham and Sarah, Jacob, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Samson, Samuel, David, and others. They are people who obeyed God, took risks, and suffered for doing right. They are called up from ancient biblical history to encourage us to run our own race, to be faithful ourselves.
There’s nothing wrong with taking pleasure in what the church is doing. We don’t all have the same talents or opportunities. And yet, we function as a body. There is something wrong with being merely a fan of the church. The Lord doesn’t call us to warm the bleachers three times a week. We are called to run the race, to play the game, to struggle together.