After watching part of the BCS Title game last night between Alabama and Texas, I'm reminded of certain lessons from sports. And I'm going to remind you of them:
1. You cannot build your team around 1 single individual. It just doesn't work. Don't believe? When's the last time the Chicago Bulls were worth following? Even when you have talent of Jordan's caliber, you have to have a team! For Texas to fall apart on both offense and defense over one player's injury shows that they were not prepared to play as a team, but rather were built as a star with a supporting cast. And just as a note: had Ingram gotten hurt, Alabama would have shown itself to be just as troubled. College athletics have, unfortunately, become too much about a school striving to launch a high-profile pro-athlete as playing a team sport.
So, the first lesson is leadership development and responsibility sharing, because that's what it takes to not be 1 person dependent. In your church, are you doing this? Far too many churches go to pieces when the pastor moves away. Now, some pastors leave that shouldn't, but that's another post. The church needs to be prepared for the possibility. Companies do the same thing. Why should a company pay tens of millions in bonuses to keep 1 person when they could spend that money to employ additional people and train them to carry the load? It may seem like redundancy, but what about when that 1 crucial employee gets the swine flu?
2. This is a corollary to the other statement: it takes the whole team to win a game. It takes offense, defense, special teams. The opening of the game, Alabama screwed up on offense, special teams, and their defense looked porous. I was afraid I would have to apologize for all the pro-SEC talk prior to the game, although my dislike of Nick Saban was getting happier by the error. However, it takes all parts of the team to succeed.
In your church or business, are you developing your whole team? Or are you neglecting your weaknesses and hoping no one notices? Every year there are teams better in one category than the national title holder. In baseball, someone's usually got a better hitter or better pitcher, in football there are better offenses and defenses. The difference is that a defense that allows 30 points a game has to have an offense that scores 31 every time to win, and that's not as likely as you would want it. If your sales side is great but you don't support your products, your business will falter. If your outreach teams get people into church but your Sunday School teachers don't connect them, if your services are great but no one is coming, then your church will falter. Develop all sides.
3. You have to play the whole game. As Texas was flattening Alabama's offense on the first series, they had an energy and enthusiasm that was quite nearly infectious. It was also annoying. They spent a lot of energy dancing and celebrating, running around after plays. Bama then put up 24 unanswered points in the first half, and went on to put up a total of 37. What made part of that difference? Look at the faces on the Alabama sideline and the Texas sideline. Even after blowing the fake punt and muffing the kickoff, Alabama's team looked determined to keep fighting. Texas, on the other hand, looked lost after McCoy's injury. Each time they had something go wrong, they looked increasingly desperate. They then went on to lose the game. The difference? I think the Tide knew they had all game to correct for errors. It's true the hole gets too big to fill sometimes, but Texas is a good team and could have even made up the deficit after half-time. They nearly did.
We too often give up early. We don't always say so, but we do it anyway. It may be that you start 'mailing it in' to work or quit supporting your church quite so enthusiastically. Sure, you're still there, but you're not really all there. You're beginning to settle and just go through the motions. Or you've already got your heart set on the next big thing and don't want the risk (Note what happened in Arkansas' bowl appearance a few years ago when it seemed a pair of superstar running backs decided to leave college early but still had to play that game.) You need to finish with the same intensity you started with, as best you can. Sometimes you need a break, a rest. That's what timeouts and half-times are for.
The real challenge in sustaining the intensity in life is that, well, you don't know how long you've got. How long will you be at that job? How long will you be in this church? You have to bring all you have no matter how long you've been there or how long you'll be there. Take the time-outs you need, take the intermission to catch up when necessary, but you can't stop.