JUNE 26, 2006

World Cup Ramblings
by Pastor George Van Alstine

Since the only major American sport on TV these days is baseball, I’ve found the World Cup soccer matches to be a welcome alternative. I’m even beginning to pick up the rules of the game—when players are offside, what constitutes a penalty, why there is still “injury timeâ€? on the clock when the official time runs out.

I always pick out a team to root for, usually the underdog. I empathize the excitement the fans experience when they unfurl their national flag and express their patriotism in other ways.

Now, here’s my dirty little secret: I have mixed emotions in rooting for the American team. There is that red-white-and blue side of me that is proud of my fellow-Americans. But there is another side of me that hopes America stays second-rate at soccer. We’ve got baseball (our “National pastimeâ€?), as well as basketball and American football, which are also home-grown. Americans are arguably best in the world at these sports. Why do we have to be best at everything?

I honestly hope we’re never as good at ice hockey as the Canadians. And I also hope that for the foreseeable future lots of Third World nations have better players in soccer than America does.

And so, I’m ready to confess that last Thursday I rooted for Ghana to beat the USA! (Some of you stopped reading when you realized this article was about sports. I’m sure others will put the Messenger down now to call Homeland Security to report me.) Knowing that our mission team will be leaving soon for Ghana, I just thought it would be wonderful if they could go with a healthy humility, all too rare in Americans, that said, “Boy, you guys sure socked it to us on the soccer field.â€?

The people of the USA are slowly realizing that we are just one member of a family of nations. We are not the only world power. The European Common Market, Japan, China, India—all are becoming very skilled at carving out bigger and bigger pieces of the world economic pie. We’d better get used to treating them as equals.

All of this has a parallel in the church. In American Christianity, we’re used to seeing some people as the stars—pastors, evangelists, writers, teachers—while the masses of believers are of lesser value. Jesus seems to have envisioned something different:
“The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them …. But it is not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the least important, and the leader like the one who serves …. I am among you as one who serves.â€? (Luke 22:25-27)
And the Apostle Paul taught that the church functions naturally when human egos give way to Spirit-empowerment:
“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.â€? (Romans 12:3-5)

Not one of us is self-sufficient. Not one of us has every gift needed to live for God. We are built to need each other, to be interdependent. A Christian who thinks he or she should be best at everything is kind of like the USA thinking it has to be best at soccer. We need to learn to celebrate another believer’s gift, rather than try to outdo her or him.

So I will keep rooting for Ghana. Hopefully, I will also remember to root for believers who pray, preach or evangelize better than I do. Praise God for their gifts.

# # # # #

Goodbye To The Ghana Team!
On Sunday, July 2, we will say goodbye to the Ghana Team. Team members will share testimonies in the morning service and be commissioned in prayer. The Benevolent Offering that day is earmarked for this missions trip. If you have not yet contributed and would like to do so, this is your opportunity. We are trying to raise the last $3750 before the team leaves. After the morning service there will be free hot dogs and ice cream. Come and Celebrate with us.