Vincent Thomas (better known as Vince) Lombardi is a name that’s synonymous with football. He’s best known as being the head coach of the Green Bay Packers back during the 1960s. He was so well thought of... so accomplished... that after his death in 1970 (of cancer) the NFL’s Super Bowl trophy was named in his honor.
You may know that Lombardi was fanatical when it came to fundamentals of the game. Those who played under Coach Lombardi often spoke of his intensity, his drive, his endless passion... Time and time again he would come back to the basic techniques of blocking and tackling during practice... even when coaching professional athletes.
I was reading recently of one occasion when the Packers suffered a humiliating loss to a team they were supposed to beat. Coach Lombardi called a practice the very next morning. All the players sat there quietly... defeated... They had no idea what to expect from their coach.
That’s when Lombardi began his speech: Grinding his teeth and staring holes through one athlete after another, Lombardi said, “OK we go back to the basics this morning!” Then the Coach grabbed a football, held it up for every player to see... and said, “gentlemen, this is a football!”
Can you imagine how that must’ve felt? I mean how more basic can you get in the game of football than to be informed that this object is a football! You simply can’t get any more basic, any more foundational, any more fundamental, than that.
It would be like introducing a teacher to a pencil, or a conductor of an orchestra to sheet music... or telling Marine, “this is a rifle.” Or telling a preacher, “this is a pulpit.”
Of course, Lombardi’s coaching philosophy apparently worked... he coached his team to 5 NFL championships in seven years, three of those were back-to-back.
Lombardi believed in a very simple principle: excellence is best achieved by perfecting the basics.
Of course, it appears to me, there’s a problem in the Church today... we seem to have “lost touch” with the basics... the foundational reality upon which the Church was built, and for which the Church exists!
I’ve said before, that the modern church is kinda like “Burger King.” Burger King claims you can get your Whopper just the way you like it... No pickles, no problem. No onion, no problem. Burger King aims to please everyone... and the modern Church is kinda like that!
Only I think the modern church is actually more like a frozen yogurt shop! Frozen yogurt shops all try to be hip and modern... and in a FROYO shop you’ve got your choice of flavors... you can mix and match... or swirl it together!
And in the church of today you’ve got your choice of flavors, too! You’ve got your tongue speakers, your snake handlers... your positive thinkers... and baby baptizers... your intellectuals! You’ve got rock bands, light shows, and videos... or you can choose a priests chanting ancient words... or even listen to supper-cool preachers in their skinny jeans preach from an Ipad...
And if none of that works for you: then just search for your favorite “ism.” Spiritualism, Calvinism, Presbyterianism, Lutheranism, Methodism, Baptism, supernaturalism, fundamentalism, Legalism, conservatism or liberalism. There’s an “ism” for everything!
But why? Where does all that lead? What are the foundational underpinnings of the Church? What are we called to be about amid a plethora of dizzying choices? If we could filter out everything that’s not essential... what’s left? What are the basics...?
Well, the scripture tells us. “(the Church) devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
Teaching. Fellowship. Breaking bread. Prayer.
I wonder how well each of us are tending to the basics. Do we strive to learn, are we teachable? Do we long for fellowship... do we engage in community building? Do we participate in worship... acts of worship... like the Lord’s Supper? Do we see Communion as the life changing act of worship it’s intending to be? Are we people of prayer... a people who cry out to God for mercy, for hope, for strength?
God’s Word tells us that we... as followers of Christ... are to “continually devote ourselves” to these four, basic things. Because these things make a solid, balanced, healthy community of faith. These things build up the body of Christ.
We can do other things, for sure! There’s nothing wrong with doing MORE than the basics! But how well we tend to the 101/foundational purposes of the church... teaching, fellowship, worship/communion and prayer, will determine how effective our church is...
Of course, we think it’s easy... so easy to hold fast to and cherish the basics... but not so fast!
If experience teaches us anything, it teaches us that we (that I), often fall short when it comes to the basics... because sometimes (in fact, quite often) I base by participation, my cooperation... my support of God’s Church on my feelings - or the perception of how others treat me... instead of viewing these 4 things (Teaching, fellowship, communion and prayer) as part of my stewardship to God... my offering to God.
In other words: I don’t engaging in teaching/or being teachable, because I either “don’t have anything to offer” or I “don’t get anything out of it”; OR, “I don’t join in fellowship because others don’t include me” OR “I don’t take communion because I’m not worthy - or don’t like the method that’s being used” OR “I don’t pray for others because I don’t like them, or they don’t like me!”
But all such excuses are full of a four letter word that starts with “S”! They’re full of self. SELF! What did you think I meant? :)
We often fail to see these things (these foundational building blocks of our life of faith) as acts of stewardship... as our gifts to God! As benefits to others - above and beyond any benefit we may receive ourselves! We want to know what we’re going to get out of it... instead of seeking God’s will... and desiring that God be glorified. Instead of emptying self... and seeking what Christ wants...
BUT the only way to truly receive blessing is to genuinely give, expecting nothing (absolutely nothing!) in return.
“Do everything you do as if doing it unto the Lord.” Colossians 3:23
Of course, having said all that: Listen to me... I need you all to hear this...
DO NOT sell your contribution short! We’re blessed with people who are able and willing to give of their time, talent and treasure to make our church work. But by simply being here... you make a invaluable contribution. By participating... by worshiping together... my praying for your fellow believers... you’re making a difference.
You may not feel like you’re getting much out of it... but your testimony, your stewardship, speaks to others... and most importantly... your presence honors God.
Let’s always remember the basics: Let’s be devoted to teaching, fellowship, breaking bread, and prayer.