This is a post I wrote for another format back in 2018 when the World Cup was taking place. I believe it is probably even more relevant than it was back then.
If you haven't heard (and many of you haven't), the US Soccer Team was not in this year's World Cup. For those of us who are following the games, this is not a huge surprise.
I recently read an article that explained why the U.S lags behind other countries in the most popular sport around the globe. It said that while our children are chasing soccer balls around cones a couple of times a week, learning technique in $100-$200 shoes, the rest of the world's children are playing in streets and alleys, dirt fields, often barefoot, knocking each other down, getting bruised and bloodied, jumping back up and running even harder for hours a day, every-single-day. In essence, while American kids "practice" soccer, kids in other countries "play" soccer. Over the course of time this difference is revealed in events like The World Cup. Those who eat, live, breathe, and bleed soccer-- the ones who are "all in" are the ones who win.
So what does this have to do with The U.S. Church?
Many in our churches are like our kids on a soccer field. We focus on theology, debating doctrinal differences, spending money on multiple translations of The Bible, and building a library of the most popular Christian books. We become masters of "technique." However churches in other parts of the world (where faith is squelched or prohibited), eat, live, breath, and bleed Jesus. They are "all in."
Not surprisingly, these are the same areas of the world where The Gospel is thriving and multiplying exponentially. Followers of Jesus in these locations are not just "studying" what The Bible teaches, they are putting it into action without compromise. We should not be amazed at the results. The Bible tells us this happens when we trust and obey.
To be honest, I'm not sad about the U.S. not being represented in The World Cup. The "business" of American kids soccer will continue to flourish with the latest shoes and flashiest jerseys. Soccer fields all over the country will continue to be filled on Saturday and Sunday mornings with orange cones and colorful feet.
I am sad that so many churches in the most prosperous nation on earth are not multiplying disciples exponentially and expanding their Kingdom Influence when they could be.
It's not about how much we know, how smooth our technique, or how impressive our worship services are. It's about you and me (and the rest of The Church) living passionately for the sake of The Gospel and bringing others along with us (making disciples) as we go.
It’s time to stop practicing and start playing; being willing to get bruised and bloodied at times.
The World Cup has proven that countries consumed with soccer go the furthest. To them it's not a game; it's who they are.
Churches around the world have proven those who are consumed with Jesus have the greatest Kingdom Influence. To them, it's not a game; it's who they are.