“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” John 3:16
I Love football, and I specially love Super Bowl Sunday. Throughout the fall, on Sunday afternoon you can find me in front of the television watching NFL football. Growing up I fell in love with the Green Bay Packers. I adored Bart Starr, Paul Hornung and other players. But most of all I love Vinace Lombardi.
Lombardi had arrived as the Packers’ coach in early 1959. The team hadn’t had a winning season since 1947, and the year before Lombardi’s arrival their record was one win, ten losses and one tie. Lombardi clearly had his work cut out for him. In his very first team meeting after his hire, Lombardi told his players, “I have never been on a losing team, gentlemen, and I do not intend to start now.” True to his word, Lombardi never knew a losing season as a head coach.
That summer of 1959, when the Packers reported for training camp, Lombardi challenged his players in every way possible. He was charged with the seemingly impossible task of turning the franchise around, and he was pumped up about it. He led practices – inspiring, training, motivating the players. But one day, in the middle of a practice, Lombardi got so frustrated with what was going on with the players that he blew his whistle. “Everybody stop and gather around,” he said. Then he knelt down, picked up the pigskin, and said, “Let’s start at the beginning. Gentlemen, this is a football. These are the yard markers. I’m the coach. You are the players.” He went on, in the most elementary way, to explain the basics of football.
Later, Hall of Fame players like Starr and Hornung would talk about how much they had learned from Lombardi. After that year, he began every subsequent season with the same speech, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” He never took for granted that his players knew the basics. In fact, many of them said that the genius of his coaching was his ability to break down the game into its simplest elements and teach them again and again.
We in the church could learn a thing or two from Lombardi. Rehearsing the basics of our faith can strengthen our faith and help us prepare to hold on to that faith in a world at odds with faith. Like Lombardi’s players, we need to be prepared to meet many different circumstances while living out our faith. Yes, there are lots of ,theological tomes about the Christian faith, but in the end, what’s most important is simple: “For God so loved the world…”