This is part five of my Panama reflection series. A little over two months ago, I was in Panama on a mission trip with a group of pastors from Virginia. This series of articles is my effort to share some of my experiences while also debriefing from my trip. Enjoy.
At my church right now, we are winding down the Upward Basketball and Cheer season, and I am having a better season than I had last year as a coach. Recently though, one of my better players, arguably my best player, missed a couple of games. His absence hurt our team for sure, but not in the way you might think. It had nothing to do with his scoring or physical ability. You see, I have been preaching the concept of “everyone has a role” to my players all season. Many of them are starting to realize and embrace their respective roles. For example, I have a boy who is a rebounding machine. I have a girl who is a tenacious defender. I have a little sixth grade boy that is turning into somewhat of a sharpshooter!
So, the past couple of weeks, without this one particular player, our team has been struggling to find our rhythm. This struggle has to do with this one player’s role and leadership of our team. He is not an outspoken, demanding kid, but when he is on the floor his teammates know what their role is and what they should be doing. They rebound. They defend. They look for passing opportunities. Without him, my second tier of players is trying to become the lead players. The problem is that they aren’t the lead players – even when he is not there. Everyone is scrambling to fill the role of the player who is not there instead of playing their role.
This circumstance reminded me of my time in Panama. I have been on several mission trips all over the United States and around the world, and all of them with a team. I have never gone by myself. This time was no different. Or so I thought…
I traveled down to Panama with my team, and new friends, but when we arrived, we were spread throughout the community with different churches. We knew this was going to happen, but I underestimated the impact it would have on me. While I was still with a group: Pastor Felix and my translator, Elizabeth, I felt like I was by myself doing this. I realized then that I love being with a team of people: planning with them, traveling with them, ministering with them, joking with them, and creating memories with them. Now, let me stress that I enjoyed working with Pastor Felix and Elizabeth. It was just different without my five friends I had come down with.
With those pastors I came with, I knew my role. I knew my place. I knew what I had to offer. Just like sports, when we are with a team we learn, by choice or by force, what our role is. In 1 Corinthians chapter 12 verse 12, Paul emphasizes that we were never designed to go about things alone: “There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body. It is the same with Christ.”
Now, I understand I wasn’t really alone throughout this mission trip, but I realized the power and significance of being in a group. We all have gifts and talents. And when isolated, or by themselves, these gifts may not seem powerful or even significant. But when we unite all of our gifts and talents and efforts for Christ something amazing happens.
Just like my basketball team, which is learning the importance of the intangible side of basketball by becoming a true team, you and I need to remember that we are not designed to live our lives isolated or alone. We need people. We need community. That is why church is so important. That is why being the church is so important. I encourage you to seek Christ, commit to Christ, and then find your team (church) and your role in it! Anyway, I was just thinking…