‘The animals went in two by two’! ‘Tea for two and two for tea’! ‘It takes two baby’! I do hope you are not singing along! I can be a bit of a loner, but when it comes to doing something purposeful, I really like to do it with someone else.
Years ago when I still played parks football every week, I was playing for a pretty good team that happened to be a team predominantly made up of Christians which was great .. but.. well to be honest I was getting fed up with spending all my time with Christians – it seems to go with being an ordained minister! I also really did want to be a bit more missional. (I wouldn’t have heard of that word then – I just wanted to share Jesus).
As well as the usual leagues and divisions we are all familiar with, there had also been a fair play table created by the football association. Top teams got a prize and worst offenders had points deducted at the end of the season that affected the final position in the league. It was based on bookings, sendings off, police having to be called in the middle of a match.…. Anyway I had an idea that in order to be a good Christian witness and have some quality relationships with normal people, rather than continue playing for this Christian team, I would go and sign for the team that had the worst fair play record in the league.
I shared this idea with my fellow centre half and his eyes lit up, which was a bit of a pain because I was all for bottling out before I even did it. The team with the worst record had in fact finished bottom of the four divisions, not really because they were the worst team, it was just that they had had so many points deducted every season.
Our first game for them gave us some insight into the problem. We only managed to field eight players. Apparently this was a fairly regular occurrence due to hang overs and police custody from Friday night. I played three seasons with them and we were promoted each year and in my final season before I moved from the area, even though we were still a second division side, we won the cup!
My friend and I made a little difference to the team because of our footballing ability, him more than me, but the main difference we made was to the culture of the team. Right from the first game they knew we were Christians, that I was a minister and that we were praying for everyone in the team. We even got to pray in the centre circle with the team before the start on occasions, we certainly did at the cup final, they reasoned ‘if it’s going to help us win …..’ I wish I could say that they all became Christians but I can’t, though one did. The ability to field a full team did become a weekly occurrence however as players managed to drink a little less and not get arrested on Friday night. I do believe this was the result of our influence and our prayers for them and a few of them acknowledged that too. There were lots of great conversations and I had the privilege to do marriage preparation with a few of them.
The key thing was that I was not alone in this, in fact I would say my fellow centre half was more enthusiastic for our purpose in being there than I was. We were able to encourage one another though and remind ourselves what we were doing why we were doing it, and we even got to celebrate! Not just the cup but we were privileged to watch some of those players change.
I am reminded of Bill Hybels equation: HP+CP+CC=MI – High Potency, our relationship with God plus Close Proximity, our relationship with others plus Clear Communication, our ability to share who we are in Jesus, will amount to Maximum Impact!
We have to keep our walk with God fresh and vital, we have to be where people are and we need to be clear about who we are and what makes us tick. I have found that I do that best when I do it with someone else. Maybe it’s because I am weak and give up too easily and need somebody else’s help, but I find this sort of partnership inspiring and I’ve usually found that the people I enter into partnership with in this way also express how they would have given up if I hadn’t been doing it with them!
Maybe that’s why Jesus sent his disciples out in twos. He knows about the value of partnership in the gospel. I think it’s because it helps our credibility; two witnesses are stronger than one. It enables us to encourage and strengthen each other. It enables us to make fewer mistakes as we check each other. It means we’ve a shoulder to cry on when things go bad and its great to celebrate together when things are good. And it means you’ve got someone to shout ‘duck’ when a punch is thrown – yes it happened!