Like Clemson…Special Teams are Killing My Spiritual Life

The day after the National Championship, the people wearing purple and orange are asking the “what if” questions when it comes to special teams play. Arguably, Clemson won the game on offense and defense minus a few big plays. It was special teams that lost the National Championship for Clemson.

Their kicker was almost the defensive player of the game. He had one tackle in the first half to save a kick return for a touchdown and had he tackled Alabama’s kick returner in the fourth quarter, Clemson might have been hoisting the trophy. The punter, on the other hand, was subpar with his rugby-style kicks that only worked once and a blocked field goal never helps.  All year Clemson struggled on special teams and last night was no exception.

I’m not a sports analyst. I am a pastor and special teams are killing my spiritual growth. I tend to do very well with daily prayer and reflection on God’s word, but when it comes to consistent missional living, faith sharing and generosity I tend to struggle. 

So what are our special teams and how can we strengthen them?

Punt Team—Missional Living

The most thankless position on a football team is the punter or long snapper. As long as things go well then no one knows your name. When something goes wrong you receive threats of bodily harm (keep it classy Michigan). But the punter is important because he has the greatest opportunity to control field position. Maybe missions is the same way. My prayer and bible study life can be flourishing, but if I’m not putting those things into action my faith is stagnant.

When we serve our neighbor we are called to do so without letting the left hand know what the right is doing. There is a fulfillment that comes from consistently serving those around you in an excellent manner. A punter will never be invited to speak during the trophy presentation, but his role is vital and the fulfillment he gains from a ball well kicked is worth the sacrifice. In the same way, living missional is vital to spiritual growth. 

Kickoff Coverage and Return—Faith Sharing

It seems that the most energetic players are on the kickoff team. They tend to dance, clap their hands and get the crowd going. They are truly the ones preparing the way for the offense or defense. 

God sent John the Baptist to prepare the way of the Lord and he sends you and I as well. The thing I love about faith sharing is that God never said that we had to be good; He just said we have to be active (Philemon 1:6). 

When you take the time to pray for someone & follow up, invite them to church, share God’s story of redemption in your life, you are preparing the way of the Lord to work in both of your lives. Younger players gain confidence by making plays on special teams. As Christians we grow by taking a risk to share our faith with those around us and every now and then we get to be a part of a huge play that changes everything. 

Place Kickers—Generosity

Usually place kickers finish their successful careers as the leading scorers in their teams history because they have one job that produces a lot of points. From doing one thing over and over again they pave the way for dynasties (Alabama’s four championships in seven years) to be formed. 

My spiritual life took off by doing the same thing consistently—giving. The simple act of tithing and giving beyond a tithe has had the greatest impact on my spirit. At first it felt totally unnatural because all I focused on was what I was sacrificing, instead of what I was giving. I now see it as a joy to give. As I lived into this challenge I noticed that it made me become more focused in my personal finances and opened my eyes to the amazing things God was doing in the world.

Offense and defense get all the attention, but special teams make or break a team’s success. The same is true in our spiritual lives. My prayer is that we will be well rounded spiritually in all areas of the game. So may your generosity, faith sharing and missions flow from your connection with God and produce fruit and fulfillment in your life and the lives of others.