Coach Kryzyzewki, of Duke Basketball renown, was recently quoted, “I grade my players on their bench decorum during time-outs. During time-outs, I have my video guys record our team, and we watch to see what every player is doing. If I see guys looking up into the stands or not paying attention while I’m going over the strategy with the five on the floor, well, they are going to suffer some consequences. I want every last person to be on the same page.” (Always By My Side, Jim Nantz)
In local church ministry, I believe one area frequently overlooked is our routine “bench decorum.” Most churches are too one dimensional when considering the tone and pitch of our message. May I submit to you five “bench” seats where your church may require sanctified attention:
1. The Seats of the Pastor’s Family
How often have you noticed a lethargic vibe from the pastor’s family during worship, preaching, and service? While I recognize that having your pastor for a dad and husband is a unique challenge, the Gospel transcends familial routine and familiarity. Both the pastor and His family should possess a kindred passion for the message and ministry of the local New Testament church. I am thankful for a wife and two son that wholeheartedly support and share in our ministry at North Pointe. This is a lifelong pursuit of every pastor’s family but well worth the effort.
2. The Seats of the Church Staff
Having been on the staff “bench” for several years, I personally acknowledge how easy it is to “zone out” during the most eternally significant moments on a church calendar. For some reason the modest paycheck and blemishes of the pastor often reduce the glorious Gospel ministry to a series of dull schedules, inconveniences, and obligations. As a pastor, may I encourage every church staff member from the secretary to the associate pastor that no group of people encourages and extends the pastor’s ministry more than you!
3. The Seats of the Senior Saints
With age, arrive not only the blessings of wisdom and resources but also the tendencies of cynicism and bitterness. As a younger pastor of an elementary-aged church, one of the greatest sources of encouragement or discouragement is our seasoned saints. If you are a median adult or older, you possess great influence on how grounded and dynamic your church becomes. May I respectfully entreat you, for the sake of the Gospel, to “Amen” your pastors and deacons with your voice, your face, your body language, your pocketbook, your free time…I think you get the point.
4. The Seats of the Young Regulars
As we consider how behavior affects the message, I must also challenge us parents who have preschoolers, primary children, and teenagers who regularly attend and serve in churches. Often our youngest doodle and play too much, our elementary move in and out too much, and our teenager text and tune out too much during the most important hours of their week. Recently my eight-year-old son revealed that he has memorized the chronological order of when all 50 states entered the United States-we expect too little of our young people! May I challenge parents to not only sit on the bench with, but listen with, worship with, and serve with their sons and daughters during church.
5. The Seats of the Busy Core
Of all those who often forget their “bench decorum” the most active, involved church members, leaders, and deacons are most susceptible. The typical core member struggles with exhaustion from a full plate, resentment toward the uninvolved spectator, and a tendency to feel insignificant in the overall thrust and profile of their church. May I encourage each in this category that we cease to exist as the body of Christ and to effect the Great Commission without you. Reaffirm your belief and commitment in our eternity-altering cause. Visibly respond to sermons, sing with gusto, shake hands vigorously, and include new partners in the ministry that make your heart beat faster. During the 1993 NCAA national championship game, University of Michigan’s Chris Webber secured a rebound and raced down the court with a chance to tie or win the game against North Carolina in the waning seconds. But a pair of Tar Heels pinned him into the far corner by the Michigan bench. Webber called for a time-out, but Michigan had none left, which resulted in a technical foul. The mistake, with eleven seconds left, cost the Wolverines a pair of free throws and ultimately another championship. (I am not sharing this story because I am a Buckeye fan.) When Coach K was asked about this unfortunate decision, he replied, “One of the players on the Michigan bench saw that Webber was trapped in the corner. Probably thinking that he could help Chris, he yelled to him, ‘Call time-out.’” Chris Webber, while partly responsible as all leaders are, was influenced by a disengaged, daydreaming substitute sitting on the bench.
What could our churches accomplish, if EVERY member were fully engaged with a wide-eyed, open-hearted, full-lunged, longing-for-more demeanor? Who would listen more, believe more, receive more when they cannot miss what dynamic relationship with God is doing in our lives? I am not proposing that we whip out a video camera to shame or manipulate one another, but may the Lord grant us the ability to convey to each other how our “bench decorum” highly impacts the Gospel. Your outlook either detracts or attracts others to the amazing grace and truth found only in Christ. Ephesians 4:12 declares the sequence that enhances our message, “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” We each must embrace and excel in our Spirit-tailored ministry, whether that be center court or engaged on pine, to achieve the core mission of our New Testament church.
What other ministry “bench seats” did I miss?