Tony Evans, pastor of the 8,000 member Oak Cliff Bible Church in Dallas, has become a popular voice in evangelicalism. His new book Oneness Embraced explores the theme of racial reconciliation in American Christianity, arguing for God’s “team” to include all peoples and cultures. Today he offers a guest blog post on what football can teach us about God’s kingdom. –JKR
By Tony Evans
I live in Dallas so this past year’s Super Bowl was more exciting than most to me since it was held here. Not only that, but the Steelers invited me to come and deliver the chapel service message the night before the big game. The atmosphere was electric.
Anyone who knows me knows that I love football. One reason I love football is because football is pregnant with illustrations, and – as you know – preachers love illustrations. Another reason I love football is because it is a place unlike many others where a player’s distinct attributes are able to be expressed displaying strength, determination, self-control, skill and power in concert with others forming a collective impact without the denial of individual contribution.
Football is oneness in action. When played well, it is unity on display. Players come from different races and different backgrounds. However, when they get on the field, they harmonize their differences toward a common goal. They do this because the goal is larger than their individual preferences. The moment that a player’s individuality becomes more important than the team, he is of no use to his team. But the moment that his individuality loses its unique skills and attributes, he is also of no use to his team.
God has a team. It’s made up of African-American, Anglo, Hispanic, Asian, Middle Eastern, and a variety of other people and cultures. He never wants you to make your distinction, your history or your background, so precious to you that it messes up His team. Nor does He want you to ignore or diminish your distinction, your history or your background, thus leaving little with which to contribute to His team.
The reason is that God has a goal. He has an agenda—a kingdom agenda. He has given us the playbook for His kingdom agenda, and it is called the Bible. He has done this so that we, when executing His plays, will put His glory on display. One way this occurs is when the world looks on and sees brothers and sisters in Christ huddling together across racial, cultural, and generational lines.
But just like in an NFL football game, the huddle is not the play. The huddle accomplishes nothing on its own. In fact, if the huddle lasts much longer than twenty-five seconds, those watching will lose interest and complain, because that’s not what they paid seventy-five dollars a ticket to come and see. Instead, they want to see what difference the huddle will make. They want to know, now that you’ve huddled, can you score? They want to witness what you are going to do as a team with the eleven other men on the other side of the ball daring you to go public with your private conversation.
Our nation doesn’t need to see any more huddles by the body of Christ. What people need to see is the church of Jesus Christ, made up of men and women from all backgrounds and cultures, scoring touchdowns for the kingdom of God. This can only be accomplished when embracing oneness enables us to make God’s purposes and God’s agenda more important than our own individuality and preferences while not negating the same.
What God wants is for us to live by His rules, resulting in the receiving of His blessing and power. When we as Christians, celebrating our differences, join together as the house of God representing the kingdom of God for the glory of God, we get the response of God to our presence in history. We get to experience the power of oneness.