Football and discipleship, what do they have in common? How can looking at one of the greatest coaches in football help us to disciple new believers better?
I have never been a football fan. Honestly, for most of my life I really couldn’t care less about professional sports. When I moved to Wisconsin several years ago, however, I was enlightened by a group of football fans who were unlike anything I had ever experienced.
Wisconsinites make it difficult to not love their Packers. It did not take long to make me a true follower. There is a historical foundation to the Packers’ structure that resonates deep in my soul. Effective discipleship is the very root of this football team. It is no wonder people from all over the world support and love the Packers.
In 1959, the Green Bay Packers were on a massive losing streak. They were 1-10-1 (wins-losses-tie games) and were doomed to failure in the football industry. Vince Lombardi, one of the greatest football coaches of all time, was hired to bring this team out of last place. He was determined to never associate himself with a losing team. The first season the Packers experienced with their new coach would mark the beginning of a winning streak that would go down in football history.
But how did he take a losing team and transform it into a winning team within the first season?
Coach Lombardi came in with a plan that started with these words,
“Gentleman, this is a football.”
He brought his team back to the basics of the game. He had to start with changing their perspective. They had lost so many times I am sure they felt like giving up.
To implement a new training style, the coach needed to light a fire in such a way that there was a passion and zeal in the players that would motivate them to choose to win again.
This involved not only skills but discipline. They practiced longer and harder than ever before, but the coach never left the sidelines. He stayed with the team during this difficult transition.
Coach Lombardi lived out his passion in such a way that it was the basis of his coaching style.
There are three things important to every man in this locker room. His God, his family, and the Green Bay Packers. In that order. – Vince Lombardi
If they were going to become winners and change the face of their team, they had to get their priorities straight. Lombardi had a way of building a team that propelled them to the top of their profession. It changed the way the game was played for future generations of the Packers. It changed their entire outlook on faith, family, and work, and the balance God gave them to fully serve Him in their everyday lives.
What was the key to Lombardi’s success? He understood the heart of discipleship that would make an impact on the future generations of his players, and not just the players of that season.
Like Lombardi, we want to disciple our children so they will impact this generation and generations to come. Sometimes, as a parent, we can feel like we are on a losing streak. Reaching the hearts of our children can be discouraging because we do not always see the fruit right away–but they are still our team.
As the coach of our team, what are the basics we need to build a team that will impact the world? Coach Lombardi did a couple of things with his team that I think we can learn from as parents:
Even when we are not a perfect parent, our team is relying on us. We do not want our team to lose, so let us imitate the methods of a successful coach.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)
It is never too late to make a comeback in discipling our children.