Growing up in Indiana basketball was my childhood sport. I didn’t play football and I rarely attended a high school game. Most of the college football on Saturday was uninteresting compared to hunting, fishing, and a thousand other outside activities. At the time, Indiana did not have a professional team. It wasn’t until I was a little older that the Colts moved to Indiana and they moved because they were terrible. Every so often I would watch a pro football player with excitement like Larry Csonka, Earl Campbell or John Riggins. My knowledge of the game was limited through most of my childhood.
It wasn’t until I graduated college that I started watching much football. My routine was to come home from Church and flip on the TV and watch football while napping. Exhausted from Church I could start a game then fall asleep and wake up for the fourth quarter. As time went by my enjoyment of the game increased. Finally, my children came along and eventually they wanted to play sports. In Epworth, Iowa the main sport is football. We jumped in and I quickly had to learn the game. When we moved to Alaska I became even more involved as a coach and eventually as the president of the local Pop Warner program. Now I watch my boys play high school football every Friday under the lights.
I tell you all of that to underline knowledge and often limited knowledge of the game. The one thing I know for sure is that the most important players on a team often receive little praise. Everyone loves a quarterback who can throw. A great running back is a thing of beauty. An exceptional wide receiver can make highlight films each week. A lineman rarely receives recognition or praise.
And yet, some of the most important people on a team are the linemen. They block for the quarterback giving him time to throw the ball. They make holes for the running backs to run up the field. Linemen work in the trenches of football where hand to hand combat happens every play. They work hard with little praise. Most of the post-game interviews are the highlight players while the linemen shower to remove the dirt and blood that reward their work. I know a football dad who continually reminds me to praise the linemen when the team wins. Without their hard work, the game is lost no matter what the quarterback does each play. I have come to know that he is right.
As a pastor, I know that the Church needs a lot of people who are willing to be linemen. People who are willing to serve with little or no praise. People who get their hands dirty every week without being noticed. For every great sermon that people enjoy there were 25 people who worked in the nursery, children’s Church, sound, Powerpoint and cleaned the building that made my job possible. I call them Church linemen. And they are the real heroes of the faith whether anyone recognizes it or not. Thanks everyone for all that you do to make me look good.