I hadn’t gone home that particular Sunday afternoon. There had been some event that had lasted so long that it made the journey home and back again for the evening service rather pointless.
So at some point in the afternoon I took a walk to McDonald’s for a coffee. You can see that my tastes are very refined.
As I was on my way back, fully armed with a latte, my eye caught sight of something that looked like a set of goal posts. They were situated on a piece of what looked like waste ground on the corner of two roads. The site was shielded by sheets of corrugated iron at one side and by huge advertising hoardings on the other.
I was too intrigued to walk by without attempting a closer look. Sure enough, behind the screening was an old, dilapidated football pitch. The pitch itself was slightly raised, with steps up to it. Apart from the decaying goal posts, the site was all but derelict, a relic to the time before virtual reality games and cable television.
As I walked away, I looked up at the advertising hoardings. Of all the things, they happened to be advertising football on television, under the slogan “Every Goal Counts”. Somehow it seemed deeply ironic that a football pitch that had all the hallmarks of years of neglect should be used as a platform to advertise the apparent importance of the beautiful game.
What the advertising slogan really meant was “Every goal scored by a player in a top league that is covered on television and funded by hundreds of millions of pounds counts”. In other words, it’s the big stage that matters.
When it comes to the mission of the church, we can be fooled by the notion that it is only what happens on the big stage that matters. It is only what the super gifted, the ministry equivalent of premier league players, do that counts. That is simply untrue.
Of course, God does raise up people who bring vision and direction and instruction. The church, both today and throughout its history, has been blessed by such people. However, what really makes the difference where you and I are, is what we do. What we pray. What we say. Churches that give themselves to consistent outreach where they are, are every bit as crucial to the mission of God as churches that are famous throughout the Christian world.
One of the letters to the seven churches was a letter to the church in Philadelphia. The church in Philadelphia had “little strength” but it had been faithful (Revelation 2.8). Yet it is to this church that the Lord promises an open door (v.8), a turn around of their enemies (v.9) and protection during a time of trial for the world (v.10).
Faithfully serving God on the stage of everyday life is right at the heart of the Christian faith. Keeping going, whether we feel what we are doing is significant or not, is of great importance because all our service is significant. It all counts.
Coming back to my Sunday afternoon experience at an abandoned football ground, I couldn’t help but wonder how long football could prosper in more wealthy surroundings without prospering at street corners. Who knows? One thing is certain though, the progress of the mission of the church relies every bit as much on it flourishing at the street corner as on the big stage.