Church and Home
one to one: Lessons about life, ministry, and grandkids
by Keith Burden, Executive Secretary, National Association of Free Will Baptists
For the Good of the Team
Some will find this hard to believe, but I ran track as a high school athlete. My football coach convinced me I would be a better running back if I trained and competed as a runner. Sure enough, as my physical conditioning improved my speed increased. Consequently, over time I transitioned from the half-mile run to the quarter-mile.
During my sophomore and junior years my school’s track team program was just getting off the ground. Year one there were only four members. Year two there were a grand total of seven. Due in part to the recruitment efforts of our coach, and the fact that our team became progressively more competitive, there were 15 members my senior year.
Our pre-season goal was ambitious! We set out to qualify as a team for the state track meet…a feat we had never before achieved. Every member of the team accepted that challenge and went about the arduous task of training to accomplish the goal.
In the meantime, I realized my senior year signaled the end of my high school athletic career. Wanting to take advantage of every opportunity to compete, I embarked on an even more ambitious undertaking. I decided I would try to make the high school baseball team, too.
Although I had not played baseball since little league, I was convinced I could somehow manage to juggle my schedule and successfully participate in two sports whose seasons ran concurrently. I purchased some cleats, a fielder’s glove and started batting practice. It was a grueling process, but I was determined to make it work.
The baseball coach, who happened to be my biology teacher, asked me to remain after class one day for a visit. When we were alone he began by commending me for my desire to be a two-sport athlete. He admitted he would like for me to be a member of the baseball team.
He confessed, however, that the prospects of the baseball team making it to the playoffs were unlikely. He said he believed the chances of our track team making it to state were much better, and he advised me to focus all my efforts on running track rather than playing baseball. He encouraged me to do it for the good of the track team.
I followed the coach’s advice. I hung up the baseball cleats and laced up the track spikes instead. Over the next several weeks I was fortunate enough to win some individual medals and our team accumulated a number of trophies. At season’s end we qualified for the state track meet and managed to finish third overall in our division.
The Lord used that experience to teach me some important lessons about ministry. Stay focused. Heed Paul’s admonition in Philippians 3—“this one thing I do…I press toward the mark.” You need to identify, develop, and concentrate on your strengths (i.e. spiritual gifts). Don’t attempt to be a sprinter if you are a long distance runner. If you set lofty goals, make sure you are willing to put in the hard work to achieve them. Perhaps it is most important to remember that it’s not about you.
Put the good of the team (church) ahead of your own interests. In the end you can say with the apostle, “I have finished the course…henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
About the Column
One to One is a regular feature of ONE Magazine. Written by Keith Burden, executive secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, the column explores life, ministry...and the joys of grandchildren.