GET IN THE GAME
July 9, 2000
During my freshman season at Florida State University, Greg Collinsworth and I did not play that much. In fact, there was a fifteen-game stretch where we didn’t see any time at all. We used to play cruel jokes on each other. Greg would imitate the coach’s voice now and then, and he would say, “Ed, get in the game!” I would stand up, getting ready to take my warm-ups off, and then he would laugh like, “Come on, Ed, you bit again. Coach Williams wasn’t asking you to get into the game.”
It was boring, and pretty bad, sitting on the bench for that long. I’ll never forget what happened. We were preparing to play the University of Kentucky during the semi-finals of the Mid-East Regional Basketball Championship, a nationally televised game, and I knew down deep I would not play. But I thought maybe, just maybe, if a couple guys got hurt, or if the intestinal flu ravaged the team, then I might see some action.
So prior to the game, I had my ankles taped and put the uniform on.
While I was snapping my warm-ups over my uniform, I happened to look around the locker room and see my teammates in various stages of dress. To my shock and amazement, Greg Collinsworth, my bench-sitting roommate, was not snapping his warm-ups on over his uniform. He was putting them on over his boxer shorts. I walked up to him and I said, “Greg, what are you thinking? What if Coach Williams asks you to get into the game?” He just smiled in a kind of evil-looking manner as we headed out the tunnel and hit the court before 17,000 screaming fans and went through warm-ups.
To the average fan, Greg looked like the rest of us: sporting his custom-made Florida State University warm-ups, garnet and gold, with the Nike shoes. Everything from the outside looked good, but in reality Greg was not ready to get into the game. He had his boxers on. He was just going through the motions.
As the teams gathered around mid-court for the opening tip-off, I was praying, “Lord, I hope that Coach Williams does not ask Greg to get into the game.” I said, “This could be humiliating, embarrassing for the entire university. It would be a horrible thing, and on national television. “There’s a player, a forward, in his boxer shorts trying to play.” It would be sad.”
I want to ask you a similar question because in a real way, God is looking at your life, and He’s looking at my life. He’s saying, “Get in the game.” Do you have your warm-ups on over your uniform? Are your ankles taped? Are you ready to go, or are you like my friend Greg? You look the part, but you’ve got your warm-ups on over your boxers.
Fellowship Church has put together some incredible seasons. We’ve had a staggering ten-year run. Why? Well, to put it bluntly, God has tapped a bunch of believers collectively on the shoulder, and these believers over the years have stepped up and used their skill sets to play on God’s team, in His arena, the local church. They discovered there’s nothing like doing God’s work His way for His purposes.
From the beginning, we’ve had a very simple statement, a very basic game plan, a strategy. We exist to reach up, to reach out, and to reach in. Yeah, that sounds pretty cute. You might say to yourself, “Did you just grab that out of the sky? Up, out, in. Well, that’s cool. That should be the purpose of Fellowship!” No. It comes from the Bible.
Reaching up is worship, expressing love to God. They asked Jesus one day what the net effect was of all he was talking about, what the bottom line of his ministry was. He said these words in Matthew 22:37, “You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” That’s a pretty good definition of worship, isn’t it? Loving the Lord with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your mind. We’re doing a great job of this. Nearly 11,000 people showing up for weekend worship services; about 3,000 attend our Wednesday night First Wednesday celebration. I’m staggered by what we’re doing in the worship piece of our mission statement.
Reaching out is evangelism. Evangelism means connecting others with Christ. Jesus said this statement right before he ascended to the Father. Matthew 28:19, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Over the last nine months, we’ve baptized 1,063 people. Over 75% of these individuals are adults. In our surveys that we’ve conducted here over the last two years of those who’ve joined our church, we found that 98% of the people who attend Fellowship and end up placing formal membership here attended because someone invited them. I want to say, “Great job.” We are doing well with the worship piece, the reaching up piece. We are also doing well with the reaching out piece. We’re connecting others with Christ.
Also, we’re to reach in. That’s discipleship. Discipleship means to have Christ fully formed in your life. It means—to stay with this metaphor—becoming a full-court follower of the Lord. Jesus continued His Great Commission when he said in Matthew 28:20, “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” I took a step back over the last several weeks and thought, “We have 2,100 adults attending our small group ministry, our Home Teams, twice a month. We’ve got 1,500 more going to Connection Classes, and 1,000 more showing up to the Tuesday Power Source ministry meetings.” We’re doing an excellent job, a very good job, at reaching in. We’ve got the front half of the Great Commission equation, which is evangelism, and we’ve got the second half of the Great Commission equation, which is discipleship. We’re worshipping. Our church is doing great things.
In this robust economy, people are making a lot of money. There are more millionaires walking around these days than ever before. It’s sort of the American Dream these days to make a pile of money, to buy a place at the shore or in the mountains, and just live off your interest. You know, just chill. If you can do that, let me applaud you. Good for you. I mean, that’s great.
One would think you can transfer that ideology to the local church, especially a church like Fellowship. One would think you can say, “Hey, Fellowship Church, from 150 to about 11,000 in ten years? Man, just chill. Just live off the interest. Just put it in autopilot. Just relax. Just put your warm-ups on over your boxers and go through the motions, because we’ve got this momentum thing going. We can just sit back on the decks of this ship and work on our spiritual tans.
But in God’s economy, that math doesn’t work. In God’s economy, there’s not a time to sit on the decks and work on your spiritual tan when you have tens of thousands of people drowning around you and going to hell. Auto-piloting and cruise-controlling is not in the Bible. We’re to always seek to get outside of ourselves, to learn and to grow and to develop who we are.
Lisa and I lead a Home Team. During our last Home Team session, a friend of mine turned to me and asked me a great question. He said, “Ed, what is the secret of Fellowship?” I said, “Let me answer this way.” There were four couples in this person’s house. I said, “Wouldn’t it be easy for all of us to say, “Hey, let’s just us-four-and-no-more this deal. Let’s just make this our holy huddle, our little group, our little clique, for a long, long time.” That would be pretty good, wouldn’t it?” And we all said, “Yes.” I said, “It would be really good for me. It would take a lot of stress off me and I could just relax and autopilot and cruise-control it, and put my warm-ups on over my boxers and go through the motions. It would be a good thing.”
But I said, “You know, the Bible says we are to huddle up, but we’re not to live in the huddle. We’re to break from the huddle and to go out and to score touchdowns, shoot three-pointers, knock triples and doubles and home runs. We’re to get out there and play. We’re to do the stuff. We’re to reach in while we’re reaching out.”
I said, “The secret of Fellowship Church is simply this: we have a huge level of spiritual maturity at Fellowship. Fellowship Church is the most spiritually mature church I have ever seen in my life anywhere, bar none.”
Let me say this, too. Spiritual maturity is one of the most misunderstood concepts in Christianity. Here’s how to define spiritual maturity. Think about your children, if you have children. When they’re small, when they’re tiny, they’re very selfish. They think about themselves, for the most part. As they grow and mature, they begin to think about others.
Take a married man like me. I’m 39 years of age. Lisa and I have been married 18 years. I’m best at my marriage when I’m thinking not about Ed’s needs, not about what makes Ed look good or feel good, when I’m thinking about whose needs? Lisa’s needs. That’s when my marriage is at its best.
Take planning a family vacation. What’s the most mature thing for me to do: to plan the family vacation around the needs of our four children and Lisa, or to say, “Hey, kids, we’re going to go to a mosquito-infested swamp and bass-fish for two weeks.” What’s the most mature thing? I turned to my friend at the small group, and I said, “Hey, we have a hunk of spiritually mature people who plan ministry and programs not only for people who are already at Fellowship Church, but also who plan ministry for those people who haven’t shown up yet!” Did you get that? We have people who plan this church not only for those of us who are here, but also for people who haven’t shown up yet. If we hadn’t planned this deal for those who had not shown up yet, most of you would not be here. Over the last two years, we’ve doubled in size. We moved into this place running 5,000, now we’re at about 11,000. Spiritual maturity.
Jesus said it as he looked into the eyes of Simon Peter in Matthew 18:13. He said, “I will build my church.” With 1,500 volunteers working at specific tasks every weekend, I think we’ve caught the vision. I think we’re building God’s church.
The secret of Fellowship is that we want people to come to Christ. That’s it. It’s evangelism. We will always keep the fires of evangelism white-hot around here. I’m talking about that desire to move the unchurched into the churched. Those people who have no game, to allow them to get in the game. Those people who have no direction, to give them direction. We’ve got to keep those fires white-hot, because if a church is allowed to run its natural course—just like if a company is allowed to run its natural course—it always turns inward. Spiritual maturity is moving from focusing on our navels to the needs of others. It’s more about seeking and getting outside of ourselves than it is about selfishness and soaking. It’s more about compassion than it is about compiling all this data.
One day the Lord said some radical words to a couple of His followers. He said, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” That’s the foundation of Fellowship. We have a bunch of people who have a fishers-of-men mentality. When you fish, you’ve got to think like a fish. You’ve got to get slimy, a little bit dirty. You’ve got to get into their world. It takes a lot of sacrifice to go fishing. We’re to be fishers of men.
Sadly, though, the church has not become—for the most part—fishers-of-men-driven churches. The church has become—not ours, but many— keepers of the aquarium. We don’t worry about people going to hell. We don’t worry about people outside the family of God. I’m talking about other churches. We are keepers of the aquarium. We worry about our little aquarium, our little deal, our little fish, our little plant, our little city, and then, if you are an aquarium-minded Christian, you have to rely on an outside source to feed you. You want to get fed? “I’m not getting fed.” You want to get fed? I’ll feed you. I’ll feed you. The size of the tank determines the size of the fish. We’re not here, ladies and gentlemen, to be an aquarium church. If you want an aquarium church, there’s about a hundred of them within a ten-mile radius. Leave this one and jump into that aquarium, because you’ll provide room for others who want to grow and to become a Biblically-functioning, New-Testament church.
I ask you, what if I took this aquarium, put it on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, and said, “Wow, look at all the fish we have in our aquarium.” And I just turned my back on those billions and billions of fish out there in the Gulf. “Look at our aquarium. Wow.” There’s a sick fish over there, a fish who’s dying over there, a shark over there, but, “No, I’m not going to catch those. I’m not going to fish for those because we’ve got a nice, neat little place. We know everybody; know all the fish, and us-four-no-more.” A holy huddle. An aquarium mentality.
Conversely, a fish in a reservoir, a fish in the ocean, what do they do? They learn to feed themselves—another mark of spiritual maturity. I don’t want my kids to have to be responsible for me to feed them for the rest of their lives. They’ve got to grow and learn how to feed themselves. It’s all about that; it’s all about keeping the fires of evangelism white-hot. If you want to disciple people, you’ve got to pump the church full of freshly redeemed souls, freshly caught fish. If you want to deepen people’s walk, if you want to teach them how to worship, you’ve got to pump the church full of freshly redeemed lives.
Reaching up, reaching out, and reaching in. Well, let me throttle back a little bit and talk to you about the future of Fellowship. Jesus, from His ascension until one day, His glorious return, has been doing one thing: He has been about the business of building local churches around the world. The church was His passion. The church took the lion’s share of His time. He was all about the church, and He invites you, and He invites me, to be a part of this adventure. We can join Him in doing what He has been doing for 2,000 years. What a privilege, what an opportunity. Is there anything in the world better than that? Is there? What’s better than giving your life and your talents and your resources to that entity which Jesus gave His life for?
The book of Acts talks about the history of the church. Once the ink dried on that book, great men and women of God have been praying for prevailing churches, praying for Acts 2-type churches. Many of the great men and women of God went to their graves without ever seeing a church draw 11,000 people over a weekend. Many great saints went to their graves without seeing 1,063 people baptized over nine months. Many great men and women of God went to their graves without seeing 2,100 adults involved in small groups, 1,500 involved in connection classes, 1,000 more involved in Tuesday night Bible study. They went to their graves without seeing it!
We can never, ever become lax on this one. We can never become flippant, or just casual, or just, “Oh, really? This is just the way it happens,” because it doesn’t happen this much. I can’t explain it. God in His grace has done it. He has anointed it. He is all over this fellowship.
Some of us don’t realize how hot it is here at Fellowship, how great it is. I have the privilege now and then of going across the country and talking to church leaders. All I’ve got to do is step outside the Fellowship Church for a while and rub shoulders with other leaders and other laypeople in other churches, and I go, “Thank you, God. What an incredible place! What a staggering thing you’ve done, and are doing, here at our church.”
Just like yesterday. I was outside for three or four hours with the kids. It was boiling hot, I’m talking about Africa-hot. I didn’t realize how hot it was until I stepped inside our house and felt—whoosh—the air conditioning. Often the same is true here. If we’re going to be God’s church—because God has not told us to stop, God has not told us and said, “Okay, your aquarium is big enough”—if we’re going to be a reservoir church, a Gulf of Mexico church, we’ve got to expand. Expansion is all about directions. If we’re going to get in the game and really play, it’s all about directions.
North. This winter we’re going to break ground on a facility going north. We call it the Creative Communication Center. Ask leaders in this church, “Hey, what is the main thing you need to build a great ministry?” and they’ll say this: “Classroom space.” We are building huge classrooms going north for adults, for training, for teaching, for connection classes, for All-Star classes. You name it, they’ll be there.
Children’s Churches meet right now in concert with adult services. You’ve got to see it. They’re hanging from the rafters, literally. After their big group time they break up into small units, small communities. We have no place for them to break up. They’re in small groups down these halls, in the atrium, everywhere. We’re going to build Children’s Church rooms and breakout rooms for our little ones, because if a child does not come to Christ, once they hit their teenage years the chances of them becoming a Christian in this messed up world go drastically, drastically down.
We have thousands of singles at Fellowship. About 45% of our church is made up of single adults. Isn’t that great? I love that, because that mirrors the demographic of our area. You put thousands of singles together, and you’ve got relationships. With relationships, you’ve got what? Romance. With romance you’ve got engagements. With engagements you’ve got weddings. We’re going to build, within this north expansion, a 600-seat chapel.
The ministers at Fellowship are tired of driving to do weddings. Those who’ve gotten married say, “Man, why can’t we get married at Fellowship?” Well, there’s no room. This thing’s taken on the weekends, unless you want to have about 100 people in a 4,100-seat room. “I now pronounce you-oo-oo-oo husband and wife-ife-ife-ife.” We could have special services over there, prayer meetings over there, funerals over there. That’s north.
We’re also going south. I hear rumors, now and then, from our friends at the Grapevine police department, rumors from our police crew, that we have traffic problems now and then. I hear there’s kind of a backup now and then. Well, we are going to build a giant road. In fact, this road will be the most important road ever constructed in the history of the world. It will go south connecting Bass Pro to our campus. This will be a great thing. In and out quickly. That’s south.
East is another direction we’re going. We are going to triple the size, possibly quadruple the size, of our atrium. You’re saying to yourself, “Well, man, why?” The church is to be a family. We’re a big family with no family room. We don’t have a place for community. You go into the lobby, the atrium area, before and after a service? It’s SRO: Standing Room Only. It’s also SOS: Scoot Over Some, isn’t it? This area we’re going to build will have couches and tables. It will have a place where we can cater food before and after services. It will be a place for community, because if we are not a social church, we’re not a New Testament church. The New Testament church was a church—read it in the book of Acts—
that met together from house to house and experienced community with one another. North, south, east, and west.
In a couple of weeks we’re moving into the Apex facility. We’ve added another floor in the Apex facility just for some office space needs. We have two, three, sometimes four staff members in one little cubicle. We have a scandalous level of overcrowding in our church. Also, we don’t have a place for our students. We are constructing over there—and I can’t wait until you see it – the ultimate in student-driven ministry facilities. Rock-climbing walls. Basketball cages. A theatre that will seat 1,000 people. Video rooms. It’s going to be a place of ministry for our students. And that’s pretty much done. We pretty much paid in cash for that, which I think is awesome.
Now, some of you, I can see you kind of thinking, “Now, hmm, well, let’s see,” and you’re wondering, “Oh, man, Ed, what’s the bottom line? How much is this puppy going to cost?” Well, I’m glad you asked. About 17 to 19 million, that’s all. 17 to 19 million. And, you know, we don’t have Bill Gates or Mark Cuban out there waiting to write big checks. Now, Bill, Mark, if you’re here, come down front after the service, I’ll be happy to talk to you. But we don’t have anybody writing checks like that. For this thing to occur, it’s going to have to be a God deal.
You know what? I’ve seen a lot of God deals here at Fellowship. 150 people starting in an office complex with a dream and a vision to reach others for God; look what’s happened. A church of 1,000 at the time buying 159 acres of land, then selling 22 of the 159 to pay for the whole thing? A church who in three years has built, what, 28 million dollars’ worth of facilities, and we only owe about 7.9 million dollars? God deals.
We have the capacity, right now, in this room, to pay cash for this whole new deal. We’ve all been blessed. If we just gave, we could pay for it right here in this service. So the resources are there; it’s just a matter of you and me before God.
To bring it home, let’s think about the directions again. I want you to think about north. That’s your connection with the Lord Himself. Over the next several months I’m going to challenge you, and we’re going to show you some ways to do this, to really pray about your life. To pray about what God wants you to do. Not only with your resources at Fellowship, but also with your life. Yeah, we think you should step up and give. But also, are you giving in ministry, or are you just warming up like Greg did, with your warm-ups over your boxers? We want you to get into the game.
Friends, the New Testament does not have language for people who just showed up at church and were not involved. They’re not even talked about. It’s a given. So pray. It’s a north thing. “God, what do you want me to do?” Pray for your neighbors who don’t know Christ. Pray that you will build relationships with them, share a verbal witness with them, and invite them to Fellowship. Pray for that. That’s north.
South is your heart. It’s a heart deal. Jesus said it in Matthew 6:21: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” It’s the treasure test. Look at my checkbook and you can tell where my heart is. The same is true with you. We’re going to make two-year commitments this fall towards this giving campaign. Once we have the commitments, then we’ll know whether we go north and south, or just do north, or maybe we do north, south and east. I don’t know. It’s a God deal. But this is where we’re going.
East. We need to leave the east and go west, because the sun always sets in the west. We’ve got to follow the Son—I’m talking about S-O-N. We’ve got to say, “You know, I’m not going to remain stagnant any more. I’m not going to rely on what has brought me to this point spiritually any more. I’m going to go on with God, and I’m going to team up and hook up with that entity which Jesus deemed as the most important thing in his life.” That’s where we’re going.
People think, “Well, man, Fellowship Church is big.” Shoot. We aren’t big. Big? We’re not big. Think of the millions and millions of people out there right now who aren’t going to church this weekend. This isn’t a big church. We’re doing okay. But we’re not trying to be the biggest church or the best church—just simply God’s church. And until God tells us, “Hey, you can go ahead and put the aquarium and room and just shut it down,” that’s when we’ll shut it down. But you know what? That verbiage is not mentioned in the Bible.
I ask you, when you see a child apply a Biblical truth learned in Children’s Church into their life situation, if that really fires you up, then get in the game. If seeing a freshly redeemed adult enter the waters of New Testament baptism, if that really does it for you, get in the game. If seeing someone move from being unchurched to churched, or someone who was directionless move to a real focus, if that really says “wow” to you, get in the game. If and when you get to the end of your one and only life, and you want to hear Jesus say, “Hey, you gave your life and your resources to that entity which was most near and dear to my heart, the local church,” if that does it for you, get in the game.
Now, I kind of left you hanging with the first story. You’re probably wondering, “Ed, did coach Joe Williams ever ask Greg to come into the game? I mean, he had his boxers on. What happened?” Well, he never asked Greg to get into the game. Greg and I rode the pine for another contest. However, God is asking all of us to get into the game. He’s asking me and he’s asking you. The question is what’s on the inside? What’s underneath? Your uniform or boxers? Your uniform or boxers?