Walter Camp was the inventor of the game of football. He combined elements of soccer and rugby to provide what today might be the number one sport in America.
Football has gone through many changes since the early 1880s. The forward pass and different formations have made the game more interesting and entertaining to both players and fans. The size and physical abilities of athletes have brought new levels of achievement as well.
Though the game has gone through many changes, most coaches would tell you that a winning team is one that takes care of the fundamentals of the game. A winning team will block and tackle with precision. Trick plays and fancy formations may win a few games; but if a team does not take care of the basic fundamentals of the game, they will not be a consistent winner.
We can learn some valuable lessons from football. Without question, the church and the culture in which it serves is confronted with a tidal wave of change that is accelerating at the speed of sound. This change has reached tsunami levels, and in doing so has unsettled the church and caused it to struggle with direction and effectiveness. Church leaders continually chase new ideas, hoping for the one new thing that will be the answer.
I suggest that instead of looking for a trick play, we would be well served to return to the fundamentals of blocking and tackling. Faithfulness to the fundamentals positions us for the blessings of God. While we may learn new techniques, I propose that some of the tried and true methodologies are not out dated but are underutilized.
What are the blocking and tackling fundamentals for a church? I cannot speak for churches of other denominations, but I think I can speak for Baptists. Biblical preaching, strong Sunday Schools and systematic discipleship are at the heart of our churches.
There is no substitute for anointed biblical preaching. Simply preaching sermons is not enough. The people who sit in the pews deserve to hear the truth of God’s Word. While there is room for a variety of styles and approaches, I am convinced the fundamental of Sunday-by-Sunday exposition of the Word adds life and strength to the people over the long haul.
I am afraid we Baptists do not know nearly enough about one of the key ingredients in the Great Commission—disciple making. We tend to make discipleship a matter of materials. I suggest discipleship is a matter of mature Christians spending time with immature believers sharing life and the Word. “Iron sharpens iron” says the book of Proverbs. Discipleship is not about a class, but about sharing life experiences and seeking the truth of God’s Word and its application together. Discipleship is about teaching the fundamentals of the faith.
One of the central truths every disciple needs to learn is stewardship. Our pastors have listened too long to the bleating of the sheep. Yes, when I was a pastor, I heard people complain anytime I preached on tithing. But I did not know our preaching was to be shaped by the opinions of the sheep. I do know this, when a person catches the truth of tithing, it unleashes a pattern of dynamic spiritual growth in him. Discipleship divorced from stewardship has a hole in it.
In a Baptist church—whether cowboy, contemporary or legacy in style—the Sunday School remains the most effective and efficient way to connect people to the church. Through Sunday School, the church is organized for evangelism and ministry. In a recent article, I advocated this position clearly. Our churches are looking for a new trick play when we need to block and tackle—do Sunday School with excellence!
Over the next few years, I intend to lead the staff at the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma to focus our energy on teaching and training our churches in the fundamentals. That does not mean new ideas and approaches are not welcome. They will be the icing on the cake. It does mean we are going to emphasize the things that help us become strong and focus on growth.
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.