Scoring an own goal is the worst way to lose a soccer match. What’s an own goal? It’s when players kick the ball into their own net. Most times, it’s a matter of miscommunication or simply an accident, but it’s always embarrassing.
One Team, One Mission
By Manuel A. Gomez
It’s when players kick the ball into their own net. Most times, it’s a matter of miscommunication or simply an accident, but it’s always embarrassing.
are moments of extreme confusion when these players forget to work as a team, and the results can be catastrophic. You see, a player scoring an own goal—especially during a championship game—could cost the team everything.
The church is, in many ways, similar to a team with one mission: “To take the gospel to the world.” Each one of us plays a significant role in the accomplishment of this mission. Whether it is defense, offense, or goalkeeping, we are all equally important. The apostle Paul seems to agree. He wrote, “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Rom. 12:4, 5).1
Just as on a soccer team, every player is important. But dangerous things happen when we take our eyes away from our goal and focus upon less important things. It becomes easy to forget for whom we are playing, giving our adversary an advantage, and even scoring in our own goal.
Every soccer player knows that in order to win it is necessary to score. Scoring is important! That’s the mission of the team. What does scoring look like for the church? What is our mission?
Many books have been written about the church’s mission, but Ellen White said it best: “The church is God’s appointed agency for the salvation of men. It was organized for service, and its mission is to carry the gospel to the world. . . . The members of the church, those whom He has called out of darkness into His marvelous light, are to show forth His glory.”2
We, as the church, are the channel that God chose to show His character to the world. Our aim is to show God’s glory to a world in crisis, so that its inhabitants can accept Him as their Savior. This is the most important mission any human being or institution has ever had. It really is a matter of life and death.
It is humbling to think that the Creator of the universe trusts such an apparently incompetent group of people with such an important task. We have all read books or seen movies in which heroes save the world from some sort of catastrophe that would cause total destruction. It turns out that we all are those heroes. The world is indeed at the brink of total destruction, and our Savior appointed us as the means to bring hope to the hopeless by serving them and showing them the height and depth of their Savior’s love.
There are usually 14 to 18 players on a soccer team. Out of those, only 11 are allowed to play on the field at a time. It’s amazing to think that our church has more than 17 million worldwide members, and unlike soccer there is no limit to how many can actively work to achieve the goal. As a matter of fact, each one of us is called to contribute to the completion of our (and God’s) mission as one team.
One of the unique characteristics of being a Seventh-day Adventist is that we are a global church. Only a few denominations today can claim such a blessing. Unfortunately, despite our global reach, we often forget the importance of staying united as a world church with a clearly defined purpose. Ellen White writes, “The proclamation of the gospel was to be worldwide in its extent, and the messengers of the cross could not hope to fulfill their important mission unless they should remain united in the bonds of Christian unity, and thus reveal to the world that they were one with Christ in God.”3 This same unity must bind us together as a worldwide movement in order to finish the task that the Lord has entrusted to us.
Because soccer is a sport with a huge international attraction, teams tend to be very diverse. There are players with different skin tones, different languages, different hairstyles, and different skill sets. One could say that they have very little in common. Yet their differences often make them more effective.
As important as unity among God’s people is, it is also important not to mistake it with uniformity. Unity is deeper and stronger than uniformity. While unity keeps us tightly knit together regardless of surface differences in how we sound, look, act, or speak, uniformity focuses on superficial norms often imposed by different cultures or socio-economic backgrounds. At times we confuse unity with uniformity and spend more energy and resources in keeping the world church uniformed than we do in keeping it united.
Jesus gave us a clear mission that involves making disciples of “all nations” (Matt. 28:19). This includes individuals from “every nation, tribe, language, and people” (Rev. 14:6). It is overwhelming to think of how culturally diverse the world is. Yet God’s remnant is called to share the good news with everyone on the globe. In order to complete this incredible challenge entrusted to us by our Creator, diversity is as important as unity. In order to reach every nation, tribe, and language, we must remain united in our principles, but diverse in our approach. We are called to unity, not to uniformity.
Running Out of Time
When a soccer match ends in a tie or without a single goal, the match is forced into overtime. This is when each team plays the hardest, without fear, taking risks to achieve victory. But more than ever, this is when they must play united, fully trusting one another and staying focused on the goal.
It seems to me that we too are in overtime. This world will soon come to an end, and we can’t afford to be chasing each other while the world drives itself to eternal destruction. Now is the time to remember that we are one team, with different players, united by one mission and one goal: “The gospel to all nations.”
1 All Scripture quotations in this article are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright ? 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
2 Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), p. 9.
3 Ibid., p. 90.
Manuel A. Gomez, originally from Cuba, is a recent graduate of Southern Adventist University. He is currently completing his Master of Divinity, with an emphasis on
leadership, at Andrews University.
Unity In the Body Of Christ
The church is one body with many members, called from every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. In Christ we are a new creation; distinctions of race, culture, learning, and nationality, and differences between high and low, rich and poor, male and female, must not be divisive among us. We are all equal in Christ, who by one Spirit has bonded us into one fellowship with Him and with one another; we are to serve and be served without partiality or reservation. Through the revelation of Jesus Christ in the Scriptures we share the same faith and hope, and reach out in one witness to all. This unity has its source in the oneness of the triune God, who has adopted us as His children. (Rom. 12:4, 5; 1 Cor. 12:12-14; Matt. 28:19, 20; Ps. 133:1; 2 Cor. 5:16, 17; Acts 17:26, 27; Gal. 3:27, 29; Col. 3:10-15; Eph. 4:14-16; 4:1-6; John 17:20-23.)