DOWN HOME: Sage advice from a pigskin prophet

down home

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A friend of mine wrote “embarrassing win” on her Facebook wall. We all knew what she meant.

The Dallas Cowboys—Arlington’s Team—eked out a “W” over the hapless and near-hopeless Kansas City Chiefs. And it took the ’Boys all the way to overtime to pull it off.

For almost as long as the majority of the world’s population alive today can remember, our warriors in silver-and-blue have excelled at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Oh, you always think, “This year, things will be different.” That’s because the latest herd of Cowboys always is abundantly talented. They’re rich, and many of them are famous. Their new stadium is the fanciest and most expensive sports venue in the solar system.

But they’re just plain ol’ mediocre.

I’ve been asking myself why this outfit with so many terrific players performs so poorly and can disappoint us even when they win.

If the Dallas Cowboys had been around during Bible times, a prophet wearing sackcloth, with straw in his hair and ashes smeared on his face, would have shown up at the Cowboys’ headquarters in Valley Ranch. Or maybe he would have stepped out of the shadows into the driveway as Jerry Jones pulled up to his mansion.

The pigskin prophet would sound a lot like the prophets who tried to put the fear of the Lord into the kings of Israel and Judah. He’d talk about how they seem to have lost their first love—the sheer passion for playing the game.

But I think he’d focus on how this Cowboys outfit—particularly the owner and the players—are a collection of individuals, not a team. And that’s why they’re in the middle of the pack, and fans doubt the Cowboys will even compete in a playoff game, much less win one.

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Not long ago, I read some words from one of the 20th century’s greatest coaches, Paul “Bear” Bryant, who led the University of Alabama to championship after championship. He talked about the vital necessity of molding his players into a cohesive unit, whose focus is singular and whose hearts beat as one. I couldn’t find that quote again, but here’s another one from a website called

“People who are in it for their own good are individualists. They don’t share the same heartbeat that makes a team so great. A great unit, whether it be football or any organization, shares the same heartbeat.”

So, why am I telling you all this? Because I’ve seen that same spirit of individualism infect our churches and our convention. People talk more about “I” than “we.” Preachers focus on “you” instead of “us.”

For 400 years, Baptists have championed the priesthood of all believers. We’re not free agents. We live and discern and function best in community. Our hearts must beat with Christ’s—and with one another’s.


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