Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, was famous for telling his players, “This is a football” as he held one in front of them each year at the team’s first practice. He would then march them out to the field and say things like, “This is a yard marker” and “This is the end zone.” He wanted his players to know the basics, and to remember that football isn’t rocket science…it’s about moving a ball down the field until it crosses the end zone. If Lombardi was running your small group Bible study ministry, what would he tell your people? Based on 2 Timothy 2:1-2, he’d tell them to focus on 3 key things:
1. Focus on starting new groups by multiplying leaders (2 Timothy 2:1-2). Multiplication is a theme in Scripture (Genedis 1:22, 1:28, Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 2:42, Acts 13:1-3). Too many churches have forgotten this basic principle! Groups stagnate when they don’t replicate. Paul told Timothy to multiply the number of leaders who would guide people through Scripture, teaching them the same things that Paul and entrusted to Timothy. Those new leaders would start new groups and reach new people with the gospel message. Today, we might call it “franchising.” It’s the idea of extending your reach by opening new points of entry.
2. Focus on pleasing Jesus (2 Timothy 2:3-7). Paul mentioned 3 kinds of people that had to work hard, stay focused, and exercise great discipline. The soldier, the athlete, and the farmer all had things in common. Vince Lombardi once said, “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.” To update that into Sunday School or small-group language, we might say, “Groups work if you work groups.” Group leaders must be focused on pleasing the Lord, and they can please Him through their careful study and preparation, the degree to which they care for members of their group, their passion for sharing the gospel, and for the way they “provoke others to love and good works.” Group leaders should always remember that they should not strive to please their group members, but should please the One who is the focus of their group.
3. Focus on making evangelism a priority (2 Timothy 2:8-10). It was reported in the book Transformational Discipleship that a Canadian by the name of Kyle McDonald used Craig’s List to make an incredible exchange. Although he did not have much money, Kyle wanted a house. He placed a red paperclip on Craig’s List and asked, “What would you trade me for this?” You might be thinking that you wouldn’t have given him anything, but a lady offered to trade him a fish pen for it. He then posted the fish pen and asked the same question, “What would you give me for this pen?” Someone gave him a doorknob! He posted the doorknob and someone exchanged a camping stove. Kyle posted the camping stove and someone else exchanged a generator for it. The generator was exchanged for a neon sign. The neon sign was exchanged for a series of 14 other things, all the way up to an acting job. Kyle posted the acting job on Craig’s List and yes, you guessed it, someone who wanted to be famous and who loved the limelight exchanged a house for that acting job!
What’s the point? As group leaders, we must constantly be thinking that we have a story to tell about “a great exchange.” It’s even bigger and better than Kyle McDonald’s exchange! It’s the story of a man who left everything behind in order to live among us, live perfectly, die as an innocent man, then be resurrected never to die again…and He offers to exchange our sin for His righteousness. What a great exchange!
What would Lombardi say to us today if he were here? He’d say “This is a Bible study group” and he’d make sure we stayed focused on 3 things:
1. Multiplying leaders and starting groups
2. Pleasing Jesus
Lombardi knew that success would come when simplicity reigned. Just remember his words about staying focused: “Some people try to find things in the game that don’t exist, but football is only two things – blocking and tackling.”