Last week, my son Drew and I got the opportunity to tour the Joe Craft Center at the University of Kentucky. The Craft Center is the state-of-the-art basketball practice facility used by the UK Wildcats, so for lifelong fans who bleed blue from October to April, this was a rare behind-the-scenes treat.
The $30 million facility, 100,000 square foot facility is impressive. Connected to Memorial Coliseum, there are offices, weight rooms, sports medicine treatment areas, locker rooms, and more. The meeting rooms have the latest in smart technology like projection systems and even a Telestrator for game film study. Both men’s and women’s basketball programs are housed there, as well as Olympic sports like volleyball, gymnastics, golf, track and field and rifle. There are identical practice gyms for the basketball teams that are, “roughly 40% bigger than new practice facilities at Florida, Arkansas and Michigan State.” (You know we are always recruiting!!). The gym floors are specially designed to reduce wear and tear on joints and muscles, and they spent $400K on a hydrotherapy treadmill, whatever that is. And everywhere you look, there is that wonderfully bright Kentucky blue.
Like I said: impressive.
But none of those things are what stayed with me from our little tour. It was another goal of the construction: “to capture the history and tradition of UK basketball in a contemporary setting.” Everywhere you looked, especially in the men’s basketball side, there was a reminder of the championship tradition of this program. Within 20 feet of the front door is a large trophy case with the seven NCAA national championship trophies. Team members walk by that every day. The hallway leading to the gym is marked by huge photos of each championship team from the 1948, ’49, ’51, and ’58 teams with Coach Rupp to 1978 with Coach Hall to 1996 with Coach Pitino to 1998 with Coach Smith. One wall of the practice facility is covered by large banners for each championship year – with one empty spot for the next one. The idea of that current players are expected to respect and be aware of such a grand heritage is unmistakable.
But then, there is the vision and work necessary to reach the next championship. The men’s team meeting room has the following words on the walls: selfless, hard work, enthusiasm, focus, championships-and together. The locker room is circular and has a Scripture verse around the ceiling: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another -Prov.27:17”. Again, the message is unmistakable-it will take each member of the team doing their part to win.
Almost immediately, I began to think how this applies to our local church ministries. Every Lord’s Day, we may walk into a worship center that has a large, empty cross as the focal point for the room. What a great reminder of the victory Jesus won over sin, death and hell through His cross and resurrection. “You who were dead in your trespasses…God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame by triumphing over them in it….God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for death to keep its hold on Him….” (Col. 2:13-15, Acts 2:24)
We are not mere observers of this victory, who can scream because our team won. We enjoy the fruits of that victory in real and concrete ways: “O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15;55-57) Did you catch that? He “gives us the victory”! He did all the work, bore all the pain, made all the sacrifice-and we get the victory! What grace! And it doesn’t have to be won over and over and over again. No-Jesus “appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself….we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Heb.9:26;10:10)
So, we who know Jesus have a remarkable heritage of victory in the ultimate matters of life.
But now, we are part of the team that is spreading Jesus’ name, renown, victory and good news offer of salvation to every person on earth. That team is the church, those “called-out ones” who orient their lives around Jesus and live out His purposes in the world. We are to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt.28:19), “proclaim repentance and forgiveness in His name to all nations” (Luke 24:47) and be His “witnesses” from where we are “to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
There are a lot of things to be said about that mission, but just one thing jumps out at me. That is a BHAG if I ever heard one. ( a big, hairy audacious goal). And there’s no way that just a few of us can get it done. It’s going to take every one who follows Christ to do their part to make the mission come alive.
And being part of the team requires certain choices as we relate to Jesus, to each other and to the world. Maybe it would help our church to put these things on a wall somewhere:
+ selfless -do everything to spread Jesus’ glory and love others.
+ hard work-faithfully use your gifts and stay at the task all the time.
+ enthusiasm -find your greatest joy in Jesus and His purposes.
+ focus-keep your eyes on Jesus and His gospel
+ championships– No matter what it looks liked now, Jesus wins! And we get to party for eternity!
+ together – we walk this life hand in hand, and our heart is to have as many people with us as possible when we walk through the gate at Home.
That’s a heritage worth celebrating-and a vision worth giving every second of our lives, every ounce of our energy, down to our last breath to see fulfilled.