Like many of you, I grew up playing sports. I played some of the typical ones that you did too. Things like football, basketball, and baseball. I played a myriad of other things as well, like lacrosse and golf. However, the two sports when I was growing up that had cheerleaders were football and basketball. These two sports brought an electricity to them, especially on a Friday night, under lights, in a stadium. There were big plays, punishing hits, game-winning scores, and who could forget the tunnel you ran out of into a large piece of butcher paper that had been hand-painted by our lovely pom-pom-toting cheerleaders. They were usually standing in a huge line facing each other. At the end of that line were girls on both ends of the paper that had another girl on their shoulders and they were holding the paper that we would run through. I can almost smell the air and see the lights as I write this.
We would come barreling down that tunnel, break through the paper, and the place would go crazy. Pom-Poms were being waved, cowbells from the stands were being rung, and we were set for our pubescent, testosterone-filled war on the battlefield of grass and dirt. Once we put on those pads, clicked our chin-straps to our helmets, and set foot on that battleground, it was sixty minutes of brutal beating and men being…well…boys hitting each other. Once the whistle blew, it was time to battle to the end. Most nights that meant victory. Some nights it meant defeat. Either way though, we knew we had battled hard and lived to
brag tell about it.
One of the things I remember a lot from my years of Salvation Army football all the way up to high school football were the cheerleaders. Now don’t be weird, it is not for the reasons you are thinking. I can remember them for always being there. They were always rooting for and cheering us on, win or lose. I can still hear, “Be AGGRESSIVE…B…E…AGGRESSIVE…B.E.A.G.G.R.E.S.S.I.V.E!!!” It is because of that very cheer that to this day I can spell the word aggressive without fail. You know why? Because I sing that stupid cheer every time that word needs writing. They were megaphones of spirit for our battle. The one place I remember them not being is when we took long road trips. We would get off the bus and enter enemy territory. There were no tunnels to run down. There was no paper to run through. There were no pom-poms being waved in our faces or on the track behind us as we battled. Funny thing was that once we were on the field it did not matter. We were for each other. We were pumping each other up. We understood each other because we were all getting hit by the same guys. We blocked for each other. We protected each other. When push came to shove, the pom-poms and paper were nice, but when we were in battle all that mattered was that we were all fighting the same enemy.
“When we were in the battle all that mattered was that we were all fighting the same enemy.”Click to tweet
Now don’t get me wrong, our cheerleaders worked hard. They got hurt training. They sprained ankles, broke arms, and blew out knees. To say that they are not athletes is not true. But what is true, is that they never took a hit from the opponent. They never got hit by a guy with pads, a helmet, and a vendetta to rip your head off your body. Sure, occasionally a guy would fly out of bounds and take a cheerleader out from behind, but that was rare and unintentional. As good as our cheerleaders were, they never walked off the field bloodied, bruised, and broken. They did not have the experience of battling with the rest of us on the team. Sure they watched, encouraged, cheered, yelled, and supported, but at the end of the day, they were glorified spectators.
It is amazing to me how often our churches are the same way. We have a lot of people that show up to worship experiences, sing the songs, listen to the messages, even walk out and say nice job to our staff and volunteers, but have not been in the battle. Now hear me, I am not talking about first-time visitors or new people to church. I am talking about the seasoned veterans. Those that have been around the church for a long time, but have not gotten off the sideline. They have their pom-poms and their cheers down pat. They know when to yell and when to chill. They know the jargon and the lingo, but when it comes right down to it, they are not serving. They are not plugged in. They are not contributing to the kingdom of God. It is time in our churches that we put down the pom-poms and pick up a helmet and get in the game. When we serve, there is camaraderie. When we serve, we push each other. When we serve, we block for each other. When we serve, we are pumping each other up. When we serve, we become unified in fighting against the true enemy that is Satan.
When churches drop their pom-poms and pick up their helmets, communities are changed, lives are transformed, marriages are saved, kids find hope, and people are rescued from eternal hopelessness. Today may we be a people and a church that steps away from our pom-poms.
How about you? Do you see yourself right now as a cheerleader or a team member?