By Gayla Parker
“… but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wags according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building” (I Cor. 3:6b-9).
Who Do You Play For?
“Who do you play for?” That is a line from the movie “Miracle,” a true story about the U.S. 1980 Gold Medal Olympic hockey team. A group of college hockey players from universities all over the United States came together to form one victorious team. Most of the players had been rivals up to this point. Head coach, Herb Brooks, in frustration with the constant rivalries among the players, holds an all night practice of skating up and down the ice rink. With each repetition he asked theis question, “Who do you play for?” The answers vary from University of Wisconsin to Yale until eventually one young man, after hours of exhaustive skating says, “I play for the United States of America!” That was the answer Herb was looking for. It was not until they chose to come together, being identified by the same colors, giving up personal glory, recognition and rivals, that they could find victory.
Recently, I was watching “Miracle” with my sons. As I heard Herb ask the question, “Who do you play for?” over and over and over again I felt the Holy Spirit asking me, “Gayla, who do you play for? Do you play for Lifeway Baptist Church? Do you play for your own success? Or do you play for Me?” It is not uncommon for me to cry at a movie but as the tears streamed down my face my boys were quite confused with this one! But it wasn’t the movie that brought the tears; it was the realization and conviction that I had not been giving the right answer to that question.
Rebuilding a Ministry
Two years ago my husband felt led to return to the church in which he was raised and help them rebuild by serving as senior pastor. He has served as pastor of a growing vibrant church, he has served as a church planter on the mission field, and he has served on a Baptist State Convention staff. None of those ministries were as hard or heartbreaking as this ministry has sometimes been.
With a rebuild there is a lot of history to overcome, a lot of healing to take place, and a miracle to bring a younger generation of believers into a senior generation of believers. IT IS HARD WORK! Over these last two years a dozen of our finest have gone home to be with the Lord unexpectedly. I have asked God like the Israelites asked Moses, “Did you bring us here to die?! Are we going to close the doors of this church?!”
Over these past two years I have been working hard at trying to rebuild this team. Until a secular movie reminded me that I am not here to “play for” the Lifeway Baptist Church team — I am here to “play for” God’s team. It is in working to “seek and save the lost” that His team has victory. We have had couples walk through our doors long enough to receive what they need and then move on. Others have walked through our doors and have stayed to serve alongside us. But for whoever walks through our doors, if I am more concerned about where they will choose to serve and less concerned about their salvation, I am playing for the wrong team. And perhaps even worse, I am not trusting God to bring the growth to Lifeway; bringing His perfect team together. How funny is that considering He is the only one that can bring the perfect, vibrant growth to any church.
As a pastor’s wife and ministry leader it is easy to forget that our sister churches are not our rivals. Someone else’s ministry is not our measuring stick. All of us — small, medium, large, or mega — are on the same team. We play for God! He alone deserves the victory!
Image Bearers of God
As the movie “Miracle” comes to an end and the team is going out for the last period of play against Russia, Herb says these words, “You were born to play hockey. Now go out there and do what you were born to do!” Ladies: We were born to be image bearers of God. We are not image bearers of our church, our ministry, or even our degrees. We are image bearers of God and He calls us to go out and do what He created us to do; to experience His victory.
My husband and I have been entrusted with much — an amazing group of dedicated servants who have served more years than I have lived. It is not a mega church or even a medium church. It is a small church that was once large, trying to rebuild in order to continue on in the great adventure of playing for God’s team. God did not bring us here to “die.” He brought us here to play on His team, and He has entrusted us with a tough job that will take every ounce of our discipline and energy. It is my prayer that I will remember for the months and years ahead the lesson God taught me through a secular movie and take the time to ask myself periodically, “Gayla, who do you play for?” “For we are God’s fellow workers.” (I Cor. 3:9)
Gayla Parker has served in ministry for more than 30 years serving as an International Mission Board missionary, pastor’s wife, state convention and WMU employee. Currently she is serving with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention coordinating Pregnancy Crisis Ministries on the Missions and Ministries Team. She is a graduate of Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville, Ala., wife, and mother of three sons. Gayla has authored several articles and mission studies as well as two books: Connections: A Daily Prayer Journal and Active Compassion: A Calling to Care. In her free time Gayla enjoys running, hanging with friends over coffee, and enjoying time with family.