In business, and in sports, it’s easy to know when you’ve won. Nike can tell if they’ve had a good year by looking at their financial statements. A sports team simply needs to look at the scoreboard when the game is over to determine if they have won or lost. The numbers tell a story, and numbers don’t lie. When it comes to ministry, however, what do we look at to determine wins and losses? What is the bottom line that tells the story of victory or the agony of defeat with in the church setting?
Upward basketball is winding down its tenth year of ministry at Salem First Baptist, and to a certain extent, the numbers are quite revealing. Over 7,000 children have registered to play. Approximately 2,300 of those children come from homes that have no church affiliation. Nearly 300 decisions to follow Christ have been made over that span of time. Those numbers tell a great story, but there is a subplot that is left untold if we rely solely on this numerical data.
This past week, I had a chance encounter with a gentleman named Steve that left an indelible imprint on my heart that no numerical metric could ever convey. His story doesn’t show up on a spreadsheet, but the few moments I spent with him proclaimed victory as powerfully as a game-winning three pointer at the sound of the final buzzer.
Steve was talking to the owner behind the counter as I was browsing around the store. I overheard him mention that his daughter had an Upward game coming up, which caused my ears to perk up! I introduced myself and told him that I had 3 children involved in Upward as well and I asked him how his season was going. He proceeded to tell me that life has been rough for him since his divorce three years ago. His faith had grown cold over that time and he wasn’t always a good example to his daughter because he was angry, bitter and depressed. He stopped talking about spiritual things with his daughter because he felt like a hypocrite, and he knew his daughter was worse off because of it. His face lit up as he uttered these words, “I am so grateful for the Upward ministry because it has gotten both my daughter and I on track spiritually”. He proceeded to tell me almost verbatim what his daughter had been learning during her mid-practice devotion time. He had no idea that I was the director of the ministry…and I’m glad he didn’t because it made his story seem so much more authentic.
What does a win look like? It’s a 5th grade girl who learns about honesty, kindness and patience from a basketball coach who loves Jesus. It’s a dad who has his faith restored as he eavesdrops on his daughters Bible lessons week after week in a church gymnasium. It’s a church that gladly invests time and resources into a basketball ministry that does more than simply transform jumpshots….it transforms lives.
- Pastor Jeff Poush