As a kid, I loved playing basketball. It was an activity I could do with a team, friends or just by myself in the driveway. In fact, it was common to drive past my parents’ house and see all of our trash cans and patio furniture set up in the driveway around the basketball goal as makeshift “defenders” for me to practice dribbling around.
It was a Game Changer
The fundamentals of the game I learned to play in the mid-’90s are the result of years of evolution in basketball. 1967 is a year for basketball that will go down in history as a turning point for the game.
The Indiana Pacers of the [then] American Basketball Association were playing the Dallas Chaparrals on November 13, 1967. With just one second remaining on the clock, Dallas was leading 118-116. Jerry Harkness of Indiana took the inbound pass, and with no time to do anything else, heaved a towering Hail Mary shot toward his basket from 92 feet away. His shot smacked off the backboard and went in! You can imagine the hysteria that erupted in the arena as the clock went to all zeroes, but the celebration was for all the wrong reasons.
You see, a new element was introduced to the game that year in the American Basketball Association. It was the first year of the 3-point shot. Fans weren’t used to it. Coaches weren’t used to it. Even the players weren’t used to it. Many of the 2,500 fans in attendance that day who witnessed the “Harkness miracle” thought he had tied the game and forced overtime. But in reality, standing some 68 feet behind the newly created 3-point line, his shot won the game for the Pacers, 119-118.
These days, the 3-pointer is second-nature to basketball players and fans. The thought of basketball existing without a 3-point line is foreign to most people under the age of 30. It wasn’t until 1979 that the NBA adopted it, but once it became mainstream, the game of basketball would never be the same again.
The Gospel is the Game Changer
With this illustration in mind, I think about today’s church and all of the elements that make up a service. There are music, dramas, and video. We have kids’ programs and student ministry. There are classes, LifeGroups, small groups, and specialized groups. Some churches have one service; other churches have multiple services across multiple campuses. Church memberships today are diverse in age, culture, and ethnicity.
With today’s church being so different from one to the next, it makes you wonder, when was the day that changed the game for how the local church would look? When was the moment that someone took a shot never taken before that would completely shake up everything everyone once knew about how the church feels and functions? I think we begin to see the answer to that question in Acts chapter 11 with the church at Antioch.
The phrase “we’ve never done it like that before” has never been more true than when we look at what the church in Antioch was doing. We’re told that groups of men from Cyprus and Cyrene began sharing the Gospel with the Greeks (not just the Jews). That was the first (11:20). Barnabas and Saul spent a year teaching the church, modeling for us what would become personal discipleship ministry (11:26). The church in Antioch was also a giving church, putting others before self and not asking what it would cost, but simply giving as much as they could (11:29). They were multicultural in leadership and in their membership. The Antioch church was a pioneering ministry.
The church in Antioch, not the mother church in Jerusalem, changed the game and inevitably changed the world. They took shots no one ever thought of taking, and we’re told that “the Lord’s hand was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord” (11:21). The church at Antioch is a great example to churches today about spreading the Gospel to all in your community.
We’re committed at Calvary to reach the Chattahoochee Valley with the Gospel. I believe what Paul writes in Ephesians 2:10 that “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do”. What shot do you need to take for the sake of the Gospel? What will be the game changer moment for your personal ministry in your family, among your neighbors or with your coworkers? Use the skills God has given you, the talents and passion He has placed in your heart, and take a shot. The Gospel is the greatest game changer anyone will ever encounter.