It happens to every coach in any collegiate sport. This blog uses Rocky Long, football coach at San Diego State University—SDSU—for the simple reason that the writer saw the potential for spiritual truth as he read the article.
Coach Long would love to have used his schedule’s only bye week to relax, watch football and eat hot dogs. The demands of recruiting instead called him and his assistant coaches to be scouting high school games.
While a successful 2015 season make recruiting easier for SDSU, it doesn’t eliminate the challenge of schools with consistent winning records and loads of scholarships. As the director of SDSU’s player personnel noted, identifying the skills needed in football players was easy; getting the attention of players to focus on SDSU poses a huge challenge.
As Jesus made clear in Matthew 13:18-23, various people respond to Gospel preaching. Verse 22 may include a majority of responders. While getting people interested in Jesus is difficult, calling them to a single-minded focus on Jesus is much harder. All the competition offered even in the Master’s world, and multiplied exponentially in ours, produces half-hearted religiosity, not down-deep commitment to Jesus.
Another difference distinguishes the Gospel message from football recruiters. The latter have an eye for speed, good hands, healthy legs and bodies, throwing or blocking skills. Jesus demands only faith in him as God’s Son and a willingness to deny-self in discipleship. However, the very difficulty of self-denial in people so aware of THEMSELVES is the major obstacle in evangelism. To our shame as Christians, it’s so difficult that we hardly mention the requirement when talking to potential prospects. Of course, making self-denial clear to prospects will limit the number of people won to Christ. And in a church culture where Numbers Count, and BIG numbers count more than small ones, ignoring self-denial is easy when it’s far easier to speak of fellowship and joy and forgiveness.
However, it also presents a question: are we really going to prefer NUMBERS of converts when Jesus emphasized SELF-DENIAL? If that was good enough for him, how could have a better idea?