Christianity is a Team Sport

Jul 04, 2023 by Colleen C Orchanian

"Christianity is a Team Sport." I heard that in a talk by Fr. Mike Schmitz and it gave me pause. The more I thought about it, the more I could see the truth in the statement. My walk of faith is not something I do alone. Never has been. Never will be.

Paul wrote in Hebrews 10:25 that we should not neglect coming together. Why? Here's the rest of the Scripture passage: "Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."

Paul is telling us that we need to come together so that we can be strengthened to love and do good works, to encourage one another, to prepare for eternity. In so many places Paul reminds us that we are the living stones of the Church, the body of Christ - not alone, but together. So I pondered what Fr. Mike said about Christianity being a team sport. If we were to look at our journey of faith like we do being part of a sports team, what might that mean?

  • I train to be the best I can be. That takes effort. First-class athletes devote a lot of time training their bodies and minds to have physical strength and mental toughness. As a Christian, I train my body by caring for it as if it is the temple of the Holy Spirit - which, of course, it is. I try to practice self-control, self-discipline. I train my mind through prayer and study, learning about God and getting to know Him personally. By training my mind and body, I become a stronger warrior in God's army.
  • I encourage others to train so they, too, can be the best they can be. All teams have people who stand out as leaders. Usually they excel in the sport, but that alone doesn't make them a leader. It's their ability to bring out the best in others – to make them the best they can be. As a member of the Christian team, I have a responsibility to do the same, to encourage others on their spiritual journey; to let them know that they, too, can have an encounter with Jesus; that they, too, can have a fruitful prayer life; that they, too, can persevere in difficult times.
  • I celebrate when others have success, even if it means they shine more than I do. When someone has a turnover or a "pick 6" in football, the whole team celebrates. A few years back, Jalen Hurts was the starting quarterback for the University of Alabama. In the last game of the season he was struggling and was replaced by Tua Tagovailoa. Tua won the game. I am sure Jalen was disappointed in his own performance, but he celebrated with the team and praised Tua for winning the game. A year later, the tables were turned. Tua had been the starting quarterback all season while Jalen was backup. In the final game, Tua was struggling and Jalen came in to replace him, winning the game. Both quarterbacks had the same experience a year apart, and both responded in the same way, celebrating with the team, even when they were benched. Let's apply that to our presence on the Christian team. Can we celebrate when someone else is making spiritual progress and we are not? Can we be gracious to another who is recognized for something at church when we have not been? Can we be grateful for the fruit of another church, even though it is not the one we attend? As Christians, we should celebrate any time someone is drawn closer to God, even if we're benched at the time.
  • I give fraternal correction. Lots of people like to correct others. Some even seem to be experts at it, but not in a good way. Fraternal correction is done with love – brotherly (or sisterly) love. As Christians, maybe this means stopping gossip when we hear it or pointing out when someone is not living a good Christian witness. Sometimes, as a spiritual director, I give fraternal correction. Someone might share a personal experience when they were offended and I offer another way to see the situation. Correcting our brothers and sisters in a Christian way is important for a team.
  • I recognize the gifts of others, especially when that person doesn't see their own value. My friend Margaret does this so well. She expresses her appreciation to people every day, letting them know what gifts she sees in them. At VBS this year she wrote little notes of appreciation to give to each of the volunteers. She never hesitates to tell someone they are valued and appreciated.
  • I defend my colleagues against attacks – especially spiritual attacks. Athletes get attacked all the time. You need to have a thick skin to deal with all the criticism. Great athletes defend their team members, even when they mess up. As members of the Christian team, we need to do the same. Every Christian faces spiritual attacks every single day. We need to stand up for them with prayer and fasting. We are called to strengthen our brothers and sisters in the faith.
  • I share wisely when I face challenges, not keeping it a secret. Athletes have coaches for different things – head coach, position coach, strength coach, and more; each has their own specialty. If we are struggling in the spiritual life, we need an expert to help us out, someone who can guide us through a particular spiritual stumbling block. If we keep our struggles a secret, we might waste precious time and delay resolving an issue
  • I show up for the game even when it doesn't matter to me personally. There was a college football bowl game that didn't matter to the team. It would not affect their final ranking because they were out of the playoffs. Often these days the players that are going to the draft will opt out of playing a bowl game because they don't need it and there is always a risk of injury that might lessen their draft ranking. Last year, two very famous players (who ended up being drafted first and third) chose to play the bowl game. When asked why, one of them said, "I've been preaching so much over these last two years about how to do things the right way, the standard around here, and how to uphold the standard. It wouldn't be right for me to walk out on my teammates." They put the team above their own interests. Let's apply that to the Christian team. Sometimes I may not be interested in a particular event at church, but I go anyway to support those who are there or those who planned it. I know people who attend something because it's a way to get a friend involved who would not go alone. Showing up is important!


There are so many ways that we as Christians are called to be part of the team. I am my brother's keeper – and my sister's keeper. They are my teammates. You are my teammates. We are all in this together. Let's strive to be the best team players we can be.

Questions to bring to prayer:

  • In what ways have you taken a team approach to your faith? Who is on your team that is strengthening you? Who are you strengthening?
  • In what ways do you resist the idea of being on the team? What obstacles keep you from being a great team player?