Not a prophecy: the way the church must go

By James D. Sanderson
Special to The PREVIEW

Please don’t call me a prophet. Prophets are despised by the people. Prophets are beaten and forced to endure great hardship and are often killed for their efforts. No. What I was given the other day during prayer was not a prophecy. It was not a vision. It was just a little glimpse of the way the church must go if she — the Bride of Christ — is to remain viable in the future.

It is the American church that is in trouble, and isn’t it appropriate that this glimpse of our current condition should come in the form of a football metaphor. Picture with me, if you will, a huge stadium full of spectators. The television cameras will capture the action for those who cannot fit in the stadium. The coach is out on the field and is doing a great job. He is well trained and has a solid grasp of the strategy and tactics of the game. Here he is now: He’s got the ball. He scrambles. He throws a long, perfect pass. The fans go wild. “Great pass!” they shout.

There is no one down field to receive the pass, so it is picked off by the defensive back — a player named Deceit — and run back for a touchdown. The defense has a complete lineup of players with names like Greed, Materialism, Lust, Anger, Violence, Hatred. And that middle linebacker — Chaos — how would you like to look across the line and see him waiting for you?

The offensive players are all on the sideline — all eleven of them. They are part of the cheering effort. When the coach comes to the sideline for a breather, they all pat him on the back and say, “That was a great play, coach. You’re sure doing a great job.”

That is a glimpse of the American church as it has become. The pastor is on the field alone. The gates of Hell seem poised to crash in upon the church at any moment. The rest of the team and all the spectators are comfortable in their seats, well fed and ready to cheer the best efforts of the pastor on the field below. Our hope is that he will throw a pass that he will also be able to catch and score a touchdown for us. If not, we don’t know what we’ll do. Well, we could go home, have dinner and hope for an even better performance next week.

Or … we can take the field. We can take up those positions we know we are gifted for. We can get the training we need. We can be the church as it has been intended right from the start — the church that engages the world with love and compassion. The church that brings good news to the world. It is our choice.

For more about the One Church Movement in Pagosa Springs, please go to

Readers’ comments

Join our Faith Writer’s Team. Meet our writers. Go to We invite all faiths. The more diversified the writers with different voices of faith, whether in poetry, prayer, Bible study, stories and testimonies, the better the Matter of Faith column will be.

This story was posted on January 9, 2014.