I’ve done it hundreds of times and it never gets any easier. Due to my love of football, whenever I move to a new place I have to get involved with a team. However, this means walking up to the side of a pitch and literally asking a group of strange men if I can play with them. (I usually phrase it differently though). It’s humiliating. I feel like a Welsh Oliver Twist asking for a kick around with the lads. And the problem is that here in Chesterfield I’m about as local as Magners cider.
So this week I did it again. In the bitter East Midlands rain and wind I walked with my head down towards the pitch now littered with strangers who knew everyone in sight; except me. I had been told about this team of lads who play football every Monday. Half of them church goers. I looked for the church going type in a bid to protect my pride.
My initiation went well until the final whistle.
Scottish Dave, who runs the team, is a passionate man who shares my scepticism of every English sportsman. He’s also a Christian and wants to share his faith with those who haven’t heard the real message of Jesus. We were getting on really well until he said this: “Alex, every week before and after the game, we gather the lads together and one of us leads a prayer. Would you pray for us?”
I had just spent 90 minutes trying to win over the respect of the team, which included a lot of men who did not go to church. Until this moment I was seen as the decent Welsh lad who managed to bang a few goals in. My heart rate increased. Give me a microphone and a Bible and I’ll go like a madman, but put me in reality, and I start to sweat a little.
Why am I still more concerned about my image than the need for men to hear about the immense truth that Jesus is exactly who he says he is.
Suffice to say I grew a pair and prayed for us all. And guess what, they invited me back. On the journey home I laughed with my creator as I remembered a prayer I whispered three weeks previous. “Lord, put me under the spotlight so I can point people to you.”
My challenge to you lads is simply this. Dare to pray that today. In fact, pray it now and before you go to sleep to assure God that you mean it.