28 Fundamentals: The greatest team on earth

Kiwi or not, sports fan or not, almost everyone has heard of the All Blacks. But, as Maritza Brunt discovered, what makes them so successful actually has a lot to do with one simple principle . . .

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Unity in the body of Christ

The Church is one body with many members, called from every nation, kindred, tongue and people. In Christ we are a new creation; distinctions of race, culture, learning and nationality, and differences between high and low, rich and poor, male and female, must not be divisive among us. We are all equal in Christ, who by one Spirit has bonded us into one fellowship with Him and with one another; we are to serve and be served without partiality or reservation. Through the revelation of Jesus Christ in the Scriptures we share the same faith and hope, and reach out in one witness to all. This unity has its source in the oneness of the triune God, who has adopted us as His children. (Psalm 133:1; Matthew 28:19, 20; John 17:20-23; Acts 17:26, 27; Romans 12:4, 5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-14; 2 Corinthians 5:16, 17; Galatians 3:27-29; Ephesians 2:13-16; 4:3-6, 11-16; Colossians 3:10-15.)

Taonga.

This is the Māori word for “treasure”, and a word which is often used by a particular team to describe a certain black jersey they wear. Dave Loveridge grew up hearing it over and over. And, like most young Kiwi lads, grew up with one dream: to one day represent his country and wear that taonga.

It wasn’t likely to happen. Dave struggled with injury throughout most of his school days, and eventually ended up working on the family pig farm in the New Zealand region of Taranaki. But in 1978, he received a call that changed his life forever. He’d been selected for what some consider to be the greatest sports team in the world. He was an All Black.

In the five years that followed, Dave Loveridge played 22 consecutive tests for the All Blacks, including a stint as captain. At the end of 1983, he was voted the New Zealand player of the year, and in 1984 he was named the best rugby player in the world and flown to England to receive an award. Today, he’s regarded as one of the best halfbacks to ever have played for the All Blacks.

Though many sports teams have triumphed, there is arguably no team on earth quite like the All Blacks. But what makes them so successful? In his book Legacy, author James Kerr set out to uncover this secret. He spent six weeks living, travelling and immersing himself as part of the team. What he found was, in his words, “unprecedented”. The group of men could not have been more different from each other and yet there was something that brought them together. It was so powerful, Kerr devoted an entire chapter in his book to it. He called that chapter “Unity”.

For the world, such a concept is probably mind-blowing: How can one group of incredibly diverse individuals be so united? Well, for those of us who are Bible-believing Seventh-day Adventists, the concept shouldn’t be foreign—not at all—because it’s what we were called to do! We are “all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:27-29), so that “the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity . . . attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-16).

But what does this actually mean? In a world that is so divisive, in a Church that often struggles with this concept, how can we practice unity in our daily lives?

Take pride in your jersey

Why are you a Seventh-day Adventist? No two answers will ever be worded exactly the same, but here’s mine in its simplest form: because I believe in this group of people who are committed to following Christ and His teachings through His Word, and who have important messages to spread in this world. This group of individuals are my team, and I love being part of this Church. We share the same faith and hope. And I know I have a place here. So do you. You are valuable and integral. It doesn’t matter who you are as an individual—when it comes to following Christ, one person does not create a team. There’s no “I” in team—we’re better together. Take pride in belonging! Take pride in your jersey.

Don’t wish you were a fly-half when you’re built like a prop

As an Adventist Church, we are so diverse. Isn’t it fantastic? Unfortunately, division happens when people start focusing too much on the differences rather than the strengths each person can bring. When it comes to furthering God’s kingdom, our differences don’t matter. We are one and the same; one body. The apostle Paul said it this way:

“So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvellously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t” (Romans 12:4,5, MSG).

Prop forwards are strong and dependable. Fly-halves are quick-thinking and organised. But as soon as we begin to compare, envy or wish we had the gifts, talents and skills of someone else, the team begins to crumble. Paul encourages us to remember the bigger picture:

“A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different but similar parts arranged and functioning together. As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it. No matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of” (1 Corinthians 12:14, MSG).

Work together toward the same goal

Being part of a team means having something to work toward. Without purpose, there is no unity. God has breathed life into His Church, our Church, so that we can fulfil the purpose given to us by Jesus Himself: “Go therefore, and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19, 20). What that looks like practically will be very different for each person, because we all have our own talents and spiritual gifts. But if we are united in Christ, and all working toward this same goal, then we are living out the great commission.

Dave Loveridge was just a pig farmer from Taranaki, but when he joined the All Blacks, that didn’t matter. All that mattered, in his own words, was this: “We were one great big family—that was one of the major reasons for the success.”

Always listen to the coach

Finally, and above all, we take our lead from Jesus, who is the source of our unity and everything we do. If we keep Christ at the centre, and His Word as our guide, we’ll always know how to come together as one team, one body, one Church, so that we can live in a way that is “good and pleasant” (Psalm 133:1).

This weekend, we’re going to an All Blacks match. As I’ve done many times, I’ll watch my husband proudly don his black jersey (and hat . . . and scarf . . . and jacket). I’ll watch as he holds a hand over his heart and try not to cover my ears as he and several thousand other Kiwis belt out a slightly off-key version of the national anthem at the top of their lungs. I’ll try not to get squashed every time the All Blacks score a try, because, once again, we’ve ended up sitting in the Away section and Kiwi fans are very enthusiastic. But this time, I’ll marvel at the spirit of the fans when the All Blacks perform their haka. I’ll pay attention to the tears of joy and pride in their nation, in their culture, in their team. And I’ll pray for my family of Adventist believers across the globe, because I know, with all my heart, which team is truly the greatest team on earth.

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