Recently, a book came across my desk whose title stirred my interest, Church Is a Team Sport: A Championship Strategy for Doing Ministry Together. I began glancing through it, noticing the chapter titles to get a gist of what may be inside. Soon, I started reading the book and couldn’t put it down.
The more I read, the more I became overwhelmed by the journey of brokenness and conviction experienced by the author. As God’s man, Jim Putman was clay on the Potter’s wheel to be molded and re-shaped for God’s call for him to become a pastor. This book is worth reading if only for Putman’s testimony. It’s the journey of a man who was totally against church and afraid of those who went to church. Although he’s from a pastor’s home, Jim had no interest in spiritual things or anything to do with the church. He connected with the drug scene and most everything that goes along with that lifestyle. As events unfold, Jim experiences a total transformation from a three-time all-American wrestler in college and successful wrestling coach to a pastor who gives God the glory every step of the way.
Not only does Jim share a testimony of God’s grace in his life, as God is transforming his heart, He begins to lay out a plan for ministry that is far beyond anything Jim can imagine. From his beginnings with youth ministry to his current position as pastor of an 8,000member church, Jim’s journey is a series of small steps taken in faith and being faithful and obedient to God’s Word. There were challenges that seemed insurmountable. However, as Jim and others around him prayed, God was always there; not necessarily with the answers they wanted but with confirmations that gave them assurance to move forward.
In the late 1990’s, Jim and his family were called to start a church plant with four families and only the promise of a small financial gift in a little town in northern Idaho. Moving was not about money or numbers. Jim’s heart had been changed; and he wanted more than anything to be faithful to God by bringing people to Christ, shepherding and discipling them to do the ministry of the church.
Jim’s approach to ministry was based on his past experience in sports and thinking through the analogy of team and coach relationships. This is how he thought of the church: a team of people called to do ministry and each team member doing their part. He thought in terms of the shepherd watching over the flock, making sure the ones wandering on the fringes were not forgotten or ignored but were contacted, loved and had their needs met. This was the foundation upon which he wanted to do ministry.
The pivotal part of the book comes when Jim and those who served with him reached the point in their ministry when a critical decision had to be made. Were they going to run a “show” that would attract people to a worship service, or would the ministry be done through small groups where people would be cared for, taught, trained, and discipled?
Putman is convinced that making disciples occurs in small groups through shepherding, caring for each other, and being involved in one another’s lives. This was the initial direction he took in starting the church; and in the eight years he has been doing ministry, he and the other leaders have continued coaching the team in this type of ministry.
Church Is a Team Sport is encouraging, informative, instructional, and a testimony of God’s grace and transforming power. It is not about sensationalism. Rather, you see God glorified through a servant who was broken, experienced the transforming power of God in his life, and is now striving to be faithful and obedient to the Great Commission.