Preparation Is Key
In Every Detail
Tom Coughlin is the kind of guy that intrigues everyone. He seems a bit brash on the outside but his ability to win football games at every level consistently over a lengthy career, even the biggest game of all – not once but twice – proves he is more than just noise and bluster.
His second book, Earn the Right to Win, reveals just how deeply the stream runs below his turbulent exterior.
And in chapter 3, Success Is In The Details, you get a glimpse of how information-rich football is and how cerebral Tom is in mastering the game. Winning at football means processing endless details.
Tom, of course, isn’t focused only on football. His point in the book is that there is a correlation between the effort to win at football and what it takes to win in the rest of life.
Success, Tom says, begins with superior preparation and as Christians, we must believe that what is good for football success is also good Gospel success.
Football Is Complex
To appreciate the meaning of Tom’s point we need to first take a look at the complexities of football.
Football has one objective, score more points than the opponent, which seems quite simple until you look at the process. Football is no simple game and the proof is the many people who watch even several games and say, “I don’t understand.”
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The reality is, very few people completely grasp everything that it takes to run even one play successfully much less win the game. It really is that complex!
Let me illustrate.
Visualize: there are 53 players, divided into several teams/squads (offense, defense, punt, and punt return teams, kick-off and kick-off return teams and point after and point after defense teams). That’s 8 different teams of eleven players each amounting to 88 different positions involving 88 different sets of skills to develop and strategies to learn.
Admittedly, many of the players will have double and triple assignments and many of the skills overlap but with so many different setups for each squad and different strategies to execute or defend in each type of play it becomes very complicated. Playing the game properly requires a huge amount of cerebral activity. The best football personnel are just as smart as they are physically skilled.
On top of that, each team will execute 50 to 70 different plays in a game, plays with names like “Split Right Scat Right 639 F Angle,” and each player is tasked with committing these plays to memory and learning to execute them in unison with ten other players. And the execution of each play also involves reading and responding to the opposing team, who are obviously trying to disrupt the play. Which means a player is not only learning his team’s plays, he is also learning to anticipate and react to the opposing team’s plays.
All of that for just one game and there are at least 15 more games to play in the regular season. More if they get into the playoffs. Throughout one season they will learn another 400 plays just to avoid being too predictable.
There is a lot of detail to absorb just to reach one simple object. It’s the player’s job to process it mentally and physically. It is the coach’s job to keep it all straight.
It’s easy to see why football is compared to chess.
But, and this is the most important observation. The complexities of the game of football didn’t develop overnight. It was a game by game, year by year, person by person process. The methods evolve from one game to the next. People passionate about the game, those who coach it or play it full time, think about every position and every play continuously in order to come up with more effective ways to reach the objective.
It’s tedious work. The job is never done.
How Does Gospel Strategy Compare
The question is should we approach the Gospel any differently? Should we be less diligent or less intentional? Can we be less creative with the Gospel and expect to be effective?
Well, again the object is simple. There is primarily just one: make an intelligible presentation of the Gospel to every person. That’s it!
The Bible plainly says “preach the Gospel to every creature!” It is a command. It must be done and every Christian easily understands the objective.
But that is only the target. We shouldn’t be glib or casual or light-headed about how we get there.
Presenting the Gospel effectively requires just as much diligent preparation as scoring points in a football game. We can’t just hail-marry* the Gospel around the world and expect a great result. We mustn’t content ourselves with handing out tracts printed with point-by-point presentations of the Gospel. That and many other easily adaptable strategies are worn out. Like hail marries they are easy to see coming. People are more likely to be insulted than informed by it.
We should be just as creative and strategic in developing ways to present the Gospel as coaches are in thinking up better, more creative ways to succeed on the playing field. We should think about every possible kind of person, every situation, every possible answer for every possible question they could ask and the best ways to give an answer. And we should spend more time preparing to give the answers than we do sharing the information.
That requires a lot of detailed work, sure, and there are bound to be some who will criticize certain methods, just because, but trying different methods and even failing occasionally, is a way to make progress.
And remember this. Jesus saves souls. That is His stated purpose.
The Son of man has come to seek and to save the lost. Luke 19:10
And He saved souls in many unusual settings using many strange methods.
So, the next time you are faced with an unusually difficult person, prayerfully consider your strategy before you take action. Chalk ideas on the board. Diagram the potential interaction and test your ideas in theory.
And you won’t be wasting time if you do. We are actually commanded to do this too:
Always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you about the hope you have. Be ready to give the reason for it. But do it gently and with respect. 1 Peter 3:15
In other words, prepare before you share.
When I started this post I thought about listing the many different ways the Gospel is shared but then it occurred to me that I’m only one person. I don’t know all the ways the Gospel has been shared and there are certainly new approaches that haven’t been thought of yet.
So, what do you think? Got an idea? Don’t be quiet. Tell us about it.
*Hail-Marry – A long pass thrown in desperation, usually at the end of a game when everything else has failed, and is rarely successful.
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