Traditionally if you want to mobilise the church, you encourage people to get off the stands and get onto the field – to stop being spectators and start becoming participants of the greatest game in history – the rise of God’s Church in the 21st Century. Yet, there’s a little place that’s rarely talked about, rarely noticed and rarely appreciated by either players or spectators – it’s called THE BENCH.

The video below was recorded live at Hope City Sheffield in November 2010.

Duration: 35 minutes

A Short Article on THE BENCH…
You can tell a lot about the future of a team and the future of the game by THE BENCH – it’s the number one indicator as to whether a team’s going all the way or whether it’s going to falter mid-game, mid-season.

THE BENCH MEN
Not every great player is on the field of play – some are on the bench, resting, recuperating, recovering and retraining for the season ahead. Some are new arrivals – rookies booting up, awaiting their turn to score on the field of play.

Without THE BENCH, people only have two options – to play hard and fast, or to disappear into the grandstand of compromise, inferiority and rejection; to be in the limelight – on the cutting edge, full on for Christ – or to be discarded, moving from praise to cynicism in one easy slide.

THE BENCH PRESS
It’s been the greatest mistake of my leadership to lose THE BENCH; to paint a picture that only has room for the field and the stands. Either you’re full on or full off, keeping up or falling behind. It’s been survival of the fittest. A place of champions… until one of them falls.

I’ve realised that there are two places where the Premier League players are found – THE FIELD and THE BENCH.

Every great player has stints on the bench. It’s the place to draw new energy, rejuvenate the muscles and replenish the heart.

It’s common practice for preachers to berate those who are ‘taking time out’ – often because people use it as an excuse to not face up to the issues at hand. They’re leaving for the grandstand. It needs to be made clear though, that ‘time out’ is still a part of God’s plan and the reason for HIS BENCH.

THE BENCH IS BACK IN TOWN
While some people are moving from low activity to high activity and high performance, other are moving from high activity and high performance to low activity yet high family. Someone needs to be in the cheer squad. The Church needs fathering, brothering, sistering, mothering.

The Church is family before function. Yet the greater role of fatherhood is overshadowed by functionhood. We live in a celebrity age where achievement is rated above everything else.

Clive James, the Australian broadcaster, once said “in the age of celebrity, most of our finest achievers work in a blaze of obscurity”. The bench is usually that place of obscurity, yet within it lies the real cheer squad – full of people who have been there before and seen it all before, and others who have never been there – all cheering, fathering and brothering.

THE BENCH TEST
You can tell a lot about a team’s future not just by the quality of the bench, but by the attitude of the bench.

One of the greatest tests we’re ever given by God is THE BENCH TEST. It’s the test that simply asks, ‘is this all about you, or is this about the team, the game and the Kingdom?’ It’s  designed to cleanse you for the next season of servanthood.

So many don’t make it to the bench. Over the years, it has been so badly lit that people have stumbled past it, only to get caught in the grandstand of rejection and criticism. Many have said they’ve been called to another church, yet they rarely even make it there – stumbling over a sense of being no longer needed and no longer wanted.

For us, THE BENCH IS BACK! Pace is the new ‘full on’. Family is the new ‘function’ The Bench is the new bench mark. The enduring image of the last World Cup has been that of David Beckham on the bench. Dressed in his Dolce & Gabbana, he wept, cheered, yelled and encouraged as he followed the pathway of the ball throughout good times and mainly bad. Just because you’re not on the field, doesn’t mean you’re not on the team.

It’s time for the Church to BENCH IT LIKE BECKHAM.

Also in THE BENCH Series…

THE BENCH – A Short Story by Dave Gilpin –Video

THE BENCH – Podcast Recorded live at Hope City Church, Sheffield