Every great team has one. Every great player has been on one. Found in a small strip of no man’s land between the fields of endeavour and the Grandstand of compromise lies THE BENCH. It’s the place for recovery, reinvention and the rookie – waiting for his number to be called. It’s the bit between seasons and it’s the bit that says everything about the real you.

In the following narrative, DAVE GILPIN illuminates what he thinks is the greatest mistake of his ministry life – the absence of THE BENCH. From now on, THE BENCH IS BACK IN TOWN.

Duration: 12 minutes

Read the narrative below…

I am a bench.

I am a part of the family of benches found in parks, school grounds, shopping malls and back gardens.

I, however, am not found in any of those places.

I exist in a no-man’s zone. A small strip of land that barely lives between the crowds and the action. Sometimes I’m caught on camera; a distant blurred backdrop as the ball shoots past from one player to the next. Most of the time, I’m never noticed. I exist. Uncelebrated. Unsung.

I’m sat on, shuffled about on, squeezed, hit, rocked and kicked. I don’t mind.

I come with the game. I am what I am but I am a necessity. Without me , there’d be no champions, no continued conquests, no fresh blood. No future.

I… am The Bench. The dug out. The holding pen. A collection point for players not needed, not wanted and not called upon just yet.

I’m neither on the field of play nor am I a part of The Grandstand, where the spectators swear, yell, taunt and talk.

I am on the sideline. Sidelined. Sidelined in the shadows. Yet my darkness is completely different to the grim darkness of dissatisfaction that envelops and grips The Grandstand.

Upon me sits the exhausted, the injured, the hurt, the recovering and the rookies – the apprentices waiting for their number to be called. Just waiting for their time to come.

I’m a place for legends – both past and future – not critics, not cynics, but legends of the Kingdom.

I am the greatest indicator as to whether the team is going all the way or about the falter and fall mid-season, into the doldrums of defeat. Engraved upon my weathered wooden slats is the message: “Just because you’re not on the field, doesn’t mean you’re not part of the team”.

 You may feel like you’re yesterday’s hero, damaged goods, yesterday’s dream. Yet it’s not true. You’re on The Bench. You’re in between seasons. It’s only an ad break, a pause button, a period of recovery, reinvention and rediscovery.

It’s time to Bench It Like Beckham. Stop being distracted. You don’t belong in the spectator stands, you belong on the beautiful bench, a part of the beautiful game of bringing His radiant Kingdom to this dry dusty earth. You’re a part of the greatest game on the planet  – The Church – the greatest team the earth has ever seen.

The Bench may mark the end of a season, but it’s not the end of your journey or your destiny, God’s prospects for your future are still in progress.

When Jesus died on the cross he said “It is finished”. His work on earth was done. It may have been finished, but it wasn’t the end. He lives on, forever to receive our prayers and make intercession for each of us to the Father.

It’s not over till the fat angel sings.

God’s getting you ready for the next season of opportunity, the greatest season of all your previous seasons. This time there will be no squaring circles, no round pegs in square holes. There’s a place on the field that’s being prepared especially for you. A perfect place. A perfect fit.

Psalm 23 verse 6 says that “Goodness and mercy shall follow you ALL the days of your life”. Psalm 85 verses 12 and 13 says “The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest. Righteousness goes before him – and prepares the way for his steps.” God’s gone before you. He’s preparing the way. He’s in your future. He’s in your best interests. It’s time to keep your eye on the ball – celebrate with those star players in the limelight. For even their time will come to move from field to bench, bench to field, and field to bench.

It’s time to engage, to cheer, to spur on those whose faces are marred by dust, sweat and blood. Those who are high-activity – high performance.

What the game needs though is you – those who are low-activity to become high-family. One look from one brother, one father, one sister, one mother can turn the game from impending loss to glorious gain. One connection, one shout, one investment, one look from the bench can change the game. It’s not just the field who count – you count. It’s a family affair. The Bench says it all.

If I was the Devil, I’d steal me. I’d break into the arena and steal The Bench. I’d create the church without The Bench. I’d create heroes and then burn them out until their only resting place is The Grandstand of compromise and despair. I’d make sure that every feeding mother feels insignificant, inferior and unused by God. I’d make sure that every older person feels rejected and forgotten by the young. I’d make sure that those who fail would become failures, and those who have never played never get a chance to do so. I’d give the best no sleep until exhaustion kills. I’d steal me.

I’ve been stolen regularly. Taken. Removed. Because I exist in a no-man’s zone – few have noticed. Until now.

Today I’m being given a makeover. Three coats of Ronseal and a large extension. There’s a floodlight that’s being turned from field to bench. There’s a change. The spirit of Beckham is returning.

I am what some are calling The Seventh Day. I am what some would call a glorified and sanctified rest. A holy day. A holy bench. Family. A season to encourage, engage and reinvent. Our time will come when the boots are tightened, the socks are pulled up, and the muscles are stretched. In the mean time – let’s BENCH IT LIKE BECKHAM.

Also in THE BENCH Series…

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

THE BENCH – My Greatest Mistake In Ministry Was To Remove It – Blog