American football was a running game until one day a forward pass was thrown. That first pass would have profound implications on how the game would be played in the future.
The first forward pass was thrown in 1876 during a Yale-Princeton game. It was illegal at the time and continued to be illegal for thirty years until the rules changed and the forward pass became a part of every team’s offensive arsenal. That rule change happened in 1906 and those changing the rules offered reasoning for their decision, “The main efforts of the football reformers have been to open up the game.”
When the game opened up and offered new possibilities, new game plans emerged. So did new coaching methods and personnel. What was initially a violation of existing rules became a staple of the game. During the introduction of the first forward pass, its deployment caught the opposing team off guard because they were playing the game inside the existing rules and responded to the pass from within the limitations of their expectations.
At this moment in history, the Lord is calling game-changers in the Church to step outside the existing rules, not rules of righteousness and purity, but outside the constrictions and assumptions of what a community of faith should look like. From that place of freedom, they will toss spiritual passes that will reform how we see the Church and how we respond to the culture.
These first forward passes will not be without the sound of loud whistles of objection saying, “We have never seen this before. It is not within our rule book.” The process of throwing a new and unexpected spiritual forward pass is similar to what caused the Jerusalem council to convene in Acts 15. Some Jewish leaders demanded that Gentile followers of Jesus be circumcised. The apostles had been working with the Gentiles with great success without that requirement. To allow that false teaching to limit their missionary efforts would have stumbled the expansion of the Church into the Gentile world. The issue was resolved with wisdom and compassion and it opened up the mission of the Church allowing them to engage new cultures.
Some game-changers have already thrown their first passes across the playing field of the Church and her mission. As these passes are still airborne their impact will change how we play the game. Those in agreement with what is transpiring have already gone downfield into new territory and are raising their hands to catch these new possibilities and opportunities. When those passes are caught, we will need to change our rulebook. If we are willing to make the Spirit-directed changes to how we play the game we will see a great harvest, a harvest made possible by the presence of game-changers.