A couple of months ago I wrote a post entitled ‘Why do mission?‘ which is was adapted from my book Mission Matters. Here’s a rather different take on the question.
Ever since he was five years old, Steve Davies dreamed of playing for West Ham. He covered his bedroom walls with photos of West Ham players. He wore the shirt with pride and would travel to see the games as often as he could – even though this involved a 180-mile round trip from his home in Rushden.
Trevor Brooking was his hero. One day in 1980 he was watching West Ham at Upton Park when the ball flew toward him and he caught it. And it was Trevor Brooking who ran over to fetch it. Steve refused to throw it him and made Brooking come over to collect it so he could be close to his hero.
Steve went on to play amateur football for a pub team in Milton Keynes. “I was never really good enough, if I’m honest,” he says. And he was distracted by travelling to see West Ham home and away. “I’d get stuck in places like Sheffield,” he says, “and couldn’t get home, sleeping in empty stations.”
Then Steve married Kelly and in 1990 they had their first child, Chloe. Chloe was followed in 1993 by a boy whom they named Samuel Brooking after Steve’s hero, Trevor Brooking.
One day a friend, another West Ham fan, phoned Steve. “We’ve got a pre-season game over at Oxford – fancy it?” In was a summer’s night in 1994.
The West Ham manager at the time was Harry Redknapp. “Harry being Harry, he talks to people,” says Steve. “He said hello and all that. A few fans exchanged pleasantries. But there’s no airs and graces with Harry.”
Then the game kicked off. And West Ham’s star striker, Lee Chapman, is getting grief from the Oxford defenders. And so Steve gives him grief from the side-lines. Then he starts on Harry Redknapp. “We ain’t got that Lee Chapman up front do we – I ain’t coming every week if he’s playing.”
At half-time Redknapp had made five substitutions. But someone was injured and there’s no-one left to bring on. So Redknapp turns to Steve in the crowd and says, “Oi, can you play as good as you talk?” Suddenly Redknapp is walking Steve into the changing room. “What’s your name, son? What size boots are you?” Steve is kitted up and Chapman is taken off. “I thought Harry was having a laugh with me,’ says Steve. “I didn’t think I was actually gonna get on.”
But the second-half kicked off and he was out there on the pitch. “It was quick football,” he says. “This was a step up from Sunday league, to say the least.” He was out of his depth. After the first five minutes, his legs were shaking. He was playing for West Ham!
Then in the 71st minute, half an hour after being in the stands, swigging beer and smoking a cigarette, Steve gets the ball in front of goal. “I just hit it,” he says. The ball flew past the goalkeeper into the bottom corner and Steve set off in celebration. “It was like time stopped still – it was the greatest moment of my life,” says Steve.
The perfect end to the story. Or it might have been. In fact the referee blew for off-side and the goal was disallowed.
But for 45 minutes a fan go to play for his team.
Why get involved in mission? Asking that question is a bit like asking a football fan if they would like to play for their team! Why be a spectator when you can be involved. Why be a fan of Jesus when you can join him on the pitch?
The call to mission is an opportunity to get out your seat in the stadium and come to the pitch-side. At the front someone is going to ask you’re the missionary equivalent of the question, “What size boots do you wear?”
This story is adapted from Jeff Maysh, ‘The day Harry Redknapp brought a fan on to play for West Ham,’ The Guardian, 5 September 2013.