Bearers of His name

Blessings can come in many forms, such as practical help, a good lesson or example, or a kind word, smile or laugh. They can add to an abundance or help ease an absence, and they can even happen without the deliverer realizing it.

I have a shirt that helps do that, and that’s why I like it. I like it so much that I have two of them and bought one for a friend, because I wanted to share that blessing with him.

When I saw this shirt, I immediately bought two so my brother and I could be twins at our mission’s big gathering between Johannesburg and Pretoria.

“Team Jesus,” it proclaims, looking like a sports team shirt. It doesn’t have any doctrinal claims, it doesn’t propose any arguments, and it doesn’t get cutesy with any sharp witicisms toward others. Just a playful proclamation of allegiance.

When I wear it, I’m hoping to encourage other believers, prompt people to think about Christ, or even open a conversation if someone wants to. It’s an invitation to connection, not an attempt to intrude. Doubtless, some people will take it as an offense, but that’s not my goal, and I think the positives (both in degree and in frequency) probably outweigh that.

A few weeks later, Freeman and I both showed up at the office wearing them again (without coordinating it).

Truth be told, the shirt reminds me to strive harder to be patient and gracious to those who see me wearing His name, like putting an ichthus (a “Jesus fish”) on the back of a car. Well, like it should, anyway.

I have worn the “Team Jesus” shirt around our home area, on a trip to our mission’s US office, and around South Africa and have gotten a lot of feedback, from smiles to surprised eyebrows to sincere-toned comments and even some conversations. Some have had the calm delivery of passing remarks, like “Nice shirt,” while others have sounded more like they’re at the playoffs. “Team Jesus! Woo-hoo!” “Hey, I’m on that team!” “That’s the best team!”

It has reached out to people on the street, clerks at store counters, and a flight attendant who kindly shared that she’s also a Christian and that seeing the shirt gave her a little smile that day.

In South Africa, one person asked me what the shirt meant, and that opened a brief conversation about faith. A few others asked me why I was wearing it, initiating conversations about our missionary work, including with a young cashier who was interested in considering such work herself.

Not yet has anyone accosted me, although one long-time friend vocalized his surprise for a bit.

“‘Team Jesus’? Really?”

“Yeah, really. Come on, now: is this really a surprise? It’s not exactly like I’ve been hiding this; I’m a missionary.”

“True, true. And if you’re going to be on a team, that is the best team to be on…”

And from there, it was another good, short conversation. Respectful, low-key, courteous. That friend wasn’t against the faith represented by the shirt, just surprised that there was such a shirt and that someone would wear it. I suspect that’s a pretty common thought.

No one’s going to change their religion over a message on a t-shirt, bumper sticker or billboard, but those objects are simply part of our world and culture. Given that Christians too often withdraw from or condemn things of the world, I like that a playful little shirt can soften preconceptions and prompt thoughts. All for $4.95 each.

This is Lauden, a friend whom God has blessed with a talent for grilling meat—a blessing he gladly shares with others every Friday night at the Blue Bird Garage food market in Muisenberg, Cape Town.

This wonderful lady saw my shirt as I was leaving the Blue Bird Garage, and she blessed me with the most joyful and exuberant reaction it’s ever prompted. Although she gladly repeated it, the video below has much less excitement than her actual greeting. Our conversation lasted a good ten minutes and included her inviting me to visit the newly started church she attends. Although I couldn’t, I gladly gave her a lift home, where we prayed for her work, coworkers, church, husband, and family. All because a shirt prompted a response and began a conversation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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