In 2015, when Rick Barnes arrived in Knoxville to be the head coach of the Tennessee basketball team—after coaching for 17 years at the University of Texas—he said he wanted to do two things.
First, he wanted to win games. The several years, the Volunteers’ program had languished, and the coach’s office seemed to have a revolving door. A proven winner was needed, and Barnes fit that bill. If you check the record for the past three seasons, and especially for this his fourth season, he has accomplished that goal.
Second, he wanted to have a spiritual impact on the lives of his players. Rick Barnes is a man of faith, and he speaks about that faith openly. He is quoted as saying, “I want everyone of these players to have the chance to know Jesus Christ.” He has also said that he wants his team to “focus on faith, not fame.”
As a part of that emphasis, the team has adapted the “Audience of One” slogan, which is abbreviated as AO1. That term came from one of the team’s pregame “Power Talks,” which suggested the team play as if Thompson-Boling Arena was empty except for one seat, and that seat was filled by God. They were encouraged to play for Him.
You may not care about basketball. You may not be a Rick Barnes or a University of Tennessee fan, and that is okay. However, there is still something captivating and challenging in that “Audience of One” idea.
On our journey, we play to various people and causes. Sometimes we are concerned about being politically correct and give little attention to the rightness or wrongness of an action. We often try to please our friends, our family, or some other person or group at almost any cost. On the job, we may do one thing when the boss is around and another when he/she is not.
We seem to yearn for the applause of those in the stands. Maybe that’s natural, but it is not always good.
What if we would picture all the seats empty except for one, and what if God was sitting in that seat? Would it change the way we live our lives? I’m sure it would.
The questions would then become: “What would God want me to do?” “What would please Him?’
Hear the Word of the Lord: “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).
His applause is all we need!