Mr. Irrelevant

Anyone who spends time with me eventually learns that I love football.  I don’t like football.  I love it.  One of my favorite things about football is the NFL draft.

For football players, the draft is the culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice.  It’s the day that almost every serious football player looks forward to.  Players like Tim Toone, Ryan Succop, David Vobora, Ramzee Robinson, Kevin McMahan, Andy Stokes, Andre Sommersell, Ryan Hoag, Gustavus Adolphus, Ahmad Miller, Tevita Ofahengaue, Michael Green, and James Finn.  These men are not household names, but they all hold a common distinction in the world of professional football.  They all hold the dubious honor of being named Mr. Irrelevant.

Mr. Irrelevant is the title given each year to the very last pick of the NFL draft.  Every year, Mr. Irrelevant has to endure hearing the name of at least 250 people called before his.  At least 250 people who are having their dreams fulfilled and their hard work and talent recognized before theirs.

Most Mr. Irrelevants usually flame out in obscurity, never making an official NFL roster.  A few have had success, making teams and contributing to their teams’ success.  But, in general, over 90% of them never make it out of training camp.  They usually end up as a footnote in history, a punch line to a joke, or worse yet, as an illustration in a sermon or blog.

Most of us can acknowledge that it’s usually not a good experience being chosen last for something.  It’s never fun when someone tells you that you just don’t measure up, or that your skills are not good enough, or you just aren’t what they are looking for.

In the Bible, there are several people who could be considered insignificant.  Mr. and Ms. Irrelevant.  The Old Testament is littered with names of insignificant people, who begot other insignificant people, who begot other insignificant people.  There are entire chapters of genealogies of people like this.  All we know about them is that they had babies.  In the New Testament, the gospels give genealogies of men and women whose names and heritage seem to be of no consequence outside of the fact that Christ was a part of their family tree.

In Acts 1:21-26, we are introduced to another Mr. Irrelevant, Matthias.

By the time Acts 1 rolls around, the handful of disciples that had previously followed Christ before his crucifixion had grown in number to at least 120 people.  During one of their gatherings, Peter suggested that since Judas had committed suicide, it was time for them to consider choosing someone to replace him.

The criteria that Peter proposed for this replacement disciple was that this person had to have been affiliated with their group since the beginning of Christ’s ministry, and they had to have seen the resurrected Christ.  All of this was so they could testify to whom Christ was.

Two men were chosen who fit these criteria.  Joseph, who went by two other names; Barsabbas or Justus, and a second man, Matthias.  We don’t know anything else about these two men.  Perfect candidates for the title of Mr. Irrelevant.

After choosing these two men, the disciples prayed for God’s guidance, and eventually, Matthias was chosen as the newest disciple.  He was now one of the few, the proud, the chosen.  A leader.  One of the elite.  People probably wanted his autograph.  He was probably invited to preach at several prestigious synagogues.  He even probably received a book deal from the Jerusalem Publishing House.  In today’s culture of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, his photo would have been uploaded, his status would have been updated, his grandmother would have Instant Messaged her knitting group, and someone else would have posted a blog comment about the new position.

But that didn’t happen in the 30s A.D.  What really happens next for Matthias?  We don’t know.  He is never mentioned again.  As a matter of fact, the only original disciples that we hear about regularly in Acts are Peter and John.  It seems like everyone else falls into obscurity, including Matthias.

I sort of feel sorry for him because no one knows what he did or what ever became of him.  No one even knows for sure where and how long he lived or when he died, if he had any kids, or if he started any new church plants.

Matthias’ story is brief and really…irrelevant.  He’s born.  He follows Jesus.  He’s chosen as a replacement for Judas.  He then goes off into obscurity, never doing anything to bring positive or negative attention to himself.  He is the epitome of someone who is irrelevant and uncelebrated.  Someone obscure, not famous, inconsequential.  Someone who didn’t do anything worthy of honor or recognition.

Reginald Fuller says this about Matthias, “He vever held a position, never had a title, and was never noticed until the moment of need.  He was not even a consensus candidate during the first round of balloting.  But, in the end, he was present, available, willing and able.”

Why is Matthias important for us to think about in the 21st Century?  He is just one example of how the Bible is filled with irrelevant and obscure people.  God’s Kingdom will be made up of them.  God’s church is currently full of them.  Being unrecognized and irrelevant is not necessarily a bad thing.  Being uncelebrated is how men and women categorize each other.  It is not how God sees us.

I believe that God sees each of us as celebrated, relevant, noteworthy, valuable, and integral to God’s plans, whether we make the newspaper, or preach from the pulpit, or sing in the choir, or rarely darken the doorways of a church.  Whatever our situation may be, God has an open place in the Kingdom for all of us.

The question that God is proposing to all of us is, are we willing to get involved in the act of Kingdom building and find our niche, just like Matthias did?  And Thadeus.  And Bartholomew.  And all of the other irrelevant and uncelebrated followers of Christ.  Are we willing to follow in their footsteps?

Terrell Carter

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About the Author
Terrell is currently serving as Interim Pastor of Webster Groves Baptist Church in St. Louis, MO. Terrell is also the Executive Director of the North Newstead Association, a community development corporation in St. Louis, and the Director of the FOUNDATIONS in Ministry Program for Central Baptist Theological Seminary in St. Louis.

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