Pastoring is not a spectator sport

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Pastoring is not a spectator sport

March 2, 2023 -

Dallas Mavericks Head Coach Jason Kidd watches his players from the bench in the first half of an NBA game against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Dallas, Texas, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Emil Lippe)

Dallas Mavericks Head Coach Jason Kidd watches his players from the bench in the first half of an NBA game against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Dallas, Texas, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Emil Lippe)

Dallas Mavericks Head Coach Jason Kidd watches his players from the bench in the first half of an NBA game against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Dallas, Texas, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Emil Lippe)

“According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the proportion of one’s faith; if service, use it in service; if teaching, in teaching; if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity; leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness.” —Romans 12:6–8 CSB, emphasis added

It might have been the worst leadership statement ever!

I’m a sports fan, not a sports fanatic. I follow professional and college sports with general awareness, having some sense of who’s trending to the top and who is a perennial cellar dweller. This takes little more than checking the ESPN app once or twice a week.

Baseball and golf tend to be my favorites. Football and basketball land in the middle, with hockey and auto racing bringing up the rear (pardon the pun).

Living in Dallas for the last twenty-five years and in Texas for my whole life, I gladly lay claim to the Rangers, Mavericks, Cowboys, and Stars when they are winning, but I bail on them quickly when they disappoint me.

So yes, I’m a very fair-weather fan. While others may judge me harshly, my joy, peace, and sleep are not affected by the performance of any of these teams. I can get on and off the bandwagon quicker than stepping off of a San Francisco streetcar.

“I’m watching, just like you guys”

Baseball is around the corner and basketball is about to be madness. I recently caught up on the Dallas Mavericks, our local area NBA team. Fans and many nonfans are aware of brash team owner Mark Cuban, the Mavs’ most famous player Dirk Nowitzki, and the controversial Kyrie Irving, their most recently acquired player. The Mavs are trying to make a run for the playoffs and a second championship.

Former player-turned-coach Jason Kidd is in his second season as head coach of the Mavs. Kidd knows basketball. As a player, he was a first-team All-American in 1994, co-rookie of the year in 1995, and played point guard when Dallas won its only NBA championship in 2011.

Last Sunday, the Mavs hit the court against the LA Lakers in a highly vaunted weekend game. They built a twenty-seven-point lead at one point but ended up losing 111–108.

During his post-game interview, Coach Kidd offered this comment when asked why he didn’t call a time-out when the Lakers were surging back: “I’m not the savior here. I’m not playing. I’m watching, just like you guys. As a team, we’ve got to mature, and we’ve got a lot of new bodies coming back, and we’ve got to grow up—if we want to win a championship.”

Those words took fifteen seconds to verbalize but they have gone viral in the days since.

NBA coaches are well paid and expected to meet high expectations. Championships are the ever-present measure of success.

If coaches are only spectators, should they start paying for their courtside seats?

Everything rises and falls on leadership?

You have heard that “everything rises and falls on leadership.”

That’s nowhere in the Bible, but we sometimes act like it is.

Leadership is one of God’s gifts to the church (Romans 12:8). It’s essential for the body of Christ to function effectively. But it is not the only gift. All the parts and pieces are needed. As one pastor said, “We need to preach the whole gospel, to the whole world, by the whole church.”

Exodus 18 is familiar to many pastors. It is Moses’ lesson in delegation by his father-in-law, Jethro. I encourage you to read it again.

Moses is “the man,” but he’s fallen into the mindset that everything must run through him. It’s exhausting both him and the people he’s leading.

You’ve heard of the pastor who liked to watch the train go by his church. When someone asked him why he stared at the train daily, he said, “I just like seeing something happen around here that I don’t have to push.”

Moses’ lessons on delegation

Delegation is a learned art and science for all effective leaders. I’m still in that school, working toward understanding and a passing grade. Moses’ story offers some good reminders:

  • Healthy leaders have trusted advisors. Jethro was a “safe harbor” person for Moses. Jethro shared Moses’ faith and hope in God and Israel’s future. Jethro felt safe in talking to God’s designated leader. How long had they invested in their relationship to get to this point? Who are your advisors?
  • Moses listened to Jethro and pivoted to training other leaders rather than buying into the lie that “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” He also rejected the tyranny of the urgent that keeps us from enlisting, training, and releasing others to use their gifts for God’s glory and the good of others.
  • Moses stayed in the game as a player-coach (Exodus 18:26). Guided by Jethro’s wisdom, Moses created a five-level court system based on the capabilities of other leaders and the weightiness of the disputes. Because his presence, calling, and skill were essential, the biggest issues were brought to him.
  • No leader can see, understand, or do everything. We all have blind spots. Humility is therefore vital. If we can’t receive instruction and wisdom from others, we are setting ourselves and our churches up for avoidable pain and dysfunction.

Move from me to we

I watched Jason Kidd’s short interview several times. I was struck by how he jumped from “I” statements to “we” statements. I think it happened subconsciously.

I wonder if he was like many a preacher who wanted to retrieve an errant comment but sought to quickly recast his meaning. After describing himself as a spectator, he quickly started speaking “we” statements, including the phrase “we have to mature.”

Amen to that.

Pastors and people, leaders and servants must grow separately and together. When we each and all seek to be our best for our King and his kingdom, the body is healthy and amazing things are achieved. Notice the “we” in this verse: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, ‘Be reconciled to God’” (2 Corinthians 5:20, emphasis added).

John Wesley understood the “we” of ministry. In Today in Christian History for March 2, Christianity Today noted this insight: “March 2, 1791: Founder of Methodism John Wesley dies in London. Thanks to his organizational genius, we know exactly how many followers he had when he died: 71,668 British members, 294 preachers, 43,265 American members with 198 preachers and 19 missionaries. Today Methodists number about 30 million worldwide” (emphasis added).

He didn’t do it alone.

Join me in praying this prayer of John Baillie:

“Let me then give back into your hands all that you have given me, rededicating to your service all I can do with my mind and body, all my possessions, and all my influence with others. All these are yours to use as you want, Father. All these are yours, Christ Jesus. All these are yours, Holy Spirit. O My Lord, speak in my words today, think in my thoughts, and work in my actions. Thank you that it is your gracious will to make use of me, even at my weakest, to fulfill your mighty purpose for the world. Let my life today be a channel through which at least a little of your love and compassion may reach the lives of those around me.”

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