By, Isam Itson III
Ephesians 4:11-13, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,…”
I love the sports movies that focus on the coaches. If you have seen one, you have seen them all. A new coach joins a team of misfits. The coach has a vision for tapping the hidden potential of their underperforming players. They challenge the “superstar” to become a team player. They see something in practice and shift an underperforming player into a new position that better suits their skill set. Ultimately, the team wins the championship. The end.
What makes a great coach or leader in elite amateur and professional team sports? Great coaches bring their experience of playing the game and examining it’s participants to their current players. They don’t just study the rulebook. They study the game and how people have played it before them. They study how their competitors play. They acknowledge their need to keep growing and learning so that their players can keep growing and learning. Great coaches are dedicated to helping their current roster of players find a way to excel.
The motivation of the very best coaches is helping their players grow and bring their best in pursuit of victory. They help their players get past their fear and pride. They free their players to commit their personal best to the success of the team.
One of the things they do along the way is spend enough time with their players to identify their strengths and weaknesses. The best coaches take a keen interest in how their players perform the fundamentals during practice. As necessary, they help their players make adjustments to their stance, approach, and form. They may even change a players position on the team based on what they observe in practice.
The best coaches help their players focus their efforts in the direction that will help them excel at the highest level of competition. They encourage their players to develop key skills in the off season in preparation for the next season’s games. “Work on your ball control.” Work on your hands.” “Work on moving side to side.” “Get in better shape.” “Take an interest in your teammates and encourage them, on and off the field.”
The best coaches enjoy being with their players and coaching staff as much as they enjoy winning. It’s not either or for them. It’s both winning and spending time with their assistants and players. They have learned that taking a personal interest is vital to their long term success. They want to know what is going on in their players personal lives. Their door is open. They invite the players and assistants into their personal lives to the degree that the players and assistants are willing.
The best coaches are honest in their criticism, praise, and correction. They take responsibility for their own mistakes and shortcomings. They don’t just show up. They show up prepared. Every day.
Perhaps the most important thing great coaches do is keep everyone focused on doing what it takes to win the next game within the boundaries of the rules and the abilities of their players. The best coaches find a way to get every ounce, every milligram, of advantage out of the unique strengths of their current players. They remind their players and coaches of what they are playing for.
Our goal as members of the body of Christ is glorifying God. We do this by loving God and honoring God’s love for others. We help each other, help people, help other people, in the name of Jesus Christ, no matter what it costs us. That’s our goal. As pastors, teachers, apostles, prophets, evangelists, and church leaders, we encourage the members of our congregations to follow our lead in glorifying God. We inspire and challenge them to surpass our own accomplishments for the kingdom of God.
We spend enough time with them to help them identify their unique contribution in our congregations and encourage their meaningful participation in our communities. We make room for them in our lives outside of church services and office hours. We rejoice and grieve with them in their daily lives. We earn their trust, which enables us to challenge them and correct them as necessary. We equip them to excel in their God ordained works of service.
Our only aim is God’s glory in our relationships with each other in the church as we serve God in the world. It is our unity in spite of our differences that proves the power and wisdom of God to the powers that be in our fractured and broken societies. Our love and dedication to one another as members of the body of Christ encourages the people around us to put their faith in God. We need each other.
As leaders in the church, we have to commit consistent time and energy, and open ourselves up to the men and women in our congregations and leadership teams. They will disappoint us and even betray us along the way. Just like the disciples disappointed and even betrayed Jesus Christ prior to his crucifixion. Like Jesus, we set our eyes on God’s purpose for us in relationship to his people and the world. We embrace our cross. We open our hearts and arms wide to receive others just like God received us when we placed our faith in Jesus Christ. We look for and create opportunities to connect with the members of our churches and leadership teams.
There is no other way to glorify God in pursuit of the unity that testifies of God’s love and wisdom to the world around us. In the process, we show our members how to spend their time and energy on the people that God places in their own lives. This is how the body of Christ, the church, grows up and grows together in the unity of our faith and love, in Jesus Christ and each other.
1. Pastors and leaders, are you making the time to sacrificially make room for the members of your staff, leadership, and congregation in your personal life? Why or why not?
2. Church members, are you following your leaders and actively looking for opportunities to grow in your dedication to God and others in your local congregation and the world around you? Why or why not?