Deeper, Closer, Wider

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Great leaders don't point the way, they show the way

Jesus the Middle Manager

Then Jesus went down to Capernaum, a town of Galilee and on the Sabbath saw that the people needed to be taught so he grabbed his right-hand-man, Vice-President for teaching, a man named John and told him to organize a search committee to find the brightest young teacher in the larger disciple community. John put together a committee and ultimately signed off on a young man named Thomas who seemed to have a nack for public teaching. John and Jesus then left the crowd and grabbed a round of golf at the Decapolis Country Club where His family had been members for years.

In the Synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, “Ha! What do you want with us, representative of Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who He is, the Holy One of God!”

At this, Thomas turned to Peter, Vice-President of service ministry, who had been left behind to look after the underlings and asked what he should do. Peter got on Facetime with Jesus on the 6th green and Jesus told Peter to put the demon possessed man to the side and he would put together a team to study ways to exorcise the demon later. Peter did as he was told and the people were left unimpressed with the organizational hierarchy.

Those Who Can’t Do, Teach. Those Who Can’t Teach, Teach Gym Class.

When I was 21, fresh out of college I spent a stint as an investment adviser and insurance rep for companies in Idaho and Oregon. There are many inside systems and expectations that come with these large corporations so the companies would send us to trainings and schools for different aspects of the business. These trainings would be led by really sweet people in their 30′s and 40′s who were considered ‘professional trainers’, great personalities that could move through notebooks of information in classroom settings for up to 8 hours a day (no small feat). There was only one problem with these trainings, because they were corporate trainers who spent all their time preparing and doing training, they did not know the business. They were not proficient at the skills or systems or strategies they were teaching. We all knew they were just working through a notebook that someone else had put together at corporate headquarters. They did not know our lives. Most of them did not even come from within the fields they were training.

In an effort to take corporate principles of the division of labor and economy of scale, many ministries and churches and non-profits have done this same thing. They have created roles for leaders and trainers that do not actually do anything, they just ‘lead’, manage or teach. They are coaches, and leaders of groups of coaches, not players or even player-coaches.

Jesus the Player-Coach

This was not the way that Jesus positioned himself. He did not create elaborate strategy documents and hand them off to others to implement. He walked alongside His disciples, ministered with them, trained them by doing it Himself. Jesus was not a distant manager that tried to create efficiency through effective training strategy. He spent years pouring into a small group, 12 (or 3), that he then released to lead, but he stayed with them throughout their ministries, guiding, directing, leading them into all truth, giving them faith to trust Him. Jesus never left or forsook His disciples. Of course it would have been more efficient and he may have had greater reach if he had just brought in cohorts of leaders to his compound in Galilee, several groups throughout the year and taught them individual skills, and then over time had developed a group of facilitators, written a book and had them each facilitate the content through a training school or university. That is the efficient way to attain reach. Engage others in being an extension of His message.

So, what does this mean for us? For leaders today? We are not Jesus. We cannot be present as the Holy Spirit throughout the lives of those we lead and release to ministry.

There is a verse in 2 Timothy that has sat in my mind for years, Paul is writing to his disciple, his friend,  “But you, keep your head in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”

Paul assumed that Timothy was to do the work of an evangelist, as a young pastor. He was to be a player-coach. Sharing his faith and teaching others to share their faith and walk in the way of Jesus. I have heard hundreds of sermons and trainings on evangelism but the most persuasive was from a young evangelist at a camp named Mark Cahill. The reason I started to share my faith was that I heard him tell stories of how God had used him to share his faith and seen others come to faith in Christ. It was the qualification of a player that knows the game. The same reason you would listen to Michael Jordan if he gave you advice on your jump shot or performing under pressure. He knows what it is like. Jesus was the ultimate player-coach. Not only did he do the ministry and teach others who walked alongside Him but He then gave His life to show His disciples how to give theirs, because the only way to life was through death. Jesus had to show them the way.

Am I willing as a leader to live for, to live as what I am teaching? Am I willing to go where I want others to follow? I am willing to take steps to share my faith, when I am afraid? Am I telling others to do things I myself am unwilling to do?