5 Ways A Pastor is Like Being an NFL Coach

The Super Bowl is just around the corner, the playoffs are here, and the NFL is dominating the sports world. As I think of the life of an NFL coach, there are many similarities between the life of a pastor and the life of an NFL coach. Here are five examples that may or may not be true in your ministry:nfl-coaches-ownersmtg-belichick

Power Struggle

All too often, the coach and GM do not seem to get along. We saw this in the case of Jim Harbaugh. Why in the world would you fire a coach that led you to 3 straight conference championships and one year removed from a Super Bowl? It makes little sense. But it was the power struggle that forced the hand of the owner.

When a church does not work like the body described in I Corinthians 12, there will be power struggles. Church members holding ministries too tightly and pastors forcing their hand in places where grace was needed… can cause a power struggle. It makes little sense when we all should be reaching for the same goals of reaching the lost and building the faith of believers. Yet, Satan grabs a foothold on the team and causes separation.

Work Long Hours

This is a great article. An inside look at the life of a Super Bowl winning coach, John Harbaugh. NFL coaches work ridiculous hours trying to gain that extra advantage on their opponent and to make their team better.

Many pastors lives are no different. I love this article. Some congregations expects a pastor to fulfill these roles each week, but there just isn’t enough hours on the clock. As a result, pastors are putting in crazy hours to fulfill very high expectations. Am I complaining? No. I find it a privilege to serve my people, but it makes for long hours at times (More so for pastors in senior or lead pastor roles).

Criticism Often Comes From the Fans

You’ve seen it driving down the freeway. Fans have bought billboards asking for their coach to be fired. Have you ever gone on a message board for your team? Goodness, the criticism is ridiculous. Even when the team wins, fans are screaming about how bad the QB or coordinator’s play calls were. Most of the criticism a player or team receives is ironically from its own fans.

Now, I’m hoping there will never be the day where I drive down I-70 and see my picture on a billboard asking for me to be fired by my church. However, the principle is often true. Criticism of pastors often comes from within and from the church members, which the pastor loves and seeks to serve. It’s not a new thing, there was inner conflict all throughout the early church, and it often came from within.

Losing The Turnover Battle

If you are like me, and your NFL team suffers from years of futility, this time of year is not about enjoying the anticipation of a playoff game. But the inevitability of a search for a new head coach. (I have the daunting task of being a Bills fan, so we are usually searching for more than just a coach)

If you are a football fan, you know that the Monday after the season, many coaches receive the pink slip. It’s become so notorious for firings, it has become known as “Black Monday”.   According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, “Going back to the start of this century, there have been 95 head-coaching changes since 2000 — an average of 6.8 per season.” That’s astounding.

So how does this compare to the life of a pastor? Lance Witt, in his book “Replenish” outlines a similar problem. According to his research from various surveys, 1,500 pastors leave the ministry permanently each month. John Larue’s article in Christianity Today revealed 23% of pastors had been fired at some point, and 34% of pastors pastor a church where the previous pastor was forced to resign. With only 1 in 10 pastors actually retiring as a pastor, it shows you how much longevity is a challenge.

Rely on Elite Players vs. Developing Role Players

Look at the best teams in football. They typically have great drafts, team players, and key role-players. The teams that rely simply on their star players will never get very far. It has to be a team effort.

It is the same with the church. Have you heard of the 80/20 rule of church? In many churches, 80% of the ministry work comes from 20% of the people. This should not be true. Pastors must disciple and train up volunteers and people to serve.

It seems like discipleship has become a lost art. It should not be like the ugly step-sister of the Great Commission, but should be an integral part of the process. Not only should we go and share the Gospel, but ministry should be about discipling new believers, challenging them to serve, and equipping them to longevity in ministry.

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So now what?? Much of what was written was negative about the church. The last thing I would want to do is stop this blog leaving the church in a bad light. Even in the NFL, there are good coaches that consistently lead their teams well and have produced a winning culture.

I’m blessed to be in a church that is led Biblically, and by God’s grace has a culture of love, accountability, and is Gospel-driven.   Although we do not claim to be perfect, by any means, please do not take this article as a venting session of our problems, because that is far from the truth. But the purpose was to shine light on some flaws of the church that we each can do our part in changing.

Here’s what you can do to build up the church. Be in prayer for your pastor.   Encourage him. Support the leaders of the church. Find ways to serve. Don’t allow the church to be like the NFL. Do your part in making the church like the beautiful bride of Jesus Christ.

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