PUT ME IN, COACH
I don’t know if you are a football fan or not, but I am. I find a great many lessons about life can be learned on the old grid-iron. In fact, I think that in many ways churches are like football teams and pastors are like coaches. Allow me to develop this analogy a bit.
I love watching the Ohio State Buckeyes this year. They are the consensus Number 1 college team in America and recently they scored 42 points against Michigan which had what was believed to be the best defense in the country. I apologize if you don’t like football. Stay with me.
How did they do that, score so many points on the Maize and Blue? Most would say that it was the Buckeyes' versatility, that they had too many weapons for the Wolverines to guard against. No matter whom the defense focused on there was always a mismatch somewhere, and the Buckeyes did a great job of exploiting the weakness in the Michigan coverage. Certainly Ohio State had great players, but so did Michigan. Why was it every time the Bucks needed to make a play they were able to find somebody open?
I give most of the credit to the Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel. Rather than being a one-man team and counting on the efforts of a single player, he moved the ball around and figured out a way to get the ball to the guy who was open.
Let’s take a minute and compare why the Buckeyes are Number 1 and most churches are middle-of-the-pack. Pastors could learn a thing or two from Coach Tressel.
When I turn on the Buckeyes I expect to see a lot of great things happen through the combined efforts of a bunch of different people. QB Troy Smith may throw a pass to Teddy Ginn, or perhaps Anthony Gonzales if Ginn is covered. He may hand the ball to Antonio Pittman, or run with it himself, but they do a great job of using the weapons that they have.
I am always struck by the fact that Coach Tressel gets so much of the credit. In all of the games that I have watched over the years I have never seen the coach throw a pass, score a touchdown, make a tackle, or kick a field goal, yet he gets credit or blame when the game is over. Why is that? The coach doesn’t score the touchdown himself, but realizes his job is to get the ball to the guy who can score.
Our Christian team is doing so poorly because so many of our churches are nothing more than one-man teams. Can you imagine going to an Ohio State Football game and watching Coach Tressel run, pass, kick, and tackle? We go to watch his TEAM perform. He has spent months preparing them to play the game. It doesn’t matter how much football he knows if he cannot transfer that knowledge into action. He may have the best playbook the world has ever seen but if the players can’t run the plays effectively the team is doomed to failure.
Walk into your local church, sit down in the pew and watch what happens. The “Coach” will soon appear and begin to explain the Christian playbook. He will instruct the congregants on all of the techniques, the proper methods of action, and the devices the opponents will use against them. He will exhort them to follow the playbook if they want to be successful and assures them the playbook is a guaranteed route to successful living. Unfortunately, all the pastor does is draw plays on the chalkboard, in the safety of the locker room. Most pastors will never take his team to the field to practice the plays they have just been taught.
If all Coach Tressel did was drew plays on the chalkboard, if he never took the team out to the practice field and made them “run through their plays,” if he didn’t give them the chance to practice what they had learned in the “chalk talk,” they would never be able to function as a team during the game. If they never practiced, how would they know who was the best passer, or runner, or blocker? How would the players know what position was best for them? How would they ever defeat the opponent?
You see, the difference is Coach Tressel develops the players and gets the ball to the one who can score. Most pastors won’t let anyone else carry the ball. They are coach and quarterback, passer and receiver, blocker and tackler, cheerleader and trumpet player. Today’s church is the ultimate one-man show. Is it any wonder our team is doing so poorly?
Ephesians 4:11-12 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Paul told us some of the positions on the team. Why don’t we train people to play them? Isn’t that how the “work of the ministry” gets done….by the team? If the job of the Coach is to train the team to run the plays, what then is the job of the pastor?
“But Coach,” some pastors will lament to me, “I can’t get anyone else to carry the ball. All they want to do is sit around and eat of the good of the garden. They don’t want to hoe it.”
Wonder what would happen to Coach Tressel if the Buckeyes were losing because the team wasn’t trying? How long would the Buckeye-Nation listen to the coach blame the players? “Coach ‘em, Tressel. That’s what you get paid for," 106,000 voices would be screaming.
“Coach ‘em Pastor, that’s what you get paid for!” Whip the team into shape. “We’re tired of watching you carry the ball!”
One of the ways that folks try to marginalize a guy like me is by calling me a “fundamentalist,” as if that was something to be ashamed about. Talk to any good football coach and he will tell you that you win the game with fundamentals. If you can’t block, tackle, hang on to the ball, avoid penalties, and play as a team it doesn’t matter how good your playbook is. Song of Solomon 2:15 …the little foxes, that spoil the vines:.. If a football team can’t win without performing the fundamentals why would we think a church could? We have a great playbook. Why won’t we run the plays?
I am convinced that the biggest disconnect in America is between the pulpit and the pew….between the talk and the walk. The “coach” knows the playbook inside and out, and he is convinced that his team is ready for prime time. The players have listened to the coach talk about how the plays need to be run, but they have never had the chance to run the plays for themselves.
No wonder most pastors have no one to pass the ball too. So, pastor, take a clue from Jim Tressel. Take your team to the practice field.
You might be surprised how many playmakers you have on your team, sitting on the bench. “Put me in Coach,” they may be crying. Could it be that they are tired of watching you hog the ball?
I do a lot of street ministry. That doesn’t make me a better Christian than anyone else, so please don’t take it the wrong way. It’s just that my whole life I’ve loved to be in the middle of the action. That is why sports were such a rush for me; fast paced, reactionary, challenging. I loved the “human drama of athletic competition.” I am convinced most real men share my passion for action, but they aren’t aware of the “wrestling match” going on around them and that there is a position for them to play.
I remember when I asked my friend Jim to join me for a trip to help those ravaged by Katrina. He had never played in a “Faith Game” before. For five days he gave of himself to meet the needs of others. He returned home a changed Christian man.
“You know, Coach,” he told me as we bounced along the freeway on the way home. “I would never have done something like this if you hadn’t asked me. I had no idea that the Lord could use a nothing guy like me. I’ve spent my entire life in church and never did anything outside the four walls of the building. Thanks for helping me get in the game.”
Want to help the church win, Pastor? Quit trying to build a ministry and start being one. Look out in your congregation. Some folks are ready to play. They are waiting on you to pass them the ball. Are you the Quarterback or are you the Coach? You can’t be both.
….perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Christianity is a team sport. We have made it a spectator sport.
me in, Coach!”
you think like a Christian or a humanist? Did the Founders really
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© 2006 Dave Daubenmire
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Coach Dave Daubenmire, founder and President of Pass The Salt Ministries www.ptsalt.com and Minutemen United www.minutemenunited.org, is host of the high octane Pass The Salt radio show heard in Columbus, Ohio.
In 1999 Coach Daubenmire was sued by the ACLU for praying with his teams while coaching high school in Ohio. He now spends his energy fighting for Christian principles in the public domain.
You see, the difference is Coach Tressel develops the players and gets the ball to the one who can score. Most pastors won’t let anyone else carry the ball. They are coach and quarterback, passer and receiver, blocker and tackler, cheerleader and trumpet player. Today’s church is the ultimate one-man show.