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Coach ’em Up

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart I have overcome the world” (Jesus in John 16:33).

“For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God” (Paul in 1 Thess. 2:11-12a).

The two best coaches I had as a kid were a Little League and Babe Ruth baseball coach, and my Junior Varsity basketball coach. Both coaches were winners and both built up their players. The first was my Dad. During the six years he coached, we won the league at least four of those years (Can you believe that I don’t remember for sure? I mostly remember only the wins). If you played for my Dad, you played every game. No one sat the bench for an entire game. Each player learned the game and each player played.

Dennis Sharon was my JV basketball coach. I’ll never forget the game, early in the season, in which I went one for ten shooting. I was terrible! I thought Coach Sharon would bench me. But after the game he said, “Randy, don’t worry about your shot. It looks good. Keep shooting and they’ll start falling.” What a relief! And a great encouragement! The next game was one of the best I ever played and it set up a good season for me.

Great leaders build people up. They encourage. They instruct. They motivate. They always look for opportunities to give a “that a boy!” for a good performance. Great leaders reward what they want to see more of, understanding that most people thrive under a leader who builds people up far more than they do under a leader who creates a spirit of fear and an atmosphere of criticism. The great football coach Vince Lombardi said that love is a stronger motivator than fear. Both can work, he said, but love is stronger and lasts longer as a motivator.

As ministry leaders, our job and responsibility is to help each person in our charge to serve God well. In this regard, we are responsible to help both the strong and the weak. In a church, there are those who are strong in the Lord. They are people of prayer and faith. Others in our charge are weak. They live by sight rather than faith, and they seldom seek God in His Word and in prayer. But pastors and ministry leaders are called to help both of these to grow in Christ and serve Him. We do this, in part, by helping each person know that, in Christ, they are adequate to the task of serving God well.

Ministry leaders have an advantage over other leaders. As we seek to build people up, we do not call them to live up to their own adequacy. Rather, we build our people by helping them know that “Christ in them” is the key to living and serving well. Jesus did not encourage His disciples by telling them that they were adequate to overcome the world, but that He had overcome the world. When we direct people to the resources within them, we speak of the indwelling Holy Spirit who convicts and gifts and matures the believer, even as He joins us as our intercessor in prayer.

Much happiness is found in leadership when God uses us to bring out the best in others. There is true joy in seeing a person thrive in life and service, knowing that you were one of God’s tools to help them do so. Indeed, you will be a better leader if you evaluate yourself, in part, by the growth of those you lead.

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