Bernie Anderson
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the blog

Current musings, whatever they may be. 

Leading Like Murray: A Parable and a True Story

The Path (Gibbs Gardens, Ball Ground, GA)

The Path (Gibbs Gardens, Ball Ground, GA)

There was once an U8 girls soccer coach, who used to be a soccer star in high school, and everyone remembered the day he had a meltdown.

In high school, he was a champion; the catalyst of his high school team's successes. He scored winning goals and made winning assists and saved the game many times in his short-lived, illustrious athletic career.

He graduated from high school. He went to college. He got injured. He drank beer. He fell in love. He graduated from college. He got a day job. He got married and had kids.

Now he's a U8 girls soccer coach. And one day he had all he could take. His girls were tied 3-3 and time was running out.

"I can do this better than these girls," he thought.

"I can do this myself"

So, with seconds left on the clock, the former High School star turned U8 girls coach ran onto the field, stole the ball from the flabberghasted pig-tailed child on the other team, dribbled around every opposing jersey, and powered a winning strike past a terrified 7-year old goalie. The coach-turned-U8-girls-star ran celebrating down the field, yelling "gooooooooooooaaaaaaaallllllll," completely unaware of silent, open-mouthed parents and amateur refereee whistles.

Okay, I just made that up. It didn't happen.

But, I wonder why people in Christian ministry essentially do this all the time? Why do those of us in ministry do all the work rather than empower those God all has called us to serve? Why do ministry people typically attempt to score all of the goals themselves, rather than coach, equip, train and empower? Why do we spend most of our time in the limelight and very little of our time backstage, helping those we're called to serve to be everything God has gifted them to be? Why do we exalt our own gifts and never enrich and celebrate the gifts of others?

Why was I this way?

When I ran cross-country in high school, I was coached by a man named Murray Sanford. He was the most unlikely track/cross-country coach imaginable. He smoked like a movie star from the 40's and couldn't run a 100-yard dash (let alone a 5K) to save his life. Yet, he was the best high school track/cross-country coach in the state of Georgia. He took his teams to state championships. He wasn't a runner and didn't try to be. He had developed the dubious ability to bring out the best in high school runners, and never needed to take the credit or the glory for it. He was a good coach in the sense that Tom Landry described: "Leadership is getting someone to do what they don't want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve."

The church needs more pastors like Coach Sanford. The world needs more missionaries like Coach Sanford. Everywhere needs way fewer ministry people like the fabled U8 girls soccer coach.

A leader . . . is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, where upon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.
— Nelson Mandela
Burundian shepherd boy demonstrating real leadership .... 

Burundian shepherd boy demonstrating real leadership ....