Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words
Bloomberg Businessweek’s Ira Boudway wrote a fascinating article about the perennially successful head basketball coach of the San Antonio Spurs. He called the piece, “The Five Pillars of Popovich.” Gregg Popovich, who has led the Texas team to five NBA championships in a little over 20 years, is the epitome of steady in a league notorious for constant change. Boudway laments that Popovich wouldn’t actually cite his own pillars of success, but the thoroughly researched column definitely exposes the principles that have made this legendary coach tick with exquisite precision. Those five pillars, in order, are:
We would modify and adapt the wording of some of the pillars, but the principles are unmistakably sound. When it comes to spiritual leadership, whether in the home or the church, these qualities are powerfully attractive.
Great leaders work hard to give others the credit and, most of all, God the praise. The goal is more important than the glory (Eph. 3:20-21).
Great leaders will not ask others to do what they won’t do (Mat. 23:3-4). They exemplify what they expect (Heb. 13:7).
Great leaders get the difference between the “big stuff” and the “small stuff.” Spiritual wisdom helps them channel their passion nobly. They reserve emotion for the eternal and temperance for the temporary.
Great leaders are learners, growers, and improvers. They hate complacency and disdain settling. Nowhere do they demonstrate this more than their pursuit of sacred truth, as consummate Bible students (2 Pet. 3:18).
Great leaders truly know those whom they lead. Assumptions, perceptions, prejudices, and appearances hamstring and even sabotage leaders. There is no substitute for loving people, genuinely caring about and being intimately involved in the lives of those whom they lead (John 10:1ff).
People are looking for leaders like this. They will follow them to the ends of the earth and, consequently, to heaven! None of these qualities necessitates a Ph.D. or a million dollars. They simply require dedication and discipleship! May God raise up more men who have the will and want to be successful leaders for Him!
Several of our classes have assistants to the Bible class teacher. She (or perhaps in select cases “he”) serves in a support role, helping students do handwork, find Bible verses, or occasionally keep order. These are vital roles, and often a teacher’s aid later actually becomes a teacher. Teachers’ aids are part of a great team and education system that benefits everyone in the classroom.
There is a constant, pressing need for more teachers’ aids. I don’t mean in the actual classroom during the “Bible class hour.” These aids are needed Sunday afternoons, late Wednesdays, Saturday afternoons, and/or opportune moments between these times. These aids have even more power than those helping the teacher in the classroom. They are the parents and care-givers of the students. There are several ways they can “aid” the teachers who put in hours of preparation time and tons of energy and emotion into the task of teaching.
Aid teachers by making sure your children do their homework. Most teachers give homework, memory work or activity sheets. This is a vital supplement to the actual lesson taught in class. When children come to class with their homework done, teachers are elated and made to feel that their efforts are appreciated. They feel that their students take the class as seriously as they do.
Aid teachers by asking about what they have learned. Ask your children what they talked about in class that day. Ask them to review as much as they can. Ask them what they learned and how they can make application from the class. What better topic of conversation can parents and children discuss on the way home from services?
Aid teachers by making sure they feel appreciated. One way to do this is by making sure you practice the first two suggestions. However, having the child send a thank you note or by personally thanking your child’s teacher, you are aiding through the means of encouragement. Everyone likes to feel appreciated. Teachers are no different.
The qualifications are simple enough. To be this type of teacher’s aid, simply do all you can to partner with the efforts of your children’s teachers. Your child, your home, and your child’s teacher all will be blessed by it.
Most preachers know the unpleasant burden of having to preach on difficult subjects. There are some who, whether they find it unpleasant or not, are unpleasant in their demeanor and fully ready to frequently preach on moral, doctrinal, ethical, and other sin-related issues. However, it is distasteful business to most men who stand before congregations or sit before individuals to preach and teach the Word. What are reasons why we may be tempted not to teach truth?
1) Fear of repercussions. This is not said with cynicism or judgement of men’s motives and hearts, but for most of us there is usually fear of unwelcome consequences from preaching on a difficult subject. We do not want to offend people or their sensitivities. We do not want to cross people of influence who might encourage criticism or discontent against us personally. We do not want to see angry or hurt faces.
2) An overreaction to issue-oriented preachers. Most of us can think of a preacher or preachers who seemingly cannot stand before an audience without mounting their familiar hobby horse. Some have a stable of such stallions and a field of such fillies. Because we do not want to be that guy, we may be tempted to avoid difficult, thorny subjects.
3) Not being fully convinced that it’s truth themselves. I am convinced there are preachers who do not believe the truth on certain subjects, but they know the leadership or some in the membership do. So, they avoid preaching those subjects. If questioned on this, they can point to their lessons and defend themselves by saying they have not advocated error on a particular matter. Further investigation would reveal their silence on the matter altogether.
4) An assumption that people already know the truth on a subject. Without proper vigilance and attention to balanced preaching and teaching, this is inevitable. Especially if many in the audience grew up in the church and older members remember certain subjects being regularly addressed in their lifetime, they may not feel a sense of urgency that such subjects be periodically visited. We can raise an entire generation, assuming they believe what we came to believe through studying and hearing these matters preached. This assumption is both faulty and false.
Ephesians 4:15 and Colossians 4:6 are beacons and guides that determine how we preach. Acts 20:27 guides us as to what we preach. Fear is not an excuse for omitting certain subjects from our sermon repertoires (cf. Rev. 21:8). An overreaction that causes us to avoid all controversial, “hard” sermons is in itself an extreme (cf. Josh. 1:7). One not convinced about truth owes it to themselves and their hearers to stop preaching until they get that resolved (cf. Jas. 3:1). Assuming people know and understand the truth on a subject can make us poor stewards of the high charge we have as preachers and teachers (cf. 1 Cor. 9:16). Let us be transparently kind, caring, and concerned for people when we stand before them to teach and preach. Yet, let us have a righteous boldness and unwavering trust in the Lord to declare the whole truth so as to please Him.
John warns, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world…” (2 John 7). The particular deceiver in that passage denied that Jesus came in the flesh. Looking at the religious landscape today, John would no doubt repeat himself. There are so many deceivers who are leading people away from the truth of Christ and about Him. Consider several identifying marks of false teachers, which the Holy Spirit makes known.
Preachers (and teachers), have backbone. Preach the truth, even if it is difficult and opposed. Have faith. Whatever it costs to be faithful to the Word, know that heaven will surely be worth it all. Have conviction. Do not let circumstance determine content (2 Tim. 4:2-5).
One of the last great periods of spiritual revival in Judah’s history before Babylonian Captivity occurred during the reign of Jehoshaphat. This king is praised for seeking God, following His commandments, and not acting like Israel (2 Ch. 17:3-4). Jehoshaphat was greatly blessed by these decisions, he took pride in the Lord’s ways and sought to eradicate idolatry (5-6). In the third year of his reign, Jehoshaphat sent his officials, the priests, and the Levites throughout Judah. What we read in 2 Chronicles 17:9 is exemplary for us today.
Despite some later foolish and even sinful choices, Jehoshaphat was on target to send teachers for Judah’s benefit. In the end, he instituted needed, helpful reforms, and relied on God in prayer. He fell short, but perhaps it was his anchor in the law of God that kept him from drifting away from Him. Our hope and future is tied to how faithfully we follow God, but we must know what God wants to do that. And we can only know what God wants by knowing His Word. God bless the teachers that help us to do just that!