During the first Sunday in February I did what many if not most Americans do on the first Sunday in February, I watched the Super Bowl. This year Nick Foles quarterbacked an almost flawless game and his Philadelphia Eagles beat the New England Patriots. Remarkably, just several weeks before the big game, Nick Foles found himself on the bench. Carson Wentz was the Eagle’s starting quarterback, but he was injured in mid-December and deemed unable to play for the rest of the season. So Foles came off the bench and surprised everyone.
Maybe it should not have been such a surprise. After all, Foles’ opposing quarterback, Tom Brady started his illustrious, “Greatest of all time” NFL career on the bench. He wasn’t put into the lineup until the starting QB, Drew Bledsoe had a season-ending injury.
I suspect that there are amazing players on everyone’s bench—even your church’s. Actually, this is more than a hunch: I predict that there are incredibly talented players on your organization’s bench.
Just a few days ago, I met with several folks from our church for our teaching training time. As is our custom, we had scheduled two people to each give a ten-minute presentation. One of them stood up and astonished us with her skill. She was clear, she had a prop that actually worked well, she made a great point, she got us to rethink a familiar Biblical story, she engaged and she finished under the ten-minute time table. Our team sat silently, it was a jaw-dropping speech.
“How many times have you given that talk before?” I asked. It was so good that it had to be something she’s worked on for years. “This is the first time,” she explained. “I started working on it a few weeks ago for this meeting.”
Stupidly, I was stunned. Stupidly--because there are incredibly talented people on your team and on ours. I should have anticipated it.
Pastors can easily slip into becoming like Jeff Fisher. Fisher was a long-time football coach in the NFL. He holds the record for the most losses as a head coach—165 in the regular season. He had to be good enough to stick around so long to lose that many games. (He actually won 173!) In Fisher’s last two seasons he had three quarterbacks: Nick Foles—Fisher cut him, then he became the Most Valuable Player of the Super Bowl; Case Keenam—Fisher benched him, then Keenam led his new team to the NFC Championship game; and Jared Goff—Fisher got zero wins out of Goff, who then became the NFL’s most improved player under a new coach.
If we are not careful we can completely miss the incredibly talented players on our teams and even on our bench.
Recently I was with a group of church planting leaders for some meetings in Houston, Texas. The facilitators brought in a retired woman, a former business leader to speak to us. She came down off the stage and worked the crowd like an exceptional comedian, politician and motivational speaker all rolled into one. It was an amazing display of encouragement and verbal talent. After her talk there was a short time available for questions and answers. One of the first questions was, “Wow, you are a great communicator, do you speak regularly at your church?” That question seemed to shake this woman. She paused, leaned over and whispered, “Oh no, my pastor doesn’t know about my speaking ability. He would never have me on stage at church. My role is to be a greeter—once a month.”
Stupidly, I was stunned. There are incredibly talented people on the bench on your organization or church.
Then Todd Wilson took the stage and made this observation: “In every church there are talented people and their pastor has no idea what to do with them.”
Have you ever noticed how the disciples of Jesus solved problems in the Bible’s book of Acts? For sure, they always prayed. Prayer was a given. And they often asked for a miracle in their prayers.
But there is another solution they typically went to next: The Bench. Many of the early churches dilemmas were solved with the bench.
Judas betrayed Jesus and his team. What do you do with a problem like that? The Apostles went to the bench.
The widows were not getting enough food. What do you do with a problem like that? The Apostles went to the bench. They chose men like Stephen and Phillip.
Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people.—Acts 6:8 (NLT)
Stephen wasn’t even on the leadership team, he was on the bench. The first martyr in the Christian Church came off the bench.
Philip opened the doors for Christianity to spread in Samaria and Ethiopia.
Philip, for example, went to the city of Samaria and told the people there about the Messiah. Crowds listened intently to Philip because they were eager to hear his message and see the miraculous signs he did. Many evil spirits were cast out, screaming as they left their victims. And many who had been paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.
—Acts 8:5-8 (NLT)
In Acts chapter 15 Paul and Barnabas have a disagreement about the bench. The dispute becomes so charge that they part ways. What do you do with a problem like that? Paul and Barnabas went to the bench.
Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. Paul chose Silas, and as he left, the believers entrusted him to the Lord’s gracious care. Then he traveled throughout Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches there.--Acts 15:40-41 (NLT)
Mark and Silas turned out to be two pretty good players. There were incredibly talented people on the early church’s bench.
The early church solved betrayal issues, discord problems and relational struggles with the bench. I suspect we can too.