And when we thought it couldn't get any more surreal, The Athletic ran a story of what Kawhi was like in college at San Diego State. For one of the greatest players of his generation, his trash talk game was a bit odd. Rarely letting anyone score on him, when getting a rebound he'd say "Board man gets paid." When he explained the origin of that, it gave a glimpse into the psyche of a player who has a reputation for being intensely personal and a bit of a cyborg.
The takeaway? If we want to pursue excellence, to pursue effective ministry, we have to be willing to do the little things. Getting rebounds, for Kawhi, is a way that he can strengthen his team and increase his effectiveness on defense. It's also a reminder to everyone else on the team that since the star is willing to out-work, out-hustle, and out-compete, everyone on the roster should as well.
We do this when we adopt an attitude of whatever it takes. Never should we in leadership expect other people to do what we aren't willing to ourselves. It also means that we embrace passivity because "it's not my job." We should and ought to delegate, but we also have to remember that sometimes fulfilling our calling will involve unclogging a toilet.
We do this when we seek excellence in the little things. It's not usually in the big things that our focus is found, it's in the little things. When our services are filled with typos, glitches, our messages aren't crisp in their transitions, and we ask people to fill out cards that aren't where they should be, we're communicating a message of carelessness. It doesn't mean micromanaging, but it does mean ensuring that whatever we do, we're doing it with excellence.
We do this when we defer credit. The board man does the dirty work to clear the rebound and turn the ball up court. Usually the one clearing the rebound will be the last one in the offensive set. Deferring credit means that we're willing to let other people get the applause. As leaders, we're not doing what we do so we can get a pat on the back. We're willing to give credit to others, to lift up those around us.
We do this when we grind. Faithful ministry is less about stellar preaching and really slick video promotions. It's more about plodding. What separates basketball players with potential and those who succeed isn't talent, it's grind. When we're willing to put in the time, to work hard, to dig deep in people's lives, and to do the hard work, we're going to see fruit. We're going to see the work finished that God has started in our lives and others'.
When it's summer it's vacation season for pastors, and since Sunday still comes around whether we're around or not, it's time to line up guest speakers. It's so good for our churches to have a guest come in (even when we're not out of town) because you need a break sometimes, and quite honestly your church needs a break from you too! They might love you and appreciate your preaching, but it's always good for them to hear from someone else. It reminds them (and you) that God speaks through His Word and His servants beyond you.
When you bring in a guest speaker, you'll usually find one of these four types:
1. The Promising Rookie - Chances are you or a church in your area has a young man who has a calling to ministry and some potential, so guest speaking opportunities are a chance for them to get some field training. The pipeline for preaching and ministry isn't Bible college or seminary, it's the local church. If our churches are growing and healthy, we should at some point have some people God is calling out for ministry. One of the great blessings you can give as a pastor is to give these rookies a chance. Will it be perfect? Nope. Will it be as polished as #2 below? Nope. But let's never forget, someone gave us a chance one time long ago.
2. The Seasoned Veteran - One of my favorite things about Florida is that we're surrounded by people seasoned with experience, especially retired pastors and ministers. It's great knowing there are people nearby who are willing to help in any way who've served in ministry longer than I've been alive. The Seasoned Vet is someone you can call who will connect with people differently than you, who might preach differently than you do, but who will be of tremendous value to you and your church. Their messages have been refined by decades of faithful service.
3. Shoot Your Shot - These guest speakers are the guys who'll take their shot. Like famous volume shooter Antoine Walker said when asked why he took so many 3's: "Because there's not a 4 point line." The Shoot Your Shot guest speaker will take risks, he'll speak boldly, he'll challenge long held assumptions, and he'll do it the entirety of the message. He'll take every opportunity he's got to take his shot. Maybe they're passionate about one particular thing, or they're coming as a guest speaker on behalf of a parachurch mission or ministry. Don't be surprised if they pitch their ministry as the best ministry on the planet. They're shooting their shot.
4. The Dependable Reliever - Not everyone in the bullpen is throwing 103 with a nasty slider. Most of them are steady, reliable, dependable pitchers. When you're bringing in a guest speaker who's the Dependable Reliever, they'll step in and preach faithfully, they'll keep to their time limits, they'll smile and love people, and they'll leave your pulpit cleaner than they found it. Never underestimate the importance of the Dependable Reliever. Ten years from now people might not remember anything he said, but he'll have filled the gaps in ways that none of the other guest speakers could have.
There's something that happens when the calendar flips to June for pastors:
-It's really hot outside
-The crowds seem smaller on Sundays
-Your kids are off school for the summer driving your wife nuts
-Giving goes down
-Everyone seems to be out of town
It's the "Summer Blahs" of ministry. No matter our context, the majority of our scheduling and programming centers around the school calendar of a fall and spring semester. Summer, for a lot of us, can be a discouraging time.
But it doesn't have to be. Summer can instead be a time where we refresh, recharge, and renew before the calendar turns to September. Our summers are often lighter (with the exception of VBS for most churches), and we can spend some more time doing forward planning and prayer.
1. Spend time praying - Acts 6 is where I think most of us get our ministry half right. We love the "ministry of the Word" part of pastoral ministry, where we sermon prep and preach. But the other part of the Apostles' ministry was prayer. If we're honest, most of us would say our prayer life isn't nearly where we want it to be. Over the summer, commit to spending an extra 15 minutes a day in prayer. Not perfunctory prayer. But meaningful prayer. Prayer for your family, prayer for the church, prayer for particular people, prayer for vision.
2. Recharge - Somewhere along the way we bought into this lie in ministry that we run on some kind of unlimited battery. We serve an unlimited God but we are still bound in our fragility. We get tired. We get sick. We can't run on coffee and candy. Pastor, serious question: Did you make plans to take a vacation? Another serious question: Are you taking your day off? Sabbath rest (a day off) isn't unproductive, it's faith in action. Vacation isn't a waste of money, it's nourishment for your soul.
3. Read - You know what I'm about to mention? That pile next to your desk. You've been so busy since January getting ready for Easter and all the activity of ministry that your pile has grown. Why not take some time this summer to read a few books? And not just theology while we're at it. Pick up a biography. Pick up a novel. Read for fun. Read for growth. Read for professional development.
4. Look forward - Sleep research shows that when we don't dream, we're not going to be healthy or mentally refreshed. I think the same thing applies to pastors who don't stop to look forward. Dreaming isn't daydreaming. Daydreaming is what we do to escape what's in front of us. Dreaming is something entirely else though. Dreaming is where we look ahead to what could be in the future if we're faithful to what God has called us to.
5. Reconnect - For a public role, ministry can often be lonely. When was the last time you reconnected with a friend from seminary? With another pastor in the area? With your mentors? Now the hard one... with your wife?
Pastor, you got this. You'll get through the summer blahs. Hang in there!
All of us have been there. Cage Stage. It's where you find out about something and you're so passionate and zealous about it that it becomes everything you talk about. For some it's Calvinism, for others it's gender roles, for a few it's end times views. In a few years, it'll be something else.
Whatever your recently discovered fascination is, let me offer you four ways to get out of your cage.
1) Grow up - I don't mean this condescendingly. I mean it in love. Most of the time, the remedy to cage stage fascination is a few years of experience, getting married, and having kids. If nothing else, you're too tired to be zealous about something that doesn't matter. What we're passionate about in our youth we learn as we get older that it's not as big a deal as we once thought. Age, wisdom, and maturity are vitamins to our soul. To steal a line from the SBC this week, 2019 Scott has a lot to say to 2005 Scott who'd read more about TULIP than his humility could take.
2) Get outside the echo chamber - One of the reasons why our cage stage is so strong is that we find ourselves in an echo chamber of like-mindedness. Twitter only serves to multiply that, when we develop an insulated community of people who are also in their cage stage. Spending time with people who think different than you will help serve to refine and polish you.
3) Refocus on the main thing - Almost always, our cage stage is on a secondary or tertiary issue. In the grand scheme of things, it's not that big a deal. Our main thing is the Gospel: the good news of great joy that hope can be found in Christ. When we recalibrate our lives on the main thing, on keeping (HT to JD Greear) the Gospel above all, we'll see our cage stage fascination pale in comparison to the glories of the Gospel.
4) Spend time with seasoned leaders - If you're in ministry and you're in a cage stage, go spend some time with some seasoned (older) leaders. They've seen the fads and trends come and go. They've seen the fascination with end times charts and 88 Reasons and Left Behind. They've seen that all of these trends ebb and flow. And they've got something that we in our youthful zeal for our secondary issue don't have: wisdom. I give a lot of credit on this in my life to my father in law, who put his hand on my shoulder during one of my cage stage discussions and told me to relax. Over the years, he's proven invaluable to me to help think through issues.
What was your cage stage, and how did you break out?
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.