by Shannon Caughey
Once when leading a chapel for a football team, I asked the guys if they knew who won the Super Bowl the previous year. They all shouted out the right answer. I asked if they could name the winning team’s quarterback. Again, all of them quickly responded correctly. I then asked if they could give me the names of the offensive linemen for the victorious team. A few ventured a guess, but nobody came close to knowing who played each offensive line position.
I said, “What if these offensive linemen decided they would no longer give their best effort unless they received the same recognition, the same salary, and the same endorsements as their quarterback? How successful would that team be?” The answer is obvious: not very successful at all.
In his book The Power of a Positive Team, Jon Gordon writes, “Great teams don’t have people who serve themselves. They have people who serve the team and each other. They have people who are willing to sacrifice themselves and what they want for the good of the team.” As a Christ-following coach, you desire to establish the right culture for your program – a culture that honors Jesus and leads to true greatness. In the previous devotion, we saw that this culture is built upon the “love each other” principle of Jesus. This culture also includes another emphasis of Jesus: the importance of willingly serving each other.
In contrast to those in the world who seek to elevate and promote themselves, Jesus says this in Mark 10:45-45 about those who follow him: “43But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. 45For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus provides the model for us. He is the “Son of Man,” the fulfillment of Daniel’s vision in the Old Testament of one “like a son of man” who “was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world” (Daniel 7:13, 14). Jesus is the supreme ruler over all, worthy to be exalted and honored by all. Yet he comes not to be served but to serve others. And he serves in the most sacrificial way possible: meeting our deepest need – to be ransomed out of enslavement to sin and eternal death – through giving his life for us.
Often in sports we see individuals who coach, play, and live according to the “I need to do what’s best for me” principle. Think of the impact on a team when athletes and coaches instead pursue a “I want to serve others and do what’s best for them” principle. A willingness to serve each other, to lay down self-focused interests for the sake of working for the good of those around us, is transformational. It’s transformational for individuals who are part of the team, and it’s transformational for the team as a whole.
How is this type of “serve each other” culture established? It begins with your model, Coach. Genuinely and joyfully serve your athletes and fellow coaches. In addition, promote the value of serving each other. Talk about what this looks like on your team. Create opportunities for your athletes to serve others outside of the team. Finally, celebrate serving others as you see it happening on your team.
Thriving teams are characterized by a culture of loving each other and serving each other. Coach, as someone who benefits eternally from how Christ serves you, set the tone for your team by joyfully serving others. This is the way to true greatness because this is the way of Jesus.
For reflection: What are “next steps” for you in encouraging a culture of serving in your program? Ask the Lord for his wisdom, power, and grace to follow through with these steps.