How Many Coaches??


Every January I reserve one Sunday night to sit down with about 100 million other people to watch the Super Bowl. I can usually do without the halftime show (though I do enjoy watching the highly leveraged commercials), but the spectacle of the two best football teams slugging it out for the ultimate prize is, for me, an irresistible attraction.

Last year, after once again cheering for the losing team, I was interested enough to watch the awards ceremony in which congratulations were given to the 56 players and 18 coaches of the reigning NFL champions. How many coaches?? Let’s see . . . that ratio would be one coach for approximately every three players. So that’s how it’s done!

Immediately, I remembered something I read in a book by Leonard Sweet in which he cites the work of management theorist Michael Hammer.

A right thing about football . . . is its coaching structure. There is a head coach for the entire team, but the team is organized around functions; an offensive, defensive and special teams function. Each one of these functions has its own coaching structure. Then within each function there are specific positions each with its own coach: line, quarterback, back, ends. Then every person on the team is given a personal trainer who coaches in the basics of conditioning. This does not even take into consideration the way teammates coach each other during the game . . . Every member of a football team is multiply coached. Hammer concludes, it is this simultaneous focus on both the process and the team collectively, as well as on the individual and his or her capabilities, that is the model for where we are heading in terms of organizational structure.” (Soul Tsunami, p. 296)

Now, I am very sure that the Arizona Cardinals had just as many coaches as the Pittsburgh Steelers last January. The winning margin was produced by other things as well. But I am also sure that the level of excellence obtained by both teams would not have been achieved if there were only 10 coaches or maybe 8. My point is this. If you want to build a championship team, it is not enough to simply secure players with immense amounts of talent and potential. They will never win the title unless you also secure the very best coaches—and lots of them!

One of the core values of The Alliance is that the completion of the Great Commission will require the mobilization of every fully devoted follower of Christ. In our churches, we already have plenty of raw talent and Kingdom potential. We are not lacking in disciples. In the United States alone there are nearly 500,000 people in our C&MA family. According to the Bible, every single one of those people has been given specific “gifts” by the Spirit of God that are intended to be used for the “building up of the body.” One of the missing factors, however, is an inadequate coaching structure: too few coaches, too many inadequately trained coaches and a team of players who are singly, not multiply, coached.

In every Alliance church there is a plethora of programming, but I sometimes wonder how much real “discipling” ever takes place. How many “coaches” are pouring their lives, their character and their ministry skills into your life to prepare you for the “big game”? Many of us would be hard pressed to name even one person who was intentionally and effectively helping us to develop our gifts and ministries. And how much time and effort are we spending building one-on-one into the lives of the men and women who are following us as we follow Christ? It is clear enough that Jesus understood that the creation of a world-changing movement was entirely dependent on the quality of the men and women that He chose to be His disciples. His highest priority was to mentor and disciple them. He was, in twenty-first century parlance, their “coach.”

Any study of the history of the church will quickly confirm the importance of intentional “one-on-one,” “life-on-life” coaching. The Apostle Paul understood it. He told his disciple Timothy to pass along the all the things he had learned from Paul to “faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2). In eighteenth-century England, John Wesley was not the most gifted or prominent preacher. (That distinction belonged to his friend George Whitefield.) But Wesley was the one who understood the importance of creating a discipling or coaching culture, and out of that understanding a world-changing movement was born. In a culture that has been largely dependent on carefully calibrated programming, inspirational preaching and well-rehearsed celebrative “worship sets,” perhaps we need something a little more basic.

Think about it. The stakes for which we are playing are infinitely more important than the annual Super Bowl. Why shouldn’t our team be at least as well prepared?

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