We can all think of great sporting captains and leaders. Maybe we have played under them and seen their influence at first hand. Maybe we have benefitted from the dedication and passion they have shown in a committee role. But what should it look like when a follower of Jesus steps up to lead?
Having a leadership role in your club is an opportunity and privilege that God can use greatly, but there are many challenges that come along with it. For example, you have to bridge the gap between the players and the coaches, deal with club politics and work with governing bodies and then there’s all the difficulties that come when your team isn’t successful. But even then, these challenges don’t prevent the Christian being used by God.
There are two key things is that we’re called to do for Jesus - serve and shine. These two challenges are very clear from the Bible. I take them from Philippians 2 v 1-16.
In chapter two, Paul reminds us of the relationship we have with Christ and urges us to live a life which reflects that. We are to make his joy complete by being united in our faith in Christ and we’re called to have the same attitude as Jesus – an awesome challenge. Paul then reminds us that God came to earth in Christ and served us.
We see in Jesus the full picture of service. As a captain or a leader in a sports club, you have the opportunity and the privilege to serve those you lead in various ways – and you can do that for Jesus.
Practically speaking, you can clean the changing rooms, set out the cones for training and fill up the water bottles. How about taking time out of your week to ask someone how they are doing, or when teammate gets injured, going out of your way to visit them? Try to serve them and help them out in their everyday lives. Perhaps this could mean babysitting if they have children? If you’re on the committee, how about volunteering for the jobs no one else fancies? Could you get to know the whole of the club, not just the section you’re involved in? Whatever way you’re able, look to model the love of Christ.
From verse 14 onwards, Paul goes on to urge us to shine like stars as we hold out the word of life. And as leader in a sports club, you have a real opportunity to shine for Jesus. You will do this firstly by serving. We shine because Christ lives inside and is working in us. But we also shine when we hold out the hope of the gospel, the word of truth in verse 16. Pray for opportunities to say something of Jesus in your club or team.
How we speak to people is also crucial – being different, not swearing, gently challenging people when their attitude is maybe a bit selfish. This sets the tone. When we speak of Christ, we speak the word of truth and are able to shine in a different way – we give people the chance to look into the gospel themselves and can show them the Bible.
This is a brilliant opportunity and what a privilege it is to be in that position, but there are also potential dangers to watch out for.
If we have a position of authority, we must be careful not to abuse that and make people do things they don’t want to do. The danger is that you go too far along that way and lose people, so they start to feel you have an agenda. They think you don’t care about the squad and the team’s performance – all you care about is pushing your faith.
When we think about leadership, let’s remember too that Jesus is the greatest leader of all. He had no formal education, but His teaching has had a huge impact throughout the world. More people follow Him than any other religion and the church is the largest people group in history. And he did all this by being totally counter-cultural. He didn’t seek success, He made Himself nothing to serve us as it says in Philippians 2.
Having a leadership role is big responsibility and a great opportunity. We need to use that responsibility sensitively and lovingly to suggest to people that they look into Christianity. If you lead brilliantly and serve well, that will help gain your teammates’ respect. As you serve, you build relationships, earn respect and show your team that you care. That gives you the chance to shine and speak the word of truth.
You can use your role as a leader to have a real impact for the gospel. Leading in your sports club is definitely something Christians should look to do – and in Jesus we have the greatest example and the greatest power to help us lead for him. Let’s get out there to serve and shine for Him!
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