Peyton Manning is done in Indianapolis. It’s the predominate headline throughout the sports world today. It’s so big, it even made the Drudge Report. If you’re a sports fan, you know Peyton Manning. He has been incredible to watch for 13 of the last 14 years. He revived a city and a franchise with his amazing ability to play quarterback. His numbers alone are staggering: 54k yards passing, almost 400 TDs, and a career passer rating of almost 95. If you watched him play, you could tell that he was the one carrying that team, and it was proven to all of us when his team struggled to win just 2 games last year without him. Yet for all his accomplishments (4 MVPs, 1 Super Bowl championship, 9 playoff wins), the Colts have sent him away. They don’t want him anymore. The Colts have the opportunity to draft the next sure Quarterback in the NFL draft, Andrew Luck, next month, and Peyton has a ton of questions regarding his health and abilities after multiple surgeries on his neck. Releasing Peyton Manning seems like a wise business move, but it’s still a difficult story to swallow.
This whole story shows us how real the saying of “it’s not personal, it’s business” really is. But there’s an important lessons leaders can learn, and especially church leaders from this story. Here it is: no one is indispensable. This is a hard pill to swallow for many leaders. We’d like to think that in some way, the growth or success of what we are leading is because of us. For pastors, this may be even harder for us because we’re the ones that get the majority of the stage on Sunday morning. For the most part, people tell us that they love us, and they come every week to hear us talk, and if the numbers of people coming to hear us talk are growing, how can we not start thinking that we are indispensable to the success of the church we are leading. Your ministry stats could be incredible (attendance from 150 to 850 in 5 years; average 61 baptisms a year; wrote a book about church called “Incredible Church”), but the truth is, if you as the leader died today, after a month or so of mourning, your church would move on to the next leader.
Yes, God does use us. He may even use us to do great things, but every leader can be replaced and eventually will be replaced. The release of Peyton Manning should remind us that our time of influence and leadership is short. Sometimes it’s cut short by factors outside our control: an antagonistic board, a health issue, burnout, or our own moral failing. When leaders are let go, or we’re told that we aren’t needed anymore, it can be devastating. It’s devastating because of the emotional energy pastors pour out on people. It’s heartbreaking because there was more that we wanted to accomplish. Another factor may just be that we thought that we were, in some way, indispensable. I believe, though, that understanding that we are not indispensable to the success of our ministry will make us better leaders.
There’s a few principles that we have to remind themselves of, so that we won’t be distraught over our eventual release.
1. We are stewards. Stewardship is taught throughout Scripture. God is the owner of it all. We are simply called to take care of what He’s given us. Whether its money, our family, or our ministry, everything is the Lord’s. 1 Peter 5 says that Jesus is the Chief Shepherd of His church. He’s the head of the Church, the Chief capstone. If we are in a leadership position in ministry we are simply taking care of the flock that God owns. The church is His redeemed people who He bought with His own blood. When we cross the line and start thinking of ourselves as owner and not steward, that’s where problems begin. Pride creeps into our hearts, and our agenda becomes blurred with the mission of God. When God closes a chapter in our lives in leading one group and moves us to another, the transition is so much easier when we view ourselves as stewards.
2. Train the next leader. One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Deuteronomy 31 and 32. They’re the chapters that cover the transfer of leadership from Moses to Joshua. This isn’t a new idea though to the nation. Moses has been prepping Joshua and the nation for this moment all the way back in Exodus. We need to love the people we lead enough to prepare the next guy to take our office when we’re done. Leaders that make the growth of their organization depend on their giftedness and abilities will handicap their organization when they are gone. Pastors need to broaden and deepen the leadership pool at their church, so that the giftedness and abilities of the entire body are display. Church should never be a one person show.
3. It’s all about God’s glory. Hannah’s song in 1 Samuel 2 is one of the most beautiful songs in all of Scripture. It reads prophetically because every leader in the book, whether prophet, priest, or king, fulfills the song as it says, “The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts.” As leaders we may be exalted and we may be brought low, but we need to believe that He does all things for His glory. I hope that I take comfort in that when I’m brought low someday, because I know it will happen. It happens to all leaders, even great one’s like Peyton Manning.
Above all we need to fix our eyes on Jesus and follow Him. If anyone is indispensable, it better be Him.