I called an old friend to say happy birthday Sunday afternoon. He's a basketball coach at a high school here in Houston and we chatted about his season a bit. His boys went 22-9 and had a great team experience.
I asked how a certain "superstar" played this year. I was interested because I knew that Lute Olsen, Tubby Smith, and Mike "DOOKIE" Kerzipoopski had been looking at this kid. Turns out that the "superstar" had left the school and didn't play with them this year.
"Oh no!" I said.
"Turns out it's a good thing." he said. "My boys did better as a team without him. Everyone played harder than before, they played like a team."
That, of course, got me to thinking about leadership. Especially leadership in church. I move in a universe that tends to make super stars out of pastors. Some of my church family falsely puts me on a pedestal, a place I believe happens to be reserved for the real head of the church - Jesus. Pastors walk this fine balance between leading out of strength, focus, and determination with keeping everyone focused on the fact that Jesus is the leader of the pastor and the church.
Good church people confuse pastors and Jesus. And sometimes, so does the pastor. It's easy to see how it happens, too. No matter how humble we want to be, the pastoral ego is a hungry beast that feeds on the lavish praises of church-folk like a fat kid on chocolate cake. It's only after I've binged on the sugary confection that I realize the icing is smeared on my face and stuck to the back of my knuckles.
I don't mind the leadership required of a pastor. I enjoy exercising what I believe to be a gift God has given me. But I worry that modern American Christianity has created more of a cult religion than a true church where people follow pastors, not Jesus. The ministry of the church is restricted and unfulfilled when everyone on the team stands around watching a great player do all the work and get all the glory.
This isn't to say that pastors and basketball players should diminish their talent so that others around them feel better about their mediocrity. It's just that I'd rather have a balanced team where everyone does what they do best, always ready to assist the others on the team as they go. I, for one, am ready for pastors to step down off the pedestal and utterly resist the evil temptation of being put up their by their adoring fans.
Like in basketball, churches win as teams, not because of super stud individuals.