Over the eight sessions of Coworkers Leadership Training Seminars, the topics that I most resonated with were the two on Team Leadership and Second Chair Leadership. I wanted to piggy-back off the materials that Pastor Lee shared with the class, reflecting upon God’s work in my life, and the spiritual lessons I picked up along the way. I hope this can be a blessed fellowship with you over words, and will lead to deeper appreciation on the wonders of God’s design of our roles serving in His church. Reach out to me if you have a question, an encouragement, or your own reflection that you would want to share with me. I am sure those will be blessed conversations from our Lord.
Growing up, I dreamed about playing soccer professionally. I loved the sport. Besides the highs from goals, non-stop action, twists and turns of the matches, there was that mental dimension of strategy, plans and execution challenges. And I loved the competitiveness, with support from my teammates. Wins and losses, emotions and intrigues were all part of that wonderfully rewarding experience when I got to play, surrounded by those that shared the same love of the game. In the end, I was never good enough to become a professional soccer player. But I managed to learn a few life lessons while dreaming about becoming one. These past couple of months, I discovered some parallels from the church leadership training topics led by Pastor Lee and Pastor Michael.
I am not a natural leader. At least, not by the standards defined by Oswald Sanders in his book, Spiritual Leadership. I learned by observing others, good and inspiring leaders, from work, in church, and across my professional network. I was neither a fast nor a strong athlete. Certainly, I was not a natural soccer player either. I just grew to love playing the sport. The more I played, and as I learned from those who were really good at it, the more I enjoyed becoming a better player and a better teammate. People who know me well know that I assisted more, a lot more than I scored. If I had a choice serving in the church, I’d be doing audio/visual support in the back than on the stage.
As a soccer player, how often would you get to pick the position that you played on the team? That’s usually the coach’s decision. When I played in the South Bay industrial league, our company sponsored team did not have a coach. Because I had played competitively in high school and in college, I ended up being asked by my teammates to be a player-coach. Yes, that meant I got to pick my position on the team. I played half-back. It was a position where I could interact most with both our defense and offense.
It’s actually pretty amazing serving with people in the church. Just like my soccer teammates, they came from different walks of life, backgrounds, training, some naturally easy-going while others had their own quirks. Almost without exceptions, deeper understanding and relationships evolved over time. And we got things done, we met needs, serving with each other, many times without having to ask. It took me six months to begin developing a relationship with the drummer on the worship team at SMCC. He was quite reserved. But he would be the one who almost made me miss the worship service during my last visit because we had so much to catch up. Serving with the worship team, we strung cables, set up mics, monitors, music stands… we didn’t even have to decide who did what, but everything got hooked up, torn down perfectly every Sunday. That unsaid understanding was precious because we were committed to each other, trusted each other, on everything, every time!
You see, my most memorable moments on the soccer field have been those times when I provided the assists for my teammates to score. There was the half-length-of the-field no-look pass to my counter-attacking teammate. It was so accurate it actually hit his bud and required him to stop to retrieve the ball. You know I was just joking. I was not that accurate on the pass, but it was no less memorable. Another counter attack had me pivoting my dribble to draw the last defender in, then back-heeling the ball to a wide-open teammate who scored easily. Everyone was surprised by the move, including my teammate to whom I had to yell his name out to get his attention on the pass. And then there was our goalkeeper who did not like taking goal kicks. So I handled the goal kick duty as well. Not a significant task, but someone had to do it. The times that I actually scored goals, they were pretty low on my memorable soccer moments.
I always love the parable of the talents from Matthew 25. One of the reasons is because I could most identify with the slave given two talents by his master. He was obviously not the most “talented” slave, unlike his fellow slave who was given five talents. God, in His sovereign plan, had me placed in that “assist” role serving in His kingdom. The secular world had people striving to climb the corporate ladder, sometimes over unneeded stress, pain, disappointments and hurt. In God’s family, there is no ladder to climb. ““His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter the joy of your master.’” (Matt 25:21). That’s it! My simple aspiration is just being a good and faithful slave. And I can count on “entering the joy of my master”. Now, that’s 100% joy! No less.
While I was on the soccer field, my mind would be revolving around my teammates, their positions, their strengths and weaknesses, their tendencies, preferences, their favorite moves, and even the more subtle nuances such as their temperaments. The best thing I could do as a teammate was to set them up for success instead of struggles. It was as much physical as it was mental on the pitch. It was easy to think about the direction to dribble or to pass, or to shoot. But it was just as important that I would move to and position myself to receive a pass, especially when my teammate was in a bind.
Once I was introduced to a visiting friend of a brother in the church. He introduced me as the general manager of the church. My response to that introduction was “I just fill the gaps.” It was not meant to be funny or being disingenuous. It’s the way I frame the needs in the church. God granted me some gifts. It’s natural that I should use them to serve His church. He also made me a jack of all trade, master of none. So I can become a gap filler. I’ll have to ask God His reason for that when I am in heaven. I am curious. But even without His explanation, I am content to be the gap filler. The second chair leader that Pastor Lee talked about…it definitely resonated with me.
Did any of my life story resonate with you? Whether you’re one among the eleven players on a soccer team, or one among the many coworkers in the church, you will experience these memorable moments when you look to your teammates or coworkers first. Know them. Serve them. Support them. Encourage them. What is your next assist? Enjoy it and treasure it!