I love me some sports. I am an over-the-top Chicago Cubs fan (my license plate says “Cubzwin”), my three children all played collegiate sports, my wife and I played collegiate sports, I’m in four fantasy football leagues (that’s at least one or two too many, by the way) and I have been known to adjust my schedule to sporting events on TV. I freely admit there have been some regrettable times in my life as a sports fan and sports dad. Like a lot of aspects of leadership, those failures might actually be what qualifies me to write on this huge part of many of our lives.
Welcome to the latest post of my new Essential Godly Leadership blog. The goal of this blog is to focus on what Scripture says about leadership and not just the latest leadership guru, book, or website. It’s not that those resources are bad; they can be very helpful. But they’re not Essential. Leading in a Godly manner and with God-honoring goals is Essential to our lives. Read on.
Here is what I have seen over the last 20 years of my life. Sports have taken over our society. It’s taken over TV, budgets, families, towns, schools, and more. Everyone thinks that their kid is the next Ronaldo (soccer star), Aaron Judge (baseball star), Ryan Tannehill (football…ah…let’s go with football player guy – sorry Ryan), or LeBron James (basketball star). To that end, parents and grandparents will invest thousands and thousands of dollars in training, fees, trips, outfits, equipment, and more. Why? In their minds, it’s to help get their kid get to the top and help him or her succeed in life – to become a leader and be successful.
Now, again, I am pro-sports, and I have seen great things come out of my three kids playing at a very high level. But, and it’s a big but, in 2022, I see way too many of us going way too far with this passion and commitment. With all of my kids now adults in their 20s, I see an infinitesimal amount of great things coming out of their spiritual training and decisions than any sports training or decision they ever made.
Okay, so we may really love our kids’ sports team or favorite college football team. But, what are signs that we’ve gone too far with sports?
- Your conversations revolve primarily, potentially even exclusively, around sports.
- Your family and personal trips and vacations are all tied to sports.
- Commitment to church, youth group, and kids ministries all come in second to sports. I don’t mean they come in second in a quiz where you’re asked what’s most important but in your calendar and in your bank account.
- The challenges you give to your family, your kids, and your grandkids are heavily weighted toward athletics, and very minimal focus, if any, is given to spiritual development and discipleship.
- Your day, week, month, or year even is “ruined” because of a loss, a bad performance, or a team that was not made.
- Anger issues seem to rise up more and more around athletics that cause relational issues.
If any of those bullets, or others not listed, are a part of your world, I would suggest that there is a problem.
Let me juxtapose that life focus with how a Godly Leader leads through sports. We’ll do that by walking through some Scripture and the 4 P’s (a little pastoral preaching coming out here):
- Purpose – Lead with Godly Purpose. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” A Godly coach, friend, parent, grandparent, teacher, etc. lets those in their influence know that we serve a sovereign God. He has our best interest at heart if we’ll just commit our lives to Him and follow Him daily. That is the purpose of life – living for God – not living for athletic success.
- Passion – Lead recognizing that our Passion comes from the Lord. Deuteronomy 6:5 (NIV) says, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. God created us as passionate beings but our primary and majority passions are to be dedicated to the Lord, not athletics or anything else. Godly leaders show that this Godly passion is essential in their own lives in how they model and lead.
- Priorities – Lead realizing what’s really most important. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? (Mark 8:36-37 NIV) Back in the day, we used to say that you could tell someone’s priorities by their calendar and their checkbook. It might be Venmo now but the calendar piece still applies. When people look at you as a Godly leader, do they know you are in God’s Word daily, generous to people and ministry, committed to church, and making time for the things of the Lord? And they know this not just from what you say but from what your calendar tells them.
- Perspective – Lead pointing to the great learnings from athletics. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14 NIV) We do press on to win the prize! But, we need to lead by looking at the real prize – Christlikeness. You can learn a ton about humility, teamwork, relationships, submission to authority, wisdom, and much more in athletics. Yes, focus on a good batting stance, proper tackling technique, and great ball skills. But, focus more on the real lessons that are to be learned in life from and through athletics that can ultimately point us to Jesus.
Leader, dad, mom, grandparent, friend, teacher, coach – lead those in your influence in such a way that the true essentials of a God-honoring life are what you’re known for and what those around you hear and see most. Don’t compromise church and spiritual growth, don’t let passions get out of control, and provide sovereign-God-type perspective in the midst of the ups and downs of life and athletics. It will take a daily walk with the Lord, prayer, support from those around you, and a minute-by-minute commitment to be the Essential Godly Leader that God is calling you to be.
We could talk a lot more on this topic, but we’ll leave it there for now. What are your thoughts or questions? Leave them in the comments. If you found this blog helpful or thought-provoking, please subscribe below to receive a new weekly blog in your email on Tuesday morning. Also, if you think this blog would be helpful for others, please share it on social media or tell a few friends about it!
Love being on this Essential Godly Leadership journey with you!Essential Godly Leadership: “Leading your life, your family, your work, your relationships, and your world in a way that is seeking wisdom from, and pleasing to, the Lord Jesus.”