Theology: no answer but Jesus

What are the implications of the fact that God sent Jesus into the world to redeem us? First, it speaks to our worth. The God who created us in his image felt that we were worth redeeming. He died for our sins, instead of us, to reconcile us to God and to each other. None of us will ever understand that sacrifice by a holy God. So, we are valuable. Remember that as we consider this next part.

Second, according to James Plueddemann, because we are all broken and sinful, “all the problems in the world are directly or indirectly caused by sin.” Poverty, war, greed, injustice, illness and tragedies of every kind stem from a broken creation spoiled by sin. Therefore, government or business solutions are like applying a topical cream to treat cancer.

Jesus is the only solution to the sin problem… so the most competent leader in the world cannot solve any major problem without the gospel of Jesus.

The gospel alone — God rescuing us from our brokenness — is the answer for the deepest needs of humans and creation as a whole.

Third, Plueddemann adds, “the goal of leadership is to point people to Jesus.” Rather than work independently, we realize we are branches on a vine, and we can do nothing without him (John 15). Rather than draw attention to ourselves, we realize we are nothing without him. Our goal is to co-lead with him, if you will, pointing to him as the solution and primary source of any gifts and ability we have or success we enjoy.

Fourth, leaders have a model for their own leadership style. Jesus is the ideal leader who modeled servant leadership, an “astounding and universally countercultural” concept. Mark 10:45 lays out the standard for our leadership practice:

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.

So, a failure to understand what Jesus did for us leads to the misunderstanding that we are something on our own and down the ugly road of pride. This sure isn’t a feel-good post. I feel really small. Thank God that the gospel doesn’t end with how bad we are. It’s worth reading the first paragraph again.

Spotting redemption

What is the place for people like Barnabas in management? Saul would never have completed his turnaround if Barnabas hadn’t noted the fruit of his change. John Mark would have been forever labeled a quitter if Barnabas hadn’t taken him under his wing, even at the expense of his partnership with Paul. When the Holy Spirit does a work in one of these “wrong people,” do we have people tuned to notice that change and advocate on their behalf? Do we have the courage or the margin to take a risk on someone working to rebuild trust?

About four years ago in my management career, I decided that I’m willing to take on one “project” at any given time. As long as I’m able to fully support the entire team, I’m willing to give special attention to one person who has had some issues identified in previous jobs or who is beginning to discover new leadership abilities. I’ve seen the problems that arise when a manager has more than one of these cases, and the department becomes known for being a collection of wounded souls or the manager becomes known for his soft heart and inability to turn anyone away.

Having said that, I love the story of David and his band of malcontents in 1 Samuel 22. While Saul was king and David an outcast, men who were in trouble, in debt or discontented gravitated to David’s leadership. When he became king, his “mighty men” took office and filled legitimate positions, such as bodyguard and special forces. Fiercely loyal to this man who took a risk on them, they went on to accomplish great feats like conquering Jerusalem and defeating giants alongside him. When David suggested one time that he’d love a drink from the well in his hometown, three of them busted through enemy lines just to get him a cup of water.

The leader who can spot potential and identify the work of the Holy Spirit in someone is a rare gem. Time and time again, God has used people like that to complete His work of redemption, giving the wrong person a second chance.

  • Jethro helped restore Moses after murder
  • Jesus gently forgave Peter and gave him a new mission
  • Ananias and Barnabas took a chance that Saul’s repentance was real
  • Barnabas took John Mark under his wing when Paul gave up on this young quitter

Who is filling that role in your church and in your organization? May God give us as leaders the eyes to see people the way He does and the courage to follow through on a hunch.

When ambition fails you

Jeff Jagodzinski was fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers yesterday. For those who haven’t heard of him, let me fill you in. “Coach Jags” spent two years coaching Boston College and did so well that NFL head coaching positions seemed attainable. That was clearly his ambition, and the timing must have felt right.

The problem was that Boston College thought it violated his contract, so they warned him that if he even interviewed with the New York Jets, he would be fired. Jags took a gamble that they were bluffing… and ended up looking for a new job. He ended up with neither. But it still worked out for him: in January, he was hired as an assistant coach in the NFL. He made it to the upper levels, just not his dream job.

Now Jagodzinski has been fired from two jobs in 10 months. That’s gotta hurt the resume.

What can we learn from him? Ambition can be a blessing and a curse. That drive for achievement has to be tempered with wisdom, council and patience. It’s always better to be asked to take a position than to ask for it. See Luke 14, especially verse 11:

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

I hope Jagodzinski learns from George O’Leary, coach of the UCF Golden Knights. O’Leary had a similar moment: a chance to jump to his dream job at Notre Dame. When that dream came crashing down after two days because of an error in judgment early in his career (stacking his resume), UCF eventually gave him a chance. He’s now diligently working his way back. He hasn’t had a lot of bigger schools calling, but he doesn’t seem discontent where he is. He’s pouring himself into his job and his student-athletes, and I think his reputation is recovering. Jags looks younger than O’Leary. I hope he can follow the same route. Perhaps the right opportunity will come around again someday… if he just has patience.

That’s the view from the back row, as football season begins — the most wonderful season of all.