The preacher on the sidelines

Years ago a prominent Baptist speaker made much of saying that the minister was not the church’s captain – out the front, but the church’s coach, on the sidelines. His point was that the minister was not out in the field of work, but rather that his or her task was to coach the church members and coax the best out of them in their daily lives.  It was an arresting image, and caught many people’s imaginations.  It addressed positively the difference between the preacher’s life and other people’s lives.  This was a positive difference, rather than a lack.  With skilful preparation, the preacher could encourage the church members to do their best on the field, much as a coach does with his team.

Oh dear! As the French team refuse to play for their coach Raymond Domenech, and the English team blame their poor performance on Fabio Cappello, all of a sudden the coach description doesn’t feel so comfortable any more. Maybe the players are doing no more than following a streak in human nature which always believes ‘someone else’ is to blame. The trouble is that the coach, standing there on the sidelines, makes an obvious target. Writing on Twitter yesterday, one person said that Sven (now Ivory Coast coach) always looks like he’s won a competition to be manager for a day and given a free team coat to take home. Maybe it’s not the coat that makes him feel uncomfortable so much as the prospect of what happens later when he has to take it off and go into the changing rooms and face the team!

Preachers do encourage the team from the sidelines, its true.  Not only that, but they have been given a coat to wear. That said – the coat bears the arms of the king rather than the colours of the team, and they wear it with the right kind of pride.