Despite the fact that the NFL owners and players have been greedily negotiating their lives away on and off for the last several months, the NFL combine went on without much of hitch. It’s a time where athletes show up to display skills like how high they can jump (while standing still mind you), their broad jump (again while standing still), and how fast they can run. Quarterbacks get to throw without pads to receivers without pads without any lineman (hypothetically also without pads) chasing them.
The problem is quite obvious: this is not real life. These are not real situations. In games, players jump with pads, run with pads, throw or catch or block with pads. And yet scouts often salivate over players who stand out not in real game action but at the combine. It doesn’t seem much different than the sorority rush weekend at Furman University where girls in ONE weekend were picked or not picked based upon short conversations, (brief interviews), non real-life situations (40 yard dash) and external impressions like appearances (how the players looked in full body spandex).
When it comes to the draft in April, one or two teams always fall prey to this sort of combine crush. Wide receivers who didn’t necessarily excel in college like Troy Williamson or Darius Hayward-Bey have cracked the top ten simply because of their 40 yard dash times. Both have been busts.
I think very often the church falls prey to this type of “combine” thinking when selecting its leadership, particularly in regards to elders and deacons. We, and I’m guilty of this myself, tend to look for people who talk the loudest, sound the smartest, teach the best.
But a good way for a church to base its selection is not by how good they look in un-realistic situations, like teaching a class, but in how their real life (most everyone looks good at church) is conducted during the week. Are they “eldering” and “pastoring” people already; they won’t just magically start to do so. Do they like having say and control? Do they pastor their families well? Are they already well thought of by outsiders and do they open up their homes? Do they have any hidden agendas? Do they seek to learn in community and share with others, or do they do everything by themselves? Do they naturally teach and desire to train others or do they reserve it only for Sunday School? Good teachers and smart people don’t necessarily make good elders.
A friend of mine asked me about church leadership this week, and these are just a few questions I would want my congregation asking of its present and future leadership. They are questions I need to regularly ask of myself as well.