What the Eagles, Bucs, and we can learn from the NFL Combine

Today begins the much awaited NFL combine. Well, even though the NFL Network covers and promotes it, most folks outside athletes, scouts, coaches, GM’s, (you know the ones who actually have something at stake 16 games a year), really don’t care too much about it.

Sometimes players can increase their draft status because they run a 40 yard dash faster than someone else. Sometimes players show how far they can jump or how high (not sure why you need an offensive lineman who can jump a little farther, or higher or run just a small bit faster than another-I mean is there a need for offensive lineman to jump high?). And most fans who have followed football regularly remember the letdown (at least for the Eagles) story of Boston College DE Mike Mamula, who’s combine performance catapulted him to number 7 overall draft pick. Ironically enough, the Eagles traded with the Bucs, who were picking at number 7. How did the Bucs do? Well they ended up with Hall of Famer Warren Sapp and future Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks because of the trade. Not too bad on this end.

Regardless, the combine can be helpful to athletes but it often proves harmful for the overall team who selects one athlete ahead of another simply because his performance or appearance (literally-those dudes are dressed up in underwear and judged by their looks). If that part sounds like a beauty contest, that’s because it pretty much is.

The NFL combine is in essence, the very opposite of how God calls His followers to think. For instance, God reminded Samuel that His choosing the smaller David over his bigger, more fit brothers was chosen not by appearance but by the heart. Later God reminds us through Zecheriah, it is not strength or the appearance of strength that will carry the day, but instead, “by my Spirit.” And in the New Testament we have a similar encouragement for the types of people God chooses to play a part in the unfolding story of redemption.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. I Cor 1:26

For those prone to confidence in the appearance and gifts of others

One of my fellow seminary students had a lisp, and I immediately thought this would hinder people paying attention. God humbled me as he was the best preacher of the lot!

Whether it comes to electing leaders, choosing pastors, or discerning the next generation of teachers, it is important to not ignore gifting. Many future elders, pastors, teachers are gifted and as a community it is fairly easy to spot them when you give them opportunities. But to simply find which one is the most gifted is probably a grave error. One may “run” or “jump” a little faster or higher, but does that necessarily translate to fruitful ministry? No, just as those combine markers don’t translate to NFL success. It is more important to recognize heart character. Some folks may appear tangibly more gifted than others, but God will sometimes do far less with them. He gets the final vote, and we see in the scripture how He rolls. He rolls with the humble and broken more than the top 5 “can’t miss” draft picks.

For those prone to lose confidence based upon appearance and gifts of self

Now gifting is good and God is the giver of all good gifts. And God does raise up “Top 5” draft picks like Tim Keller, Matt Chandler, John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Ed Stetzer. But many are not by skill set or appearance “Top 5” draft picks. And the encouragement for the rest of us is that we don’t have to be. We have a place too. We can simply be who we are. I want to get better at what I do. So I listen to recordings of my sermons, read books, talk to people, get feedback, discern what others are doing. But the NFL combine reminds me to spend even more time developing the intangibles: the heart. Not listening to my heart but getting my heart to listen to the gospel every day. To take confidence in the gospel and not my appearance/gits or lack thereof. God does more with less than anyone else. But we see in scriptures that he does more with those who care about their hearts more than their gifts or appearance.

Missional Living and Dying: A Lesson from 4 Chaplains

Words take on different meanings over time, so much so that many don’t have a connotation, but rather several connotations. This is particularly true, if not even more true, in the context of modern evangelicalism. Think of terms regarding worship. What does “contemporary” really mean anymore? It could mean old hymns with guitar, it could mean old hymns re-worked with new tunes (and guitar), it could mean hymns with electric guitar, it could mean no hymns but only recent songs, it could mean no hymns but songs which were once recent, it could mean smoke machines and crazy lights (or is that “relevant” because I’m honestly confused?). The same goes with the word “missional.” Some people look upon it with suspicion while others embrace it without discernment. Instead of thinking up a new word (I still can’t use the word “Christ-follower” but you should feel free if you want), I’ll do my best to describe what I think of when I use the word “missional.”

In fact I’ve tried to define it before. And I did a fine job, but then again, since I’m the one defining it, what’s that worth but the paper it’s written on? And I wrote it Microsoft Word. So not too much to you.

Still, here’s what I mean, at least in part, when I say that I desire for myself, my family, and local congregation to live missionally: Outward facing mindset where one is willing to sacrifice self, self-comforts, preferences, and conveniences, without sacrificing the truth, for the sake of those yet to believe. 

This isn’t exhaustive by any means, but I think living missionally should not include less than this. 

I personally like definitions. I love well crafted sentences, and nifty looking models; I have a particular fondness for Triangles (thanks to John Frame).  But sentences describing what ministry should look like don’t do too much for me-or for anyone-when they stay just sentences and models. Examples and illustrations are much more powerful, shaping, and practical. That’s why I try to use them often in sermons, for they flesh out definitions and propositional truth. 

If you want to know what I think it looks like to live missionally, we need to look no further than the example of several chaplains back in WWII. Do yourself a favor and check out the whole article here.

With the Dorchester rapidly taking on water, there were not enough life jackets readily available for every man on the ship. So, when the life jackets ran out, the four chaplains removed their own, and handed them to soldiers who didn’t have them.…..

Those four chaplains, men of different faiths but believing in the same God, their arms linked, standing on the deck together in prayer.

They had willingly given up their futures, their lives, to try to help the men who had been placed by the Army in their care.

The U.S. Army War College has in its records a narrative of what happened that night. One of the men who survived the sinking of the Dorchester, a Navy officer named John J. Mahoney, is quoted as recalling that before heading for the lifeboats, he hurried in the direction of his quarters.

Rabbi Goode, seeing him, asked where he was going. Mahoney said he had forgotten his gloves, and wanted to retrieve them before being dropped into the cold sea.

Rabbi Goode said that Mahoney should not waste fleeting time, and offered Mahoney his own gloves.When Mahoney said he couldn’t deprive Rabbi Goode of his gloves, the rabbi said it was all right, he had two pairs.

Only later, according to military historians, did Mahoney realize that of course, Rabbi Goode was not carrying an extra pair of gloves. He had already decided that he was going down with the ship.

According to the Army War College account, another survivor of the Dorchester, John Ladd, said of the four chaplains’ selfless act: “It was the finest thing I have seen or hope to see this side of heaven.”

Three out of four chaplains were professing Christians and one was Jewish, but isn’t this practically what it looks like to live missionally? Those chaplains were confident of their own eternal destiny and because of that, they were freed to lovingly sacrifice their comfort, preferences, even their lives for those yet to believe. I am not qualified to speak of the theology of the three, and I’m not sure that the writer of this article is. But assuming one bases his/her entire salvation upon the finished work of Jesus, and therefore doesn’t sacrifice the truth, isn’t this the epitome of missional living? Or rather missional dying?

I imagine the four recipients of those precious life vests would be quick to live more missionally after being rescued. How much more so should the Christian, who is the unworthy recipient of an even more meaningful death-for-life trade?

Leadership Cutlery: How not to use it

The Chicago Bears offense looked great two weeks ago (of course the Bucs defense looked great two weeks ago, so a week can make a big difference!). This past Thursday, they looked terrible. But they had to and have to deal with more than a loss. Quarterback Jay Cutler got physical and berated one of his offensive lineman. 

While there are 52 other players on the roster, the QB is often the main leader, the face of the team. So the leader of the team, or at least someone in a prominent leadership position, blamed his failure to complete passes to his team’s inability (he did complete a number to the other team) to protect him. It wasn’t his fault, it was their fault.
I don’t claim to be the best leader in the world, but I think most of us can smell bad leadership a mile away. Some of his teammates really don’t like that smell. Count Cornerback D.J. Moore among them.

“I don’t think you can act like that, though. To make it seem like it’s just my fault or what not, I think it’s just wrong, though honestly,” Moore said, via Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “I would feel a certain way if he did me like that, to make it seem like, ‘Well, the reason I’m having a bad game is because is what you’re doing and not about me taking accountability for myself because I’m throwing these type of passes and doing these type of reads.’ It’s a tough situation.”

One thing that I’ve learned as a pastor, and I wish I had learned more than I already have learned (if that makes sense), is that there are certain things you just can’t say or do as a pastor. There are certain things you just can’t say or do as a leader. As a parent, as a teacher, as anyone holding any leadership position. Often times you just can’t share how you feel. You don’t have the same freedom as someone not in leadership. That is something you forfeit when you say “yes” to any leadership position.

Cutler claims passion and drive as excuses for such behavior. In fact, it seems as though incidents like these are simply fueled from these normally positive emotions.

“I care about this,’’ Cutler said of the incident with Webb, via Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “This isn’t just a hobby for me. If we’re not doing things the right way, I’m going to say something. If they want a quarterback that doesn’t care then they better get someone else.’’

As a leader you should be open and honest, but you cannot be open and honest about everything and to everyone. Remember Tom Hanks’ line in Saving Private Ryan, “Gripes go up. I don’t gripe to you?”

Let’s learn from Hanks and Cutler. Tell another leader when folks let you down. Tell another leader when you feel it is primarily the fault of another. You can be open and honest about most everything with other leaders, even those leading you, but not with those you are trying to lead.

And when you eventually say or do those things which leaders just cannot say or do, remember to repent. Sometimes it will be too late to undo the damage. I’ve been there. But God is honored with the repentant leader.

Leaders who recognize their flaws are leaders worth following. I would guess Cutler’s teammates would give him another shot if he would just repent. But I like the chances much greater when leaders regularly preach grace and then recognize their actual and present need for grace. Those are the kind of leaders I get behind. Leaders that watch their mouth, and when they forget, they watch the cross.

Reflections on David Platt’s sermon to the youth

As I mentioned earlier, this past week was Redeemer’s Missions Week. We do these things yearly to really emphasize world missions. Without something yearly to remind us to really hone in our thinking, praying, giving, going, we can easily forget about people that we’ll never see (but hope to one day in heaven).
So for our last act of the Missions Week, one of my incredibly helpful youth teachers requested we show the recent David Platt Sermon delivered at Together for the Gospel (T4G) for youth group. More often than not, I try to give folks the freedom to bring options, run them by me, and then let them run with those ideas. So we watched what has been deemed as the best sermon ever preached on missions over a delectable spaghetti dinner.
Here are my reflections
1.) I was wrong. I thought it would be best to break up the video into 2 sessions. An hour long sermon can be difficult for a middle schooler. Last year they listened to a half hour audio of a Piper lecture and it did not go well! The Sr High’s did go well on the other hand. Plus, if we broke it up, I figured we’d have more time for discussion. However, I yielded to the desires of the one who wanted to show the video and am glad I did. Leadership sometimes involves yielding. It also involves admitting you were wrong! I even told the kids I didn’t think they had it in them, but that someone else did!
2.) Teaching up. I always tend to “teach up.” Our Jr High use Sr High material for Sunday School and it has gone well. Our Sr High use an adult study from Tim Keller and have been doing this type of stuff for a while. When we had to break up our Sunday School classes from the normal break-up (PreK-K, 1st-2nd, 3rd-4th, etc…), we sent the 2nd graders up and the Pre-K have been working with the 1st-2nd grade material. I prefer to teach up. I knew that the Sr High’s would be OK with the video, but my concern was the middle school kids, particularly the younger middle school kids. But in the end, “teaching up,” was the right way to go.
3.) In “teaching up” one must still remember the younger ones instead of assuming everyone “gets it.” This sermon is probably the best sermon on missions I’ve seen, but we need to remember that it was delivered to pastors at a pastor’s conference (of course many others go who aren’t pastors, but those who go have more knowledge than most others in the church). As a result, David Platt does not define all of his terms (and he shouldn’t have to). It is impossible to think like a middle schooler if you are not one. But instead of assuming that all kids knew such terms, I made sure to get up and ask the kids if they did. I’m glad I did, because several didn’t know what the word “Sovereignty” meant; and that was a word used in his main point! So I let the Sr High’s define “sovereignty” for the others, as well as “people groups.” Those were two huge points in the sermon, and several folks didn’t know what they meant. When you “teach up,” you still have to take pains and ask questions to make sure kids are getting it. But in the end, you end up letting the older kids assist in teaching the younger kids. So cool to see.
4.) Power of stories. While David Platt didn’t illustrate heavily, he did use several stories and anecdotes that I could tell ALL of the kids got. It is beautiful to see a middle school lad get excited about a story where a pastor realizes that dying is gain; because that pastor realized it, so did his persecutors. They would have been worse off killing him, so they let that joker live! That’s priceless. All the kids got a kick out of that. I think these stories will stick, even if some of the main points or terms may not.
After the brief discussion and clarification time, we sent them on their way. It was a great night and encouraging to expose these kids to the radical call of the gospel to lose our lives for Jesus glory. Whether they go overseas or minister here at home, we have to teach our kids to say no to the suburban American comfortable lifestyle and to find the joy in following Jesus wherever we are.
If you haven’t seen the video, check it out here or the audio here.

This material is not very Christ-centered…Now what?

It is a good to thing to stumble upon material that is gospel centered. What I mean by that is that Jesus’ finished work (Life, Death, Resurrection) is our means and motivation to follow Him. Instead of what I call a “Nike message” (just do it), good material will point to the truth that Jesus has already done it FOR us and now is going to start doing it IN and THROUGH us. That’s much different than a “Nike message.” Such messages lead to pride (I did it) or despair (I can’t do it). Well trained teachers saturated with the gospel thinking will tend to pick up on “Nike” material as they can smell moralism and legalism a mile away. 
However what should a teacher do when he/she comes upon such material or a small section in your teaching materials that doesn’t appear to be gospel centered?
1.) First of all, we need to realize that NO material comes to us from Mt Sinai, with the exception of the Torah (first five books of bible) literally speaking and the rest of the scriptures spiritually speaking (the rest is also inspired by God). As a result this is the only material where the problem is never with the material but with the teacher. But when you teach the books of the bible, you still have to interpret and apply the passage within the overall story of the bible. For instance, the bible clearly gives commands. But we interpret those commands with an understanding that Jesus has fulfilled those on our behalf. Now he empowers us to live those commands out. You can’t skip the first part. Sally Lloyd-Jones does this so well in her Jesus Story Book bible. She writes more about it here, explaining why children need to understand the bible is not ABOUT them, but Jesus.
2.) When you look for Christ-centered application within the passage, you can usually find it implicitly if you look at the larger context. When Paul writes “practice these things,” he also says the “God of peace will be with you (Phil 4:9).” Jesus has established that peace and we need to realize this, particularly when we fail to “practice these things.” That’s very clear gospel centered application. Other times, you’ll just have to look at the overall book, or overall story of the bible to help frame your application. 
3.) When you come upon material that is in general very Christ-centered, don’t hold it to a standard higher than you hold the bible. What I mean is that not every command in the bible reads, “Because Christ has done this, then….” (though many in essence do say something like that). And the bible doesn’t have to say that for EVERY command. We know the story of the bible and why Jesus had to come and die; if we could do the commands without his power, motivation, forgiveness, He wouldn’t have needed to die! So it’s important to not over-scrutinize generally Christ-centered material. We shouldn’t put on it an expectation that even the bible does not meet.
4.) The bible does instruct us to DO. It really does (James 1:22). Of course the way to change what we do is change what we believe-go back to the gospel and really start believing more than we have. But if we do believe, we will DO. The goal of bible study is not simply to learn what Jesus did, but how He’s working that out in you today. Sometimes we (I don’t think it’s just me!) who love gospel centered teaching can forget to tell others the implications of our belief. For instance if our conversation is to be seasoned with salt, full of grace-and I trust that I’m now only judged by Jesus’ speech (which was perfect)-I need to recognize the implications of that truth when I hang out with my friends, classmates, neighbors, etc….
5.) Sometimes specific lessons within generally gospel centered material will seem a bit more legalistic (making God like you more by what you do) or Pharisaical (making up stuff to do to make God like you more). In this case you the teacher can decide how much of the material that you need to use. I always say, unless its the bible, you can Take it, Toss it, or Tweak it. More often than not, the teacher can simply use statements like the following:
  • How has Jesus fulfilled this perfectly? Consider what Jesus did and how we are now declared righteous for His work.
  •  If this we believe this is true, how WILL our lives really look? What is the implication of our gospel rooted belief?
  • Because Jesus has given his life for us, how can we follow Him more in this area?
  • Because we have been set free from sin’s enslaving power by Jesus, how will we pursue and follow Him as a result of believing the truth in this passage?
  •  We don’t need to fear failure anymore. We will and that’s OK, and Jesus loves us just as much when we do. But let’s figure out how he can imperfectly reflect Him in this area.
You don’t have to use these or similar expressions every time, and shouldn’t demand them from your material. However, if you rarely couch your applications with the underlying gospel truth (what Jesus has done), then folks will begin to hear “just do it.” So keep a few in the back pocket.

Since I have teachers that are gospel centered, I don’t fear material that may have some legalistically formulated applications. When you cherish the gospel truth, you can tweak any material to point them to Jesus work and His work in and through us.

Figuring out what to study next

When I was in high school, I didn’t have many choices on what classes to take. I liked it. When in college, I had some more flexibility, but much of the guess work was taken out:  take 3 classes, 2 classes, and then 3 classes each tri-mester and I would graduate. 
When it comes to teaching or leading a small group, choosing what to teach next can be difficult. Here are some guidelines that help me think through what to teach next. They are not from Mt. Sinai, nor are they ordered in any sense of primacy. But cumulatively they can be helpful to make sure that you are teaching on a variety of different, relative subjects, moving those under your care towards maturity in Christ (Col 1:28-29).
Some churches have designated key areas, and leaders can choose a book from each key subject area. One of my churches I served at had 10 separate keys that would take place over 3 years. Then you repeat. This method is thoughtful and ensures that you cover a variety of issues-some of which you or your group wouldn’t choose but nevertheless needs to discuss. While this plan makes sense, I don’t know if it is absolutely necessary. That church tried this method, but not for long. Systematically going through topics is grand, but I just don’t think you can cross subject matters off the list and then move on. That’s why I prefer something a little more flexible.
1.) Bible. In college, I remember a bible study that I went to once. They challenged everyone to take seriously, very seriously, what we would be studying for the next semester. Like we could end up studying the wrong bible book. I thought, well, if its the bible, that’s probably good. They didn’t think that, but I still do. I’ve never studied through a book of the bible and as a group discerned, “This really wasn’t relevant. I think we should have studied a Pauline epistle instead of James….” Never. The Good Book Company and Matthias Media has all kinds of great bible study guides.
2.) Have a frame-work. While I don’t think you necessarily need to be locked down into a systematic grid for what to study over the period of 5 years, I still like having a framework. We should have in mind issues and topics to consider for our next study or discussion. If you don’t have any framework in mind, you may tend to skip over some issues you could have ignored. The framework I think through is the Head-Heart-Hands Model. Is there anything that our group would benefit from knowing more about God (Head)? Maybe we need to spend some time on Christology because people don’t understand who Jesus really is (Head)? Are there any Heart issues, like materialism, worship of family, which could be best tackled through a specific book or study? Is it best to continue to lay a gospel foundation, which people may not really grasp (Heart)? Are there any practical (Hands) issues like how to parent, do finances, how to study bible, how to share your faith, how to show mercy, etc…? I tend to reserve the latter two for small group and the former for Christian Ed/Sunday School. If you tend to study practical issues in books, then its probably wise to take a break and simply study the bible, books, or studies particularly plumbing the depths of the gospel. If you’ve never gone theologically deep (Head), but focus primarily on the practical and outreach/mercy (Hands), then it might be wise to balance. A framework can help that.
3.) Freedom: Those who oversee certain ministries have the final say on what gets studied. That’s their “job.” I prefer to give leaders lots of freedom because they are at ground level, hearing what is being discussed. They hear the answers. They know if the group lacks knowledge (Head), the application of the gospel to life (Heart), or if the group knows anything about tithing, showing mercy, reaching out, whether they are serving their church. So as a leader, you just want to have these things in mind. You are a student of your group, as much as they are a student of your teaching, leading, shepherding. 
If you are attentive, you will begin to discern heart issues, growth areas, application blind spots, areas of scripture (all of the aforementioned you may have too!) that you’ll want to keep in mind for the next, as well as the current study material.
Some questions that can helpful to think through are as follows:
a.) What keeps them up at night? What scares them? In other words, what are their idols? Respect, work, love from spouse/family/friends, family? Anything that if taken away, would leave them with no reason to get out of bed.
b.) How well do they know simple truths of the gospel? Are they ready to move deeper (not advance beyond)?
c.) Does any theological question keep coming up? Is there any section of the bible which they seem to deficient or interested in knowing more?
d.) Are they interpreting and applying the bible in a Christ-centered way or simply as instruction manual?
Some things may be more pertinent or pressing to study than others, so that’s why I like to get input from leaders.
4.) Asking: Much of the time you can get what you need to study by thinking ahead of time where you want the group to go, and then tweaking that plan if need be, by your attentiveness to their needs. However, another way to supplement (not replace) is by asking them. It can be helpful to ask if there any issues or sections of the bible which you feel you need to study? This can sometimes be quite helpful. Or you can ask something like this, “Would you be interested in studying a book by so and so?” I did this and it let me know NOT to go through a particular book because they wouldn’t have time to read it. I’m glad I asked and I appreciated their honesty!
However, you also need to be aware that sometimes people will pick something that he/she wants to study but the individual, or the group as a whole might need to study something else. For instance, someone might want to study “end times” or “prophesy” when in reality, he/she doesn’t know his spiritual gifts, or is shacking up with his girlfriend or boyfriend.
5.) Sermon discussion/application: I’ve never done this in a small group bible study, but many churches do. My last church did this off and on in Sunday School, which took place after worship. Many enjoyed and benefited from it. The Mars Hill churches have this as a regular component of their community groups as do a number of other larger churches as well as thriving church plants. The idea here is to focus not primarily on what has been said, but to believe the truth that has been preached, and apply what has been preached. This of course requires that your group is regular in worship and the leader takes notes and asks good application questions.

The most important thing you do as a CD/Small/Community group leader is to shepherd the people in your group. Picking material is part of that shepherding process, but it is only part. Praying for, teaching, following up with, loving on, and pointing them toward Jesus are the bigger parts. Be faithful in those, and then pick the material that you feel is the best (of course have it approved!), and you can’t go wrong.

Petyon Manning Syndrome

For the first time in the Colts last 227 games (you do the math-seriously, I”m not going to), Peyton Manning will not be playing the quarterback position. Perhaps even more amazing is Buccaneer defensive back Ronde Barber’s streak now takes center stage. Seeing as Ronde is actually in there tackling people while Peyton rarely gets touched, I’m more impressed with the former. He just happens to be a Buccaneer….
Peyton’s streak has been a blessing. But one would wonder if at some points it has also been a curse? Some wonder if this could spell the end of this Roman Empire-esque run for the Colts. But in this case, the problem is not Goths, immorality, infrastructure, or anything like that. It appears that if there is a collapse-and this is only a possibility-that one failure will stand out above the rest: failure to groom a successor for Manning.
In the article I linked to above, one aspect of a good employee/teammate is:


  ….a man’s true value to his employer is revealed by what’s accomplished when he’s not around. Well folks, it’s time to finally put that premise to the test.
On Sunday, we’ll finally see what happens when Peyton Manning doesn’t step onto the field. We’ll see what happens when a team only keeps 2 quarterbacks on the roster for years and doesn’t develop any new talent. But not all teams with Iron Man quarterbacks have fallen prey to the failure to address the need for new leadership. Green Bay drafted a quarterback you may have heard of named Aaron Rogers (fresh off a Super Bowl win-even though the Pack had the same record as the Bucs last year) and gave him time to develop before Brett Favre “diva-ed” his way out of there.
Peyton Manning Syndrome happens in churches all the time. Someone is talented at preaching, teaching, leading a small group bible study, playing music, evangelizing, etc….For years that person just does what he/she does best. But eventually that person will die, go to college, move away, or change churches. 
As pastors and church members, I think we always need to think a few years out. Who can I train to do what I do so that we’ll presently be multiplying ministry (as opposed to simply maintaining) as well as protecting ourselves for unseen transitions? Now I’m not referring to programs. Some programs need to die. I’m talking about people ministering the gospel to each other in in its various forms.
1 Peter 4:10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies- in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Who else has gifts similar to yours? Can be they be trained to assist or eventually replace you to pursue more personal ministry?

A pastor and member’s true “worth” (I’m not arguing some folks are essentially more important) to the church is probably seen more in their temporary absence (as they step aside and share leadership) than in their conspicuous presence. The church needs the gifts of its members. But in some way, the less dependent a church is on ONE person here and there-unless that person is the God/Man Jesus-the healthier and prosperous that church is and will be. 

Now most of this falls on the church leadership to think more like the Green Bay Packers than the Indianapolis Colts: to always be thinking 2-3 years down the road. Nevertheless, members can serve in the same way by trying to raise up replacements or assistants which will then open up new opportunities for them or for new-comers.