This past weekend of Sunday Night Football sparked my thoughts anew on leadership philosophy and how it relates in ministry to the leader implementing a vision. As I watched Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens shock the pundits and sports world by upstaging the dynasty tandem of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, I couldn’t help but deliberate on the philosophy of the two long-tenured head coaches.
On one sideline stood the infamous Bill Belichick, head coach of the New England Patriots, who has been haunting the NFL from his emperor-like sweater hoody and six Super Bowl victories for what seems like my entire lifetime.
On the other sideline, with a modestly clean-cut and straightforward demeanor--and claiming only one Super Bowl victory on his resume--stood John Harbaugh, coach of the Baltimore Ravens.
Sports analysts from across country touted the match up as one in which the master schemer, Belichick, would school the young Raven quarterback, Lamar Jackson — by having him guess all night which way the attack would pounce in a demoralizing and coming-of-age encounter.
Yet the outcome proved to be anything but predictable.
Despite a handful of mistakes, the Harbaugh-led Ravens dominated Belichick’s Patriots. This was great sports entertainment, yes. But what does that game have anything to do with ministry and vision?
The coaching match-up and philosophy of the two head coaches got me thinking.
Belichick is known for snatching up players in both the draft and from other teams, through trade deals and plugging them into his system. Belichick is as detail-oriented as coaches come. His organization is a rigorous, precision-machine perfected for winning — and the resume validates his philosophy. If a new player doesn’t perform perfectly in the machine, their bags are likely packed for them.
Belichick’s coaching philosophy can be compared to a minister with great vision, who knows in detail where they are going and how they are going to get there. The detailed-vision minister then builds an organization around fulfilling that vision. The minister is able to evaluate talent based upon the needs of the organization.
By contrast, Harbaugh will gain some notoriety and possibly win some sort of coaching award this year. He observed talent (Lamar Jackson, the Ravens quarterback), found out what the talent did best (running like a sleek and slippery cheetah through heading-hunting linebackers), and built a team around allowing the talent to be on full display.
The Harbaugh approach is like the minister who walks into any church or ministry organization and asks the question, “God what have you given me (currently available talent) and what should be done with what you have provided me?”
Both of these leadership philosophies are needed in churches and ministry organizations. Both come with pros and cons, and either one could be effective, regardless of size and budget.
But the Harbaugh-like philosophy is what God has been emphasizing to me over the last few years.
Here are a few examples from Scripture God has put on my heart:
When Moses stood before the burning bush (Exodus 4:2), God asked him, “What is that in your hand?” The humble and trivial shepherd’s staff was God’s selected instrument for Moses to carry as he faced the trying and difficult work God had called him to perform.
When Elijah visited the widow at Zarephath, he implored her to provide food for him based upon her current supply, that which was already on-hand — a provision that would not run out when utilized faithfully (1 Kings 17).
And then when our Savior asked the disciples to feed a multitude, the miracle was performed with what was on-hand: some fish and loaves (Matthew 14).
There is a good chance that Belichick and Harbaugh will meet again this year in the playoffs.
But winner aside, the two serve as a great analogy for considering the ministerial approach for implementing vision and building up the Kingdom of God. Our Lord uses all types.
Boyd Guy is assistant director of communications for visual media at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College.