Coaches and preachers

by Stan Mitchell

“There’s only two kinds of coaches, those that have been fired, and those that are going to be fired” (Bum Phillips).

Bum Phillips was the colorful coach of the New Orleans Saints and Houston Oilers. He possessed a deep well of country wit and wisdom. He had also been fired several times in his career.

I know there are some differences between gospel preachers and football coaches, but there are some similarities, too.

Just for fun, allow me to draw some analogies:

  • A good coach does not blame his players for a poor performance. The church wins as a “team” and loses as a “team.”
  • A good coach is good at spotting talent and developing it. Even while he coaches this year’s games, he is thinking about the young player who might become the team’s star in years to come. A preacher, too, seeks to develop and train leaders for tomorrow.
  • When things go wrong, it is frequently the coach who gets fired. That’s unfortunate because the coach never misses a shot or a tackle.

I’m not suggesting a coach should never be fired. or for that matter a preacher who has moral failures or teaches false doctrine. However,  I think church members might look into their own hearts before reflexively blaming the preacher.

  • Coaches could use some encouragement, too. There they are, clapping for the players, encouraging and comforting them. Do coaches ever get their hearts broken? Or preachers?
  • Coaches can make mistakes and still be good coaches. Coaches can also get better over time. Preaching, too, is a difficult and complex task. The demands are continual, the time is urgent. Most preachers have four deadlines a week — two sermons, two Bible classes, and that is on top of hospital visitation, counseling and home Bible studies. Sooner or later, he will make a blunder.

Is it any wonder that young preachers seem like guinea pigs for the first twenty years of their careers? That is, if they make it that long.

Why is this important?

Please answer this for me. Does the church need more, or fewer Gospel preachers? What about for the next generation?

This week say or write a good word for a preacher you know.

“For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no grounds for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16, ESV).

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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