Sermon Illustrations

What the Church can learn from the Carolina Panthers:

by Burt Williams

1. Leadership matters: The leadership on Offence and Defense this year is stellar and it begins with the primary leaders Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly, they lead the team on the field and have the responsibility to adjust the plans given them as the situation evolves.

2. Shared leadership matters: Cam and Luke each have other leaders upon whom they depend. Cam has Greg Olson and Johnathan Stewart who provide guidance and demand respect of the other players. While, Luke has Roman Harper, Thomas Davis, and Charles Johnson. Pastors will always be the primarily identified leaders in the church, but they need other leaders that are staff or volunteer staff/leaders upon whom they can depend on to make the system work.

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3. Leaders are made: or, at least made better over time and with proper guidance and discipline. The primary leaders, Newton, and Kuechly are younger than all their supporting leaders. Each has matured in the last few years and have had to lean on these other leaders during their growth process.

4. A little charity can go a long way: There was a time when Cam Newton was brooding every time there was difficulty and people were referring to him as immature and doubting if he was really what Carolina needed. Today he is wildly popular, thanks in part to giving touchdown balls away to kids!!! Now that Cam has matured a bit and being a leader he now takes great joy in his teammates giving balls away after a panther touchdown!

5. Keep Pounding: Success does not just happen and it rarely happens quickly or without setbacks. To succeed one must keep moving forward trying new things and when you find what works nurture that but keep trying new things, because rarely will the same thing work twice in a row. And when things go badly we cannot give up but must persevere through the difficult moments to get to better more successful ones.

6. Don’t take your foot off the gas when you are ahead: We have seen several times this season the Panthers build a lead before the end of the game and then try to play prevent defense. They always end up scaring the fans and themselves. If you score 31 points in the first half, try and score 31 in the second half as well!

7. Success breeds success: When you achieve a goal celebrate that and set a new goal that will propel you forward. This will inspire the belief that the church is doing the right things and can be successful and people talk about successes with their friends when they talk about the successful church event that they went to they are sowing the seeds for another kind of success for your church.

As I have watched the Panthers this season I have had to credit the leadership of Cam Newton with much of their success and I have had to admit some things about leadership in the church, the most difficult for me was that the Pastor is the most important leader in the church. I used to proclaim how this was not true in the Methodist Church how our laity and lay leaders were far more important than the leadership of the pastor, and I think that used to be true in the early days of the movement and maybe even up to the 50’s and 60’s. But today the primary leader that can influence the growth and health of a congregation is the primary pastor who is given that responsibility for increasingly longer stretches of time. I wanted to avoid that responsibility, but now I see that the pastor’s leadership skills and energy are what help others to buy in and propel the church forward to be the hands and feet of Christ in a world that needs the love that comes from Him and his disciples!

Keep Pounding!!!

PS. Don’t get too upset over the use of the word success, I realize that success can look different in the church and from context to context. In this season of statistical reporting remember the narrative behind the numbers and tell the story of your and/or your churches success as a way to hearten your people to the pathway ahead. For more on this see my post last January “Redeeming the Devil’s Book.”

Burt Williams is the pastor of North Morganton UMC in the Catawba Valley District

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