Sideline Significance

tom2I recently had a great discussion and season of prayer with a trusted friend and mentor. We discussed what we termed “Sideline Significance.” So, for those of you feeling as though you aren’t making a significant Kingdom contribution right now, this post is for you!

If there is one thing that the sports world has taught us it is this, everyone on the team matters. In basketball they call it scoring “off the bench.” This is when players who aren’t in the “starting five” get called in to substitute. Most of the time, without the contribution of these guys, the outcome would be very different. For instance, in the recent and decisive 7th Game of the Atlanta Hawks vs. Miami Heat NBA series, the Hawks won by 13 to secure their place in the second round playoffs against the Cleveland Caveliers. Now, while Joe Johnson was the marquie player with 27 points and stifling defense, a lesser known Flip Murray scored 15 points “off the bench.” Who knows, maybe the whole dynamic of the game changes if not for the momentum keeping efforts, let alone literal points put up by Flip and the rest of the sideline contributors? The numbers don’t lie. Let’s talk horse racing.

Mine that Bird came from obscurity, from the back of the pack, beat the 50-1 odds, silenced critics and won the Kentucky Derby, the most coveted single event in all of horse racing. His jockey held him back until just the right moment and then literally rode the inside rail to victory, shocking the world along the way. By all accounts Mine That Bird went from the sidelines to the finish line in stellar fashion! So, what’s the point?

The point is that you don’t have to be a marquie player or the favorite in the field to make a significant contribution. As a matter of fact, your contribution isn’t primarily based on the things that make front page news, like championship level performance. This is where sports analogies fall short. Sure, doing what is required (and going the “extra mile”) is the least you can and should do to honor Christ. However, on a deeper level it is how you do what you do… it is who you are while you do what you do that matters. It is the intangibles of spirit, character, and attitude. Why? Because, in the end, BEING is more important than DOING. Okay, I’ll get personal on this one even though there is a part of me screaming -“No, don’t do it!” I have been learning the hard way the lesson of “Sideline Significance.” Vulnerability and transparency haven’t been strong points (Avoided them like the plague is more like it!), so here it goes…

To say that my last pastoral assignment didn’t go so well would be a gross understatement. I have gratuitously reassured myself as I reflect on my ministry saying, “Oh well… helping to turn 3 out of 4 churches around ain’t bad.” Unfortunately, I have also played a little of the “blame game” in an attempt to feel better, justified and even exhonerated, recounting ways I feel my family and I have been wronged in the trenches of ministry. The cold, hard truth remains that I have made more than my share of mistakes, miscalculations, and outright blunders along the way. As the old saying goes, “Everywhere I go, I take myself with me!” The many failures, mistakes, miscalculations and outright blunders are mine all mine. They remain the only things I can control and for which I must always take full responsibility.

The thought has crossed my mind more than once, “Oh, if I only knew then what I know now, things might have been very, very different.” Hindsight is truly 20/20. Needless to say I feel for and am grateful to the wonderful people I have led in each ministry and, and above all, my precious family who have so patiently put up with me as I learn the painful and perpetual lessons of spiritual leadership.

Before I forget, I am also grateful to my Accountability Team, fellow pastors, friends and coaches like Al Ells (www.leadersthatlast.org) who have so patiently encouraged and lovingly confronted me on so many levels through this season. “Thank You!” doesn’t quite do it. Still, “THANK YOU!”

The result is that I have found myself in new territory, on the sidelines. Please, this is only for the sake of context…

I have gone from being smack dab in the middle of it all to the sidelines. Actually, more like I am in the back of a long line of those only wishing they could be on the sidelines. From sitting on state and national boards, speaking at retreats, conferences and campmeetings, book signings, coaching pastors and small/medium churches, while pastoring an incredible group of people on the local level… to just hoping someone would call every now and then (Wow! Does that sound pathetic or what!?), I have been learning anew that true significance isn’t equated with any of these things. Most of you learned this long ago… I am a slow learner!

As of today, my family and I aren’t through this season on the sidelines just yet. Something tells me you may be among those like us who have so much more to learn and need deeper levels of healing? Are we anxious to be back in some sort of ministry position? Yes, yesterday wouldn’t be soon enough! However, it is more and more a blessing to discover that we are significant based on something eternal… relationship, not performance. Sure, being in various servant leadership roles is always an honor. However, humbly conforming to Christ’s image in the context of a personal relationship with Him, family, friends and the lost is what really matters. This more accurately defines a lasting Kingdom contribution.

So, if you are feeling more than just a little on the sidelines in every way, then be encouraged. You matter. You are DOING in your BEING more than you know in Jesus Name and for His glory! Your character counts more than your contributions. Never forget that, even when you feel like you are on the sideline, there is Someone who loves you, believes in you and is smiling just for no other reason than He calls you His own. What a wonderful Savior!

Now, I’m going to post this before I talk myself out of it.

From the sideline,

Tom

2 comments

  1. Thank you for that encouragement! I love the phrase – “You are DOING in your BEING more than you know in Jesus Name and for His glory! Your character counts more than your contributions.” Good stuff!

  2. After receiving Christ in my life at 19 yrs old, having received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit at 20, having gone to Bible college at 23, receiving a BA in Religious Studies (CSUF 1981) at 28, then denouncing everything because of the hypocrisy I experienced in the Christian Church at large, including rejecting Christ Himself, and then falling away from it all for 17 years… My personal advice to you is “Don’t throw out the Baby with the bath water.” Eventually I came back to Christ. I came back to the reality that today’s Church does not reflect the Truth of the New Testament. That reality for a Christian is to be following Jesus Christ not only by the letter of the NT but most importantly by following His Spirit. Jesus’ wilderness experience lasted 40 days. Mine lasted 17 yrs. I have come full circle. When you came to NH I was a skeptic even before I heard you preach. But then when I heard your message, witnessed for myself in person, read your book, I knew you were about to be in the fight of your life. I felt God telling me that Tom Pelt is one of His Prophets. That He has called you to make straight the crooked paths this church has been following. I had no idea the intensity of the opposition you would receive. Nor I when I would stand up for you when you were not around. When NH asked me to be an elder, I accepted solely to support Tom Pelt. When you resigned my decision was to stay on even though you were gone. I lasted 3 months before resigning myself. Susan and I are very happy in our new church home or rather House Church. My prayer for you, Tom, is to stay in the game! You’re not a sideline player. Jesus is the play maker, the Holy Spirit is the Coach and you are one of the players on the winning team. Because it takes a team to win the game, the game of life. Jesus says the Church is the Body of Christ and it is built on Faith in Him. The Church is not a building, it is not a location, it is not an organization, it is not the Moral Majority. His Church are the redeemed followers of Christ, His Church are the yet to be won souls in the fields ripe for harvesting. Tom, stay in the game. Jesus told you through Peter to “feed My sheep, take care of My sheep, feed My sheep!” Jesus’ sheep are still out there lost in the harvest. You are a shepherd without a flock. Jesus said, “My sheep know my voice.” You are His shepherd, His mouthpiece. Stay in the Game!

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