The One Thing Great Leaders Can’t Escape

A first in history. The Houston Astros won the World Series! What a game and a big boost for the city of Houston. For those of us who love baseball, we’ll all remember George Springer’s five home runs of the series earning him the MVP! Springer was the hero.

We all prefer being the hero. Who wouldn’t?!

But what about the sacrifices players make so the team can win? In baseball, it’s actually called a sacrifice. The batter intentionally hits the ball in a certain direction that doesn’t get them on base but drives their teammate further around the diamond. This often looks like a bunt down the 3rd baseline to bring a runner from 1st to 2nd base or a high hit into the outfield to bring a runner from 3rd to home.

Without teamwork and sacrifice plays, teams don’t win World Series.

Baseball players that play for stats instead of the scoreboard, rarely contribute significantly to a winning team. In the same way, church staff who build resumes instead of building the Kingdom, rarely contribute consistently and in a big way to the progress of the church.

The primary difference between the two is the willingness to make sacrifices.

Jesus’ work on the cross permanently set in history the truth that there is no church growth without sacrifice. Whether you want to dive deep into the theology of that statement or take it as a practical truth, either way will serve you and your team well.

Sacrifice doesn’t mean to ruin your health, wreck your family or become an emotional basket case. But it does mean you give up something for a purpose greater than you. It means that you give up a little of what you might gain for yourself, for a greater Kingdom vision that you believe in.

On a basic and practical level, sacrifice might look like this:

  • Sacrifice getting the credit for something you did.
  • Sacrifice getting some sleep when you are tired and need some rest, to help one more person.
  • Sacrifice getting the promotion this time, when you felt you deserved it.
  • Sacrifice a personal success or achievement so that another person or team can win.
  • Sacrifice getting your way regarding an important decision.

From a more substantive perspective, sacrifice might look like this:

1) Sacrifice being right for being helpful.

It’s natural for a leader to want to be right. We want leaders to be confident about what they believe. But not every issue is black and white, and when being right becomes more about ego or pride than helping people, it becomes a problem, not an attribute. The point isn’t that being wrong doesn’t matter, it’s about being right in order to be helpful. Being forceful to win is never better than being humble to be helpful.

2) Sacrifice comfort for risk.

It’s easy to work hard and yet still be comfortable. You might work a lot of hours, but essentially do the same things with the same people over and over again. This rarely produces progress. Sacrificing the routine of what is known and comfortable for the unknown and risky territory is required of all good spiritual leaders.

3) Sacrifice being understood for greater unity and collaboration.

Have you ever been misunderstood as a leader? I sure have. My first quick instinct is to make sure my perspective is clear so I’m understood, and therefore held in the best light. But I’ve learned that sometimes I need to absorb the tension of the moment personally, (aka “take one on the chin”) for the greater esprit de corps and collaboration of the overall team.

4) Sacrifice being honored to lift someone else up.

Any good baseball player would rather get on base rather than get thrown out. But sometimes the coach will call for the sacrifice play to get someone in for the score. The player that sacrificed out, got nothing on his stats, and his teammate that slid in home got the applause and better stats. Sometimes that’s what it takes both in baseball and on your church team. In the end, when the team wins, every person on the team wins!

5) Sacrifice status for progress.

Clay Scroggins wrote a fantastic book titled “How To Lead When You’re Not In Charge” This has engendered many conversations around the country about the truth that your place on the org chart has little or nothing to do with the amount of influence you have. Your church is better positioned to make progress when your team is less concerned about their titles and more concerned about progress for the mission.

Jesus set the tone and modeled the way for us to give something up, it’s not always easy, but it’s an essential for all of us who lead.

2 thoughts on “The One Thing Great Leaders Can’t Escape”

  1. Thanks for this post Dan. I’m finding in my experience that the discipline of sacrifice is a difficult one to learn, not necessarily because we don’t want to sacrifice but because it takes wisdom and a close walk with God to understand the right sacrifices to make, with the right motives, from the right relationship with God, and when to make them. Sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice has little value. You’ve given us a good checklist to evaluate ourselves.

    1. You are so right Eddie. We need wisdom to know which sacrifices to make! I agree that making sacrifices for the sake of sacrifice is not helpful or healthy. Thanks for your comment, wish I would have included those thoughts in the post!

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