1 Peter 5: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be;
2019 may be a significant year for coaching in the National Hockey League (NHL), and by extension minor hockey. Growing up in southern Ontario, Canada, where hockey comes close to a religion, and with a son who played elite hockey, we understood the usual coaching style – a.k.a. “old school”. Other sports, like football, seem to have a similar reputation. No nonsense. Highly disciplined. Authoritarian. Hard working. Those things in themselves can be extremely beneficial (not just for sports but life) but what happens when the man or woman at the helm has a darker side? What if the coach swears incessantly at their players, belittles them, and even crosses the line by physically assaulting them, psychologically traumatizing them?
A CBC article, “Old-time hockey: How the NHL lags behind when it comes to hiring coaches”, calls out the NHL. This was spawned by a number of recent coach firings, most notably Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters. A former player, Akim Aliu (one of the few black hockey players), alleged that Peters had “dropped the N-bomb several times towards [him] in the dressing room in [his] rookie year because he didn’t like [his] choice of music.” Peters admitted doing this, and he’s accused of punching and kicking other players.
We understood that this was a significant part of the hockey culture, so the first thing we looked for in a coach was not their win-loss record but rather their reputation, and our son was blessed to have a number of great coaches (with a few duds in between). There is a desperate need for righteous leadership in sports.
1 Peter 5 is one of my favorite scripture passages in the Bible, probably because I feel so strongly about righteous, godly leadership. It is valuable to recognize who wrote this passage. Peter was the first leader of the global Christian church. Paul was out planting new churches, but Peter was at the helm of the administration of it all. Having grown up in the Jewish culture of the time, which held great esteem for the religious leaders, Peter could have used this power to his own benefit. But we read:
To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:1-3)
In verse one Peter appeals to the elders in the local church as “fellow” elders. He does not place himself above them. He does not command, but rather he “appeals” to them. In verse two he uses the oft-used analogy of the Shepherd. Thirty years earlier Jesus appealed to Peter to feed and take care of his sheep (John 21: 15-19), and now Peter appeals to other elders to care for, to watch over the sheep that God entrusts to them, “not because you must, but because you are willing”. A righteous leader leads in that way when it comes from their heart, not from their head. They don’t pursue “dishonest gain”, they don’t “lord over” others. A righteous, godly leader understands the enormity of God “entrusting” HIS lambs and sheep to their care. Are you such a leader? There is a desperate need for such godly men and women. My prayer is that you would rise up!