Monday, October 21, 2013

Next . . .

Jim Leyland stepped down today after an eight year stint as the manager of the DetroitTigers. Most folks are cheering that decision. Some are applauding Leyland's great run as the Tiger's skipper; others are saying, "good riddance." (My Facebook feed has been littered with angry outbursts from Tiger fans after the way the bullpen imploded in the Tigers in the American League Championship Series.)

That makes sense, I guess.

Leyland’s relationship with the media and with fans has been tempestuous the last couple of years. Fans second guess – that is what they do – and the media exists to sell news. So it is no surprise that each constituency has had a love/hate relationship with “Jimmy Smokes.” Of course, those closest to Leyland - his boss and his players love - the guy and that's what probably matters to Leyland the most.

All that aside, here is what struck me about Leyland’s exit today:

It’s already old news.

Barely a half day after his announcement, the sixth story of the Google feed for “Jim Leyland” is “Who replaces Jim Leyland as Tigers Manager?”

I would like to think I am indispensable as the leader of the church I serve, but I know better. Nobody is indispensable. Twenty minutes after I carry out the last box of books from my office I expect they’ll be asking, “What’s next?”

That being said, maybe here are two changes I need to make: 

Make sure I am spending my time on eternal things. 
The only things that will follow me into eternity are my relationships, starting with my Heavenly Father, and the people that I am influencing for the Kingdom. Chief among those are my wife and my children. Jesus said, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” Years ago I heard a pastor say, “What good does it profit a pastor to gain the whole world, yet lose the souls of his children?”
Twenty minutes after the ink on my retirement papers is dry there will be someone thinking about forming a pulpit committee. My kids, though? They’re with me for eternity.
 Stop acting and thinking like every decision is a make or break moment. 
Here is the reality of ministry that your pastor lives with every day: the stakes are high. Eternally high. The eternal destinies of people hang in the balance between heaven and hell. Because the stakes are so high, it sometimes feels like every decision is critical to success or failure.
What topic should we cover in our next sermon series? What person should we hire for the ___________ position? How should we engage lost people this Christmas/Easter? These are important decisions, but the reality is that an occasional misstep is unlikely to bring the entire train to a grinding halt.

At his press conference today, Jim Leyland said, “When it's time, it's time . . . It's time to step down from the managerial position of the Detroit Tigers. ” I respect that. I hope that I will know when it is time, too. I hope I will do so with the same grace Leyland showed today.

And I hope I will do so knowing that I put first things first.

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