By John Hebert
ALEXANDRIA, La. (LBM)—I’ve learned a lot about leadership through the years, especially as a pastor and working with other pastors in my ministry with the Louisiana Baptist Convention. But some of the most memorable lessons, and many of the fundamentals, I learned while playing basketball for great coaches:
— Dale Skinner, the Rapides High School head coach during my freshman year, was inducted into the Louisiana High School Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame;
— Rick Huckabay was my Rapides High coach for the next three years; won the 1973 AA State Championship; and was inducted to the Louisiana Athletic Hall of Fame; and,
— LSU Coach Dale Brown, a four-time SEC Coach of the Year, and was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame.
What was common about these championship coaches is the unique emphasis each of them placed on using each player’s strengths, or giftedness, as they put together top teams.
Wise leaders always use the giftedness of others – taking inventory of the resources of the people around them and employing them on their team according to their giftedness.
In a previous article on creating ownership, I discussed in depth the need for leaders to recruit capable leaders. These recruits need help making a transition to ministry. People that have leadership abilities or gifts may be molded into your leadership team when you help them discover how to use their gifts in the ministry.
It is the equivalent of having a player that is the best shooter on the basketball team. As a coach, success means getting that player the ball and letting him shoot. The result will be more points for the team. More points means winning more games.
Utilizing the giftedness of others is the ability to take the raw talent of spiritual gifts, personality, and vocational skills and to integrate them into the ministry of the Kingdom of God.
The Apostle Paul used the calling, talent and spiritual and practical giftedness of those around him to multiply his own efforts: Dr. Luke’s ability to research and write were learned skills that Paul helped to bring to bear for the purpose of the Kingdom; and, young Timothy obviously had spiritual gifts of un-named quantity and quality that allowed Paul to utilize him in many ministry settings.
The New Testament does not detail the different giftedness of Paul’s companions, but two things are sure: They were gifted men and they were used to effectively proclaim the gospel and make disciples of converts.
Indeed, Paul made use of the giftedness of Timothy and Luke, as well as Barnabas, Silas, Aristarchus of Thessolonica, Epaphras, Gaius, Jason of Thessonolica, Sopater, Sosipater and John Mark to spread the Gospel across the world.
The key to developing the ability to use others giftedness is to first to identify the spiritual and practical gifts of others. The Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to all believers; and, believers also come to the Kingdom of God with various experiences and practical skills. Find out who has what gift(s).
Next, help your leaders apply their gifts in ministry by engaging them where they can be the most useful.
Help them find their place in disciple making, teaching, evangelism, administration or some combination of service. Those with wisdom, knowledge and faith need to help them develop this giftedness and grow as future leaders.
Finally, release people at the appropriate time to be leaders of their own teams – as soon as they are ready to perform at a level of proficiency that will enhance the work.
Don’t release them too early — they should not be left to work things out by trial and error. Souls are in the balance and sometimes damage can be done by mistakes in ministry that may take years to amend.
But, don’t keep them “in development” so long that they aren’t maximizing their giftedness as they leaders you have trained them to be.
Training and development is most effectively achieved by mentoring — spending time together, even walking people through ministry in order to help them develop their gifts.
In the game plan of our final victory, the AA state championship game in 1973, our victory was based on stopping the opposition from utilizing their strengths against us. The opposition had a six foot seven inch star that could have killed us inside because our team was much smaller.
Our goal was to force him to play outside where he was much less effective. Our coach was a genius. We pushed the big guy outside where he was often the shooter but more importantly, he wasn’t inside for the rebound and possible score off the offensive rebound. We beat a much bigger team by 18 points and won the state title.
Now get this straight, I’m not comparing my coach to Satan, but Satan is trying to do the same thing to you. It’s not a game, but he doesn’t want us to win.
Utilizing the giftedness of others will help you get the edge you need to reclaim lives and make disciples for the ultimate victory in all of life.
John Hebert is Louisiana Baptists missions and ministry team leader.