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Questions From the Heart?


When we moved to Victoria in 1976, I had no interest whatsoever in Australian Rules Football. By the time we returned to New South Wales some 3 years later, I was hooked on Aussie Rules footy!!


As reported in my last posting, I've often seen aspects of the game as illustrating Christian principles. This is another illustration that has particular application to my fellow Pastors.


One outstanding example of this principle for me as a Pastor was the role of one player in particular. His name was Alex Jesaulenko. At the time to which I refer, 'Jezza' was both the captain and coach of the Carlton Football Club. A 'playing coach', if you like, which was quite unusual if not unique. This dual role caught my attention because it seemed to me that this is the role of the Pastor in the local Church.


Most (all?) coaches sit up in the coach's box or down on the sideline yelling instructions and directing play. Meantime the team is out on the field doing battle with the opposition. They are the ones who are experiencing the knocks, thumps and bumps as they endeavour to secure a victory. One of those on the field is the team captain who is trying to translate the instructions of the coach on the sidelines into tactical reality on the field.


As I watched Jezza week after week, I thought to myself, "Surely this is the role of the Pastor. He/she doesn't stand on the sidelines of the Christian life calling out instructions to the members of the congregation as they engage in the bumps and thumps of everyday life. He/she is supposed to be in there with them, playing alongside, experiencing those same highs and lows, sharing in the joy of victory as well as the disappointment of loss.


It was that example of a football player who was to become a living legend of the game that came to me as something of a revelation about the role of the Pastor among his/her people. We are not set apart to be apart. We are to be a playing coach. We are to lead by example. Our motivation, application, determination is meant to be contagious.


If there is one game in which Jezza played that stands out above all others it would have to be the 1970 Grand Final ("Superbowl" for our American readers). Carlton was down by 44 points nearing the half time break virtually sealing a win for the opposition team of Collingwood. In the 28th minute of that quarter of football, Jezza took an electrifying mark ("catch" to those not familiar with Aussie Rules). The inspiration that was generated by that brilliant effort turned the tide of the game. Carlton went on to win by 10 points.


I'm not suggesting that Jezza was solely responsible for that victory. It was a team effort. But people respond to inspirational leadership. Such leadership does not have to be charismatic or spectacular. But when the Pastor is in there with his/her people sharing the highs and lows, the successes as well as the mistakes, there will be a response from those people that bonds the team together.

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