By Andy Waits, First Baptist Church Springville
I am 5’9, 180 pounds and out of shape. I don’t eat healthy. I casually exercise. The last time I played competitive sports was on the JV football team in high school (14 years ago). Yet, I’m sure of one thing: I know how to coach football better than professional coaches. I realized this last fall. I attended a college football game with a friend from church. Rather than enjoying the game and trusting the coaches to be successful in what they have devoted their entire lives doing, I criticized their every move. Why? Because I know how to coach better than a man who has won five national championships. We call this epidemic, “Armchair Quarterback:” one who (like me) who doesn’t play the game, has no expertise in the game, and sits in a lazy-boy eating Doritos while telling others how to play the game. It’s ridiculous, really. Everybody’s a coach.
I’ve begun to notice Armchair Quarterbacks everywhere. I see them in schools, little league sports, the doctor’s office, auto repair shops, and especially churches. Teachers often tell me that teaching would be wonderful if not for parents who try to tell them how to do their job. These parents have no credentials in academia, no teaching certificate, no classroom time, no continuing education in the field, yet somehow they are more qualified to teach than the teacher who has devoted his/her life to that calling. Everybody’s an educator.
The church is no different. Everybody’s a theologian. The sentiment is: “I give my tithe, so—clearly—my job is to tell you what to do.” Over the last decade in church ministry, I have found that almost everyone in the church thinks they know more about the Bible, ministry, and church life than their pastor(s). As I gained more experience, more education, and more success, I thought that sentiment might change. It worsened. People don’t appeal to their study of the original languages, years in the highest level of ministerial training, or continuing biblical education (none of which they have). No—like me with football—they are “Armchair Ministers:” they yell, criticize, throw a shoe at the TV . . . and then go get another bag of Doritos. After all, they’ve been watching church from the stands for many, many years. How would they fair if, next week, they had to preach a sermon on redemption, counsel a broken family, or preside over the funeral of a child?
I’m turning over a new leaf. I’ve determined I will let the experts do their job and submit to their leadership. I don’t teach elementary age children; I will fall under the leadership of those who do. I don’t know how to properly diagnose an illness; I will leave that to my doctor who has years of med school training. Next time I attend a football game, I’ll let the coach do his job and support him: win or lose. Pray for your pastor(s) and fall under their leadership (Hebrews 13:17). As you enter the door of your church this Sunday, proclaim these words to yourself: “I am not St. Augustine. I am not Martin Luther. I am not Jonathan Edwards, and I am not John Wesley. I am a church member who supports the leaders God has placed over me to shepherd my soul.”