Football is a tough and often thankless business. Successful teams get the most out of their players and the moment they can no longer "get anything" out of them, the right move is to part ways. It stinks. It's not fair. But, it's the right thing to do for the best of a team.
In the past two weeks I have seen several of my favorite players cut from their teams. My Steelers cut their all-time leading receiver, Hines Ward. He caught more passes for more yards and more touchdowns than any other Steeler in history. But, he's at the end of his career and his numbers have dropped off dramatically and the Steelers need salary cap room. Aaron Smith, regarded as the best 3-4 defensive end in Steeler history (and one of the best in NFL history) has suffered season ending injuries the past 3 years and, because of that, the Steelers cut him last week to save money. And now, Peyton Manning ... 4 time league MVP ... Super Bowl champion ... Super Bowl MVP ... one of the best, if not the best, quarterbacks in the history of the NFL ... gone from the Indianapolis Colts. It's harsh. It's cold. It's reality.
What I'm learning from these types of decisions is this:
- Being the one who makes the tough decisions is a hard job. If you care too much about being liked, you'll never make those types of decisions. I'm trying to become that type of person. Sometimes I do well. Sometimes I don't do so well. But, I strive to be that type of person.
- You can honor the past well ... but when it's time to move on be willing to move on. In the church setting, just because you move on from a "program" or an event (or get rid of the organ), it doesn't mean you don't appreciate the past. It doesn't mean you don't honor those who have set the foundation for ministry happening today. It doesn't mean you are arrogant and only think of what you want. It means you're evaluating what you're doing and making decisions on what works and what doesn't work any more. The goal is to reach people for Jesus. If something you do (a program or event) doesn't DO that any longer ... it's time to part ways and move on and stop wasting time, energy, and finances on something that no longer produces results.
- Emotions factor in to all of this. I'm about as sentimental as they come. It's hard for me to not do something because of all the great memories it's brought about. The reason "fans" have trouble with teams letting go of long time players is because they are "fanatics." Fans are irrational and that's the beauty of being a fan. But, a leader needs to be fanatical about the ultimate goal, whatever that may be. In the church, it's helping people come to know Jesus and see them thriving in a life with Him.
- If you're on the way out, go out with honor and class. Each of the three players I mentioned handled themselves with such dignity and respect. They burned no bridges. They were humble and grateful.
I heard Andy Stanley talk about this one time and he described a program, ministry, or event that no longer works as the "old, ugly couch in your parents living room." When it was purchased in 1965 it was in style. It was fashionable. People enjoyed it. But, 50 years later, if that couch is still in the living room ... well ... it's a bit out of style, to say the least. Truth and purpose remain the same. Methods can change and should.
I'm certainly no expert in any of this, but am striving to learn from these types of situations.