Wayne Smith makes it into one of my sermons for the first time
For me, one of the real quality rugby identities in New Zealand is Wayne Smith – the former player turned coach who has been a leading coach in Canterbury and with the All Blacks. I listened to him sharing some thoughts last year with young Christian leaders and his whole demeanour was humble and modest, yet also very passionate. He believed in what he was doing and what could be achieved – he was resolute in what his goals were and how to achieve them, but his style of leadership was low-key humility. Do you remember how it got him into trouble some years back? He had been head coach of the All Blacks for two years and his term was up for renewal. His achievements with the team had been mixed. When it came to his term being renewed he submitted his name into the ring in a way that was heavily criticised. In the eyes of many he seemed half-hearted about whether he wanted the job anymore. In the wings was another person, a person with a completely different style – a more ‘in your face’ approach with lots of talk but much less experience. The merits or otherwise of the decision to not renew Smith’s position and instead appoint the other guy was not all that clear to everyone at the time, but it became so after another two years and a less than satisfactory world cup result. I was a Wayne Smith fan back then as I am now – I am biased in my viewpoint – but I like it that with the World Cup win last weekend he will finally be recognised for his unique qualities as a leader of people and that he has got there by maintaining his modest and humble demeanour. What was once denounced as a weakness has proved to be a strength. The players describe Wayne Smith as the most approachable of the coaches – a person able to get alongside them – a man without ego, the wise ‘professor.’ That he is also a Presbyterian and a member of a church here in Christchurch gives some hint of what might have informed his style of leadership.
Beware of TV preachers
In the same passage of time that Wayne Smith has been involved with the All Blacks, New Zealand has produced a crop of Auckland-based television preachers. I don’t know if you get to watch any of them, (and I don’t want to encourage you in any way whatsoever!) but every now and then Anne or I might be flicking through the TV channels and we might find one of them doing their stuff. Their style and much of what they have to say is not our cup of tea at all. They seem to be playing for the audience with a whole lot of hype and palaver that usually leads us to groan and flick on to something more entertaining – infomercials and the like. Every now and again I have tried to stay with it and attempted to see what they have to say beyond the stuff, but invariably I end up angered and nauseated. These celebrity preachers remind me of something Jesus said:
“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat,” says Jesus, “but… they tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others… they do all their deeds to be seen by others… they love to have the place of honour at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi… [But] the greatest among you will be your servant.” [Matthew 23:1-12]
What God does with a bit of room
Maybe our weaknesses are not the last word in the story of God at work; that the greatest among us must be the servant; that God’s grace is given in enough supply to us that we do not need to have everything in perfect order; that God can do what God needs to achieve without us running the show; that our brokenness is of more use to God than our perfection; that our humility is a better vehicle for God’s ministry of love to the world than our egos; that when we are able to face our incapacity to do everything there is much more room for God’s capacity; and that our less means God’s more. “My grace is enough,” God said, “my power works best through your weakness.”