We’re examining leadership coaching distinctions that I employ when coaching pastors and Christian leaders.  Last time, I suggested that the client’s perspective determines what they see as possible and impossible as they search for solutions to pernicious problems.

One common perspective is “playing to win” vs. “playing not to lose”.

Pastors commonly cycle between “playing to win” and “playing not to lose” several times across a career.  Armed with clarity about God’s call and great hope that God will use you in significant ways, early on, you’re all-in.  Playing to win, you’re taking risks, learning, experimenting, making adjustments, and going again.

Remember?

And, as the decades pass, you encounter opposition and criticism from intransigent resisters, who — somehow – got themselves into positions of power.  You’ve taken many punches along the way, maybe survived (or not) a congregational vote-of-confidence, and been disillusioned by the heartlessness of Christians more than once.  As a result you’ve set your sights lower, become more passive, and less aggressive in pursuing what you once knew God wants the Church to become.

You’re less disturbed by the status quo, less willing to endure the rigor to provoke maturity in your people, and far less likely to face down those who are both influential and immature.  You’re no longer gripped, as you once were, to bring deep, God-glorifying, fundamental change to the church you serve.

Right?

Called to a new pastorate, you find your footing, being careful not to lose the opportunity to serve here.  Then, you begin to stretch yourself, your elders, and your congregation to take new ground, declare and achieve goals, and pursue a future worth having. And yet, over time, your enthusiasm to take on that obstinate trustee wanes.  You capitulate, opting for peace — even if it means your people stagnate spiritually.

So, as a coach to pastors, my privilege is to invite you back in. Back in to win.

You stand in your pulpit, amid the congregation, and with admirers and detractors alike, clearly self-differentiated.  You’re vigilant to seize opportunities to provoke your members toward maturity in Christ… maturity of character.

The ministry you’re doing becomes increasingly focused on equipping saints to minister on Christ’s behalf. As a result, church members are engaged with the un-churched all over town.  Skeptics, once hurt by the Church, are reconsidering their dismissal of the Gospel. Marriages are being strengthened. Hopelessness is being banished. People far from the church are coming to Christ.

Over time, the culture in your community is changing.

Crime is down.

Caring is up.

Love is on display.

This is playing to win.

Coaching Distinctions #21