Posts Tagged ‘Leonard Koppett’

True or false: all great teachers are also great leaders.

False.  False.  False.

And yet we fall for this gambit time after time: at school, in politics, and at church.

Especially at church.

We make the assumption that if a pastor is a great teacher, he will also be a great leader.

But that isn’t always the case.

I know a pastor who is an excellent communicator.  If he was on television, and the camera panned back, you’d assume the worship center would be full.

But the worship center wasn’t full when he preached … far from it.  In fact, there were many more empty seats than “taken” ones.


Because behind-the-scenes, he was not a gifted leader.  He tried … really, really hard … but it just wasn’t him.

God gave him the teaching gift but not the leadership gift.

The same thing was true of Gene Mauch.

Gene Mauch was a brilliant baseball manager for the Philadelphia Phillies, Montreal Expos, Minnesota Twins, and California/Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels from 1960-1987.

In Leonard Koppett’s brilliant book The Man in the Dugout, Koppett writes this about Mauch:

“More than any other baseball man of his era, Mauch is singled out by players and rival managers alike as a brilliant student of the game.  ‘He knew more about the details of every position, and all the little technical things, than anyone I came across,’ one player with twenty years of experience told me.”

Koppett continues:

“Mauch knew more baseball, in the technical sense, with deeper insight, than almost anyone around him or in the opposing dugout.  He tried, tirelessly, to impart the appropriate gems of information to his players.  But he did it so tirelessly, in such detail, with such intensity, that he aroused the wrong reaction.  Players would begin to worry more about doing what Mauch wanted than about winning itself.”

Koppett relates a story told by Ron Fairly, who played five years for Mauch in Montreal (the team is now the Washington Nationals).  Fairly would be taking ground balls at first base during batting practice, and he’d find Mauch staring at him from close range.  Fairly would wonder, “What’s he looking at?  What does he see that I’m doing wrong?”  Later, Fairly would be in the outfield, and Mauch would be watching him there.  Then he’d see Mauch at second base, staring at the batting cage.

Finally, Ron Fairly asked Mauch about the second base incident … and Mauch was just trying to understand why the Expos second baseman had looked out-of-sync on a couple of plays the day before.  Mauch really wasn’t staring at his players … he was just trying to figure out a baseball problem in his own mind … but they didn’t know that.

Koppett writes: “All they knew was that there was the boss, frowning, and that when he ever did speak to them it was about how to do this or that better, or avoid this or that mistake.”

Mauch was a great teacher … but he wasn’t a great leader.  His teams won two division crowns but never made it to the World Series … and because he didn’t win, he’ll never make the Hall of Fame.

Koppett’s conclusion: “Mauch was robbing the players of an essential condition: relaxation.  He was being too sophisticated for too many of his players.”

What’s true in baseball is also true in other fields … especially the church.

There are some pastors who are both great leaders and great teachers … but let me tell you, they’re rare.

God has given some pastors the gift of leadership but not the gift of teaching.

God has given other pastors the gift of teaching but not the gift of leadership.

God has also given some pastors the gift of Leadership (with a large “L”) but the giff of teaching (with a small “t”).

And He has given some pastors the gift of leadership (with a small “l”) but the gift of Teaching (with a large “T”).

The pastors who have both the gift of leadership and the gift of teaching are pastoring the megachurches … but some of them are lousy pastors and counselors.

Remember, no one person has all the gifts … except for Jesus.

The pastors who specialize in teaching tend to pastor medium-sized to large churches.

The pastors who specialize in leadership tend to pastor extra large to mega churches.

A veteran pastor once told me about two brothers who were both pastors.

The first brother was a great teacher.  He loved to study and research, and it came out in his preaching.

600 people attended his church.

The second brother was a better leader and had more of the common touch.

5,000 people attended his church … and his sermons were broadcast on the radio.  (I didn’t learn much from listening to him, but he was definitely entertaining.)

But what happens to us is that we get fooled.

We hear someone speak articulately and eloquently and passionately in public, and we’re persuaded by their rhetoric … so we assume that they’re equally persuasive behind closed doors.

But most people in a congregation never get to see their pastor in action with the staff or the board or city officials or community leaders.

We see and hear them teach in public … but we really don’t know how they lead in private.

I was in church ministry for 35 1/2 years … 26 of those years as a solo or senior pastor.

Some of my sermons were better than others … and I’d like to think that I got better with time … but because teaching was my primary gift, I rarely heard much flak about my preaching.  In fact, I distinctly remember two vocal critics of mine telling me they felt I was a gifted teacher.

If you heard me speak, you might assume I was an equally gifted leader … but I knew I wasn’t.  God gave me the gift of Teaching (with a capital “T”) but the gift of leadership (with a small “l”).

I’ll write more on this topic next time.

How have you seen this disparity played out with the leaders and teachers that you know?

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