Apology to the Replacement Refs…

After Green Bay lost Monday night on this incredibly inaccurate call (one ref signaling an interception while the other signaled a touchdown), sports fans and pundits began to demand change and an apology from the NFL Commissioner to fans, teams, players, and coaches.

While I feel badly for all of the above, I feel worse for the replacement refs. They are the ones who are ridiculed, blasted, and verbally berated by coaches, fans, and players. I feel sorry for them because they have been placed in a position they were ill-prepared to handle. They were placed in positions beyond their capacity, experience, and training.

Organizations often make the same mistake. They place people in roles that are beyond their capacity, or they promote people to roles without preparing them for the challenges. And everyone is hurt: the team, the organization, and the individual who was promoted.

Organizational theorists often refer to this phenomenon as the Peter Principle – where individuals who were successful and hardworking in other roles are promoted beyond their expertise or capacity. What is sad is that the employee suffers in the end. Instead of continuing to perform well, as he did in his former role, he is put in a position that leads to his demise.

I have made this mistake before. I have put people in roles beyond their capacity. And it is cruel. It is often done to fill a gap, a need, or to take something off our plate. But in the end, no one wins. God has been gracious and faithful to me despite my mistakes in this area.

Yet, I think there are bigger implications for pastoral ministry…

In church ministry, we must be careful to only put people in positions of pastoral authority and leadership who have been proven. The apostle Paul gives the qualifications for elders in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. Included in the list is “blameless” – a man who has been above reproach who has displayed a consistent and credible walk with the Lord. Also included is the warning not to place a new convert in the role or “he may become conceited and fall into the temptation of the Devil” (1 Timothy 3:6). Paul mentions the Devil again in the next verse because he knows that the enemy ferociously attacks those who are placed in pastoral positions. He repeats the warning later in his letter to Timothy, “Don’t be too quick to appoint anyone as an elder” (1 Timothy 5:22). So, he is saying, be careful and diligent when you appoint people to pastoral ministry, not only for the sake of the church but also for the sake of the person.

Why? Because the church won’t thrive with replacement refs.