Two NFL coaches who could not amicably shake hands after a close game made headlines recently. Jim Harbaugh is the coach of the San Francisco 49ers and Jim Schwartz is the coach of the Detroit Lions; their two teams played each other in a close game that finished in pretty dramatic fashion, ending the Lions’ perfect season. Harbaugh is seen on camera right after the game ended, shouting and jumping, celebrating a win for his team.
Moments later, the two head coaches met in the middle of the field to shake hands, but Harbaugh, caught up in the exuberance, shook Schwartz’s hand really hard and patted him on the back with the force of a mule kick. The Detroit coach took exception, and the two got into a heated argument before being separated.
As I watched, I thought about Emerson Eggerich and his book, Love and Respect. I usually don’t think of marriage books during NFL games, but I was tired and had eaten a spicy chicken sandwich for lunch. In his book, my friend talks about the greatest need for men is respect and the greatest need for women is love. When Harbaugh broke post-game protocol with the rough handshake and shove, it was a sign of disrespect, whether that was his intention or not.
Disrespect is many times dangerous and often lethal. There are many men in prison today who committed awful crimes simply because someone did something that dishonored them or made them look bad in front of others. Disrespect is the gateway to some of the worst possible emotions locked up in a man.
I am writing this as a reminder to myself to make sure I honor and respect the men God has called me to pastor. What can I do to show more respect to our men and thereby earn the right to help shape them into better Christ followers?
1. Ask for their advice. Nothing shows more respect than asking someone for their opinion on important matters.
2. Listen to what they say. Asking for their advice is no good if we never actually use it. Men can smell patronization quicker than their own dirty socks.
3. Empower them to lead. Men want to know that pastors trust them with serious spiritual leadership and not just see them as a walking checkbook or potential volunteer.
4. Go to their world. Show up at their business to visit and talk as much as you want them to show up at the church buildings. Hang out and ask questions about what’s important to them.
5. Talk to them every Sunday and not just on Father’s Day. Use sermon language that is engaging to them and relevant to their world. Let them know you see them and believe in what God is doing in them.
Men are hungry for God and, for the most part, want to grow as Christ followers. They just need a little honor to move them off the starting line. It’s not more complicated than that, and I mean that with all due respect.