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7 lessons from Peyton Manning for church leaders

Feb. 5, 2016 | by Greg Atkinson

Sunday night I, like many of you, watched Peyton Manning (quarterback of the Denver Broncos) make history. Not only did Peyton win the AFC Championship, he becomes the first QB in the NFL to go to multiple Super Bowls with multiple teams. Not only that, he has been to four Super Bowls with four different head coaches. Wow! As I celebrated his achievement and performance, I reflected on what makes Peyton so special and what we, as pastors and leaders, can learn from him.

1. Passion: Peyton Manning’s passion for the game of football is evident. He loves to play and though he may look serious (with his game face on), he’s having a blast on the field. We, as leaders in the Church, should have passion as well.

Danger: When being a pastor becomes your identity and you are, as Craig Groeschel once said, “A full-time pastor and a part-time disciple.”

2. Commitment: Who knows the countless hours Peyton Manning has spent studying film, practicing with his offensive line and receivers, working out and strengthening his arm and body? Peyton is committed to the game of football. He doesn’t do anything halfway. He’s all-in. If you pastor a congregation, you should be committed to that church and to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.

Danger: When you don’t have a life outside the church. You need to be an engaged and committed husband and father. You need to have hobbies. You need to learn to laugh. Don’t take yourself too seriously (read this).

3. Driven: Any fan of the game can see that Peyton is a driven athlete. He’s extremely competitive and can’t stand to lose. For Peyton, his goal every year is a Super Bowl championship. It’s Super Bowl champs or bust. We, as pastors, need to be driven by the mission of the Church, specifically the Great Commission. We should always be looking to reach more people with the gospel.

Danger: When we make attendance, budgets and baptism numbers the end all, be all. We have to see people as precious in God’s sight and not targets. Build relationships with people. Don’t use them to increase your metrics. Also be on the alert of becoming or enabling a work-a-holic atmosphere. Keep manageable office hours and don’t neglect your family.

4. Excellence:Peyton Manning is the poster-child for excellence in the NFL. He holds too many records to list. He excels at everything he does. As leaders, we need to lead with excellence (that’s what my next book is about). We need to show we care about our calling, our career and our churches. Lead courageously. Lead well.

Danger:When we confuse excellence with perfection. There is no such thing as a perfect church.

5. Didn’t quit: Peyton injured his neck last year and his foot this year and could have retired from the game and would have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He didn’t need to ever play again and he could have gone on to other things, but instead he had multiple neck surgeries, went through extensive physical therapy and rehab and worked hard to get back to the game he so desperately loves. He didn’t give up when most would have, like when his team, the Indianapolis Colts, released him and doubted his ability to play at an elite level post-surgery. Too many pastors quit right before a major breakthrough in their ministry. I’m a big believer in longterm ministry. I think you need to plant roots in a community and give your life to something significant.

Danger:When you don’t know when to step down. Too many pastors don’t have a plan for a successful succession. Dr. Gene Getz modeled this for me years ago and has been a hero of mine for a long time. I also encourage you to check out my friend William Vanderbloemen’s book Next: Pastoral Succession That Works.

6. High Standards: Peyton expects greatness from himself and his team. For two decades of ministry leadership, I have expected a lot from myself and from others (my staff and volunteers). I don’t think it’s wrong to ask for commitment and excellence from your team.

Danger: We must be people of grace. We must have grace for ourselves when we fail. We must have grace for others when they let us down.

7. Character:Peyton Manning is known for being a class-act. He’s a good person on the field and off. He’s not involved in scandals, suspensions or problems with the law (like many other athletes.) As leaders, we need to be men and women of character.

Danger:When the public self and the private self don’t line up. If you’re an amazing preacher at church, but a horrible husband and father and/or addict at home – you need to repent and seek help. Go to counseling and confide in another pastor that you trust. Pastors need friends they can be real with.

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord . . . " (Colossians 3:23, NIV)

What lessons do you think you can learn from an athlete like Peyton Manning?


Greg Atkinson

Greg Atkinson is the Founder of Worship Impressions and Executive Director of ExPastors.com. Greg is a leadership coach and consultant, and the author of Church Leadership Essentials, Strange Leadership, Scaling Down, and Secrets of a Secret Shopper. Greg has worked with churches of all stages and sizes, including some of the largest and fastest-growing churches in the country, as well as with businesses, non-profits and organizations such as Josh McDowell Ministries.



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