As my wife and I watched the first season of Ted Lasso, I thought to myself, “Some idiot is going to write a Christian blog post about this.” Well, here is that idiot passing on three lessons pastors can learn from a fictional character based more on a coach like Dabo Sweeny than Nick Saban.
We All Need Our Team
When we pastor, it can be lonely and isolating, and that is a recipe for disaster. In the show, Ted brings his trusted friend, Coach Beard, with him to his new role in another country. He then quickly gathers equipment manager Nate to his personal team. There are two takeaways here: Team up with people who have your ministry DNA and develop people with potential.
As a pastor, if you don’t have folks on your team that share your DNA – your philosophy of ministry and your theological convictions – you are in a lose-lose situation. Having a like-minded person in leadership with you will offset tons of work for you, allow you to delegate responsibility with confidence, and assures someone has your back.
Once you have this person (or people), turn your focus to developing those who maybe don’t fully grasp their own ministry thoughts but have the right “spiritual warmness”, a simple alignable attitude, and a readiness to learn. Bring them in and build them up. Their insights and fresh eyes will help you immensely as they also learn from you.
We Coach Amateurs Not Pros
Lasso is a caricature of many coaches who, beautifully, look out for their players and seek to develop them as people of character rather than strictly being focused on their on-field performance.
The helpful thing for pastors is that there’s no such thing as “on-field” in the church. If we have a holistic view of ministry and the church, we are always developing disciples, not for some dynamite performance at a Sunday morning service, but for who they are when the doors are closed, they are in conflict, or when they are suffering.
Making people more dynamic or smooth on stage is not for the godly pastor – growing people in Christlikeness is what it’s all about. When we learn from examples like Ted Lasso, we begin to recapture the right understanding of Jesus’ words about making disciples in Matthew 28.
Grace is the Answer in the Worst Situations
Finally, and I wish I didn’t need to say this, sometimes church is a contact sport.
Sporting clubs and churches sadly reflect much of the worst in human behavior as it relates to power, authority, and using others to achieve our own ends. Pastors, you will face backbiting, backstabbing, gossip, slander, and power plays within your congregation to tear you down, make you seem foolish, and to undermine your God-given authority and responsibility.
When you face these things it is natural to want vengeance, to be angry, and to defend yourself. But there is more power in grace. We see this in the show when Ted’s boss confesses her slimy behavior to Ted and he forgives her, empathizing with her pain.
Truly it is the kindness of God that leads to repentance, and when we too can emulate the kindness, grace, and forgiveness of God we first received in Christ for the worst people in our churches, we may see some truly transforming power among them.
I know it may seem irreverent – I don’t mean it to – I’ve not met someone who doesn’t desire to be more like Ted Lasso. The good news for us is that for all the admirable traits in this fictional character, we have a real person we are truly encouraged and empowered to emulate and his name is Jesus. Ted Lasso is common grace, but to grow in Christlikeness is special grace given to any who call on him. We as pastors get to partake in and remind our people of that special grace and encourage them in it.