Lessons from Notre Dame

If my memory serves me correctly, Alabama was a ten point favorite heading in to Monday night’s BCS Championship game.

Alabama won by 28 points.

Nice try Vegas.

No matter who you cheer for or if you even like football, there are at least two lessons to be learned from last night’s game.

The first lesson is that you can’t live off of past accomplishments.

Notre Dame has a very rich football history.  They’ve won a lot of championships, they have a powerful and influential base of fans and former students and they have even had a few movies made about them.  Not too shabby.

But none of that matters today.  On Monday night, Alabama wasn’t influenced by the fact that Rudy was a cinematic masterpiece that moved millions to tears.  Most of the players on the field last night weren’t even born the last time that Notre Dame football was relevant.

I’ve seen a lot of pastors and other leaders who have built a nice platform because of something that they accomplished in the past.  While that can be important, it’s not as important as what’s happening now.  The pastor with a story about the time that he spent the summer with Elvis Presley will see that the audience of people who care about those stories gets smaller every year.  The pastor with a story about what God is doing in his life right now will always be relevant, no matter how he’s dressed or what kind of music he likes.

The other lesson is that accountability matters.

This morning at breakfast my six-year-old asked me a very profound question.

“Dad, if Notre Dame got beat so bad, why were they ranked number one?”

I explained to him that Notre Dame did not belong to a conference and not belonging to a conference afforded them the opportunity to play an easier schedule.  My example for him was that it was sort of like his soccer team only scheduling games against a team of three-year-olds and then feeling like they’ve done something when they’re undefeated at the end of the season.

The point is that individuals, churches and organizations need people to challenge them.  Even when those challenges aren’t grounded in reality, they can still help you by making you firmer in your position or vision.  But sometimes those challenges will be of substance and, if you take heed, you will be better because of them.

When I was first starting out in ministry I would spend Sunday mornings before church talking with a man that I respected very much.  We talked about the Bible, sports and everything in between.  One day I told him a joke.  I thought that the joke was a bit crude but still funny.

He just thought that it was crude.

Instead of laughing, he told me something that I still carry with me.

“Jay, you can do better than that.”

Churches, organizations, individuals and yes, even football teams, don’t need yes men.  They need people that care enough to call them out when it’s needed.

Notre Dame had yes men.  Most of them are employed by ESPN.

I had a man who held me accountable and a few years after I told that joke, I named my son after that man.