There has been lots of talk recently about whether the Indianapolis Colts should draft Andrew Luck if they end up with the first pick of the NFL draft. There are some who are saying they should so that he can be mentored under Peyton Manning and then try and make the quarterback transition seamless. Others are saying because they have Peyton Manning at quarterback they should trade the pick and build up a team around Manning and go for the win now.
At the heart of this argument is the understanding that in order to be a good or even great team that you must have a good or great quarterback. You can get by with mediocre quarterbacking for a little bit, like the Bears did with Rex Grossman, but sooner or later, and usually sooner, he will be exposed and the team will drop down to the level of play of the quarterback. You cannot have an average quarterback, or in other words a mediocre quarterback, and have a good or great team.
Being a great quarterback does not necessarily mean that your team will be great because there are lots of other variables that the team also needs. But week in and week out the quarterback is the most important player on the field. He is also the person that most people pay to go see, and he can make or break a franchise.
I'm wondering if the same is also true for ministers and churches. Can you be a good or great church with an average or mediocre minister? We hear all the time (at least in the United Methodist Church) that the number of poor ministers is very small, that most are doing a very good job at what they do. But is that true? Are we truly gifted with lots of good to great ministers?
I think we can say that, in fact, most ministers are average. On one end of the spectrum we have some are truly gifted, at the other end are those who are "minimally exceptional," and in the middle are those who are neither good nor bad, they are average. So the question then is are the churches they lead average because they are average?
Of the churches that we look up to and say "that is a great church," are they great because of the pastor, the congregation or a combination of the two? Would an average pastor be able to take over a great church and still have it be great? And the reverse, could a great pastor take over an average church and in turn make it great? Or does an average or below average church suck the talent out of even a great minister?
I am inclined to say that churches are probably a lot like NFL teams, they need a great pastor to be great (and I recognize the difficulty in trying to quantify "greatness" in this usage), but I'm just not sure. What I also wonder is whether greatness in the ministry can be taught or if it's just God given? Can an average minister rise above their normal capabilities at a great church, or around a great minister, and then take those skills and apply them to other ministry settings?