Monday, December 10, 2012

Charlie Strong, Tom Jurich, and the Church

Louisville has been the center of the college football universe.  Okay, maybe not, but if coaches can speak in hyperbole, I'll do it too.

Blogs, newspapers, call-in shows, news broadcasts and social networks were all abuzz last week regarding the future of current University of Louisville football coach, Charlie Strong. Strong was the front-runner for the coaching vacancy at the University of Tennessee.  Many fans in Louisville, including myself, expected Strong to bolt for a chance to coach in the best football conference in the nation.  

News broke on Twitter Wednesday night that Strong had decided to stay.  A press conference was held  Thursday morning by Strong that confirmed the rumors.  The head coach read a passionate prepared statement citing the importance of family, loyalty, and trust in his decision to stay put at Louisville.

After finishing his remarks, reporters asked about numbers-how much did it take to keep him in Louisville.  Strong stated that he and athletic director, Tom Jurich, never discussed numbers.  Not even a ballpark number.  Shortly afterward, Jurich confirmed the story on a local sports show. When the host of the show asked, "How does that conversation even start? What did you tell him?"  Jurich responded, "I just told him I'd take care of him. He knows me. He trusts me."

Strong and Jurich have built a relationship based on family, loyalty, and trust.  So much so that all Tom Jurich had to say was "I'll take care of you"-nothing in writing, nothing signed, just a promise was enough.

After hearing these comments I immediately thought of church. I've been at the same place of worship for 17 years.  Countless numbers of friends and family members have left the church for countless reasons during the same time span.  Relocation, changing family status, programming, damaged relationships, staffing, or difference in mission/vision are all reasons people have shared with me that they decided to leave.

But this isn't about them, this is about me.  Well it's about the awesome people at my church home.

I kinda feel like coach Strong. Having a Bible college degree and ministry experience there have been opportunities to serve other places.  There have been times where serving at my church has been difficult, relationships were strained, vision was unclear, or I was simply restless. 

I think my reasons for staying are similar to Coach Strong's.

FAMILY: The church is my family.  I've experienced love, grace, discipline, and joy in the context of deep, long-lasting relationships.

LOYALTY:  These deep relationships have resulted in a strong desire for me to stay loyal to our mission and vision.

TRUST:  Deep relationships have led to a great degree of trust in leadership and the direction of the church.   

I've been at my church as a college student, single person, married person, and now father.  I've been a volunteer, intern, and staff person.  And as you can imagine, I've been through a myriad of circumstances that life brings.  And through it all God has used his church to take care of me and my family.

Strong wanted to stay at the University of Louisville because he knew there was still work to do, a clear path to get it done, and an athletic director who would take care of him.

I've chosen to stay planted at my church because our work is not complete, there is a clear vision and mission, but most of all because God's people have taken care of me.

Is your church a family where you experience trust and loyalty in devotion to one another?  What can we do to ensure our churches and faith communities are places where this happens?


  1. Anonymous12/10/2012

    Amen Will Howlett. I love this post.

  2. You're the Charlie Strong of HLBC. You need to start marketing WillStrong bracelets.

    I guess I'm being cynical, but really? A major player in the college football coaching world makes a decision without a number? Maybe he was already happy with what he was getting and knew it would only get better. If so, kudos to Strong, cause most run after the highest dollar.

    Otherwise, I agree and like what you've said. I've likened the church to a family in previous posts. I believe we need to stick together through hard times (which UofL only had when they played Syracuse and UConn). If there's a problem, we need to lovingly confront. In order for us to be fully mature, we need to be able to be ourselves in the environment of TRUTH and LOVE. Either by itself can hurt us, but together they shape us into the people God wants us to be.