A Lesson from the 5th Inning

It was the 5th inning of Game Four of baseball’s 2015 American League Division Series. My beloved Toronto Blue Jays were up by five runs and the Texas Rangers had two outs. Though the score indicated the Jays were on their way to tying up the series, there was trouble in the air. The Rangers had a man on first, and it seemed like this could be the start of a rally.

At this point, Toronto’s manager John Gibbons made a very difficult leadership decision. R.A. Dickey, a Cy Young award-winner, was only one out away from ending the inning and becoming the pitcher of record, but Gibbons still made his way out to the pitcher’s mound. He took the ball and motioned to the bullpen for ace David Price to come in and relieve Dickey.

After the game (which the Jays won), Gibbons reflected, “It wasn’t an easy decision. It was hard for me to do, but I thought that was the best way to win the game, to keep them from coming back…A team win, that’s what I was looking for.”

In the post-game press conference, pitcher R.A. Dickey was asked how it felt to be pulled from this crucial game. His answer caused a stir. Here’s what he said, “So am I disappointed? Sure, I think any competitor should be. But at the end of the day, I’ve said this before and I mean it, it’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit. And we won today, and so we’re going back to Toronto with a chance.”

This story is rich with leadership lessons, but let me share just one for Christian leaders: ultimately, our lives and our leadership are not about us.

Let me explain.

Both Gibbons and Dickey believed that the end goal of the team winning was far bigger than their own desires or goals as individuals. Gibbons’ difficult decision and Dickey’s selfless response of submission was all about keeping the team in the best possible position to win.

As Christian leaders we also need to remember that God’s glory and purposes need to be paramount in all we think, say and do. Our pride, position, prestige and preferences need to be submitted to God’s leadership in our lives and his purposes. We are servants in whom God desires to display his splendor. (Isaiah 49:2)

In Matthew 6:33, Jesus directed his disciples to, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness…” Instead of being consumed by our agenda and worries, we need to be about God’s agenda and purposes. Not only did Jesus teach this, he modelled it with selfless obedience – even to his death on the cross.

John the Baptist did likewise. When he could have fought for the spotlight or felt slighted by Jesus’ growing following, John gracefully submitted to God’s overarching plan and purposes. He knew he wasn’t worthy to carry Jesus’ sandals (Matthew 3:11) and he joyfully declared, “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30)

Paul exemplified it too. Even though he wore the chains of prison and was in the midst of “friendly fire” from envious rivals, Paul didn’t complain about his own state of affairs. Rather, Paul was all about God’s glory and God’s purposes. In Philippians 1:18, he writes, “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”

May you and I lead like Jesus, like John the Baptist, and like Paul. May we respond with grace-filled submission and selflessness to whatever we are invited or asked to do for God’s glory and purpose. May we be Kingdom seekers and not empire builders.

And lastly, may our teams get this too. As the R.A. Dickey-inspired t-shirts read, “…it’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit.”

To The Point,

Steve Brown Sig

Dr. Steve A. Brown

President, Arrow Leadership


Dr. Steve A. Brown’s new book, Leading Me – Eight Practices for a Christian Leader’s Most Important Assignment today, is a great resource to give your team this Christmas or to read together with a small group. Order today at the Arrow Store or find e-versions at on-line retailers.