Thought for the Day - 21/03/2014 - Rev Dr Sam Wells

Good Morning. Man United got a great result in Europe this week. They overturned a 2-0 deficit and sneaked into the quarter finals of the Champions League. The manager, David Moyes, has had a tough first season, filling the big shoes of Sir Alex Ferguson. Since Christmas, a frenzy’s grown up outside the club anticipating his getting the sack. A great result in Europe, it seems, achieves no more than a stay of execution.

Not many football managers last long. At last count, only three managers out of the top 92 clubs had been in post as long as four years. It’s a cut-throat world. Research suggests changing manager often produces a short-term boost, but seldom brings about any real transformation in fortunes. There’s 20 teams – only one can win the league each season. Surely, you might say, it’s the players that win you the game, not the manager. Yet still the ritual sacrifice of around a third of the managers is an indelible characteristic of the football year.

The desire for quick results and instant turnaround isn’t limited to football. It’s found all over our culture. We uphold the myth of the charismatic, gifted leader, who clears out the dead wood, applies new techniques, wins hearts and minds, unleashes talent, galvanises support, changes the game, and effortlessly performs miracles. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about the country, a FTSE 100 company, or a parish church; we expect to see results in three months – six at the outside. And top businesses throw in inflated salaries and bonuses to match expectations of instant achievement.

The Bible starts off like a Premier League season. Adam and Eve are fired, then the whole earth is flooded and Noah’s given the job of turning things round. But then God says, ‘Never again will I destroy the earth.’ In other words this isn’t going to be done by sackings and sudden changes of plan. God is never again going to trash the whole project, however much it teeters toward the relegation zone. That’s the dynamic that sets up the whole Bible – the long and painstaking story of God’s costly commitment to walk with the whole creation as long and hard as it takes to help every creature on earth be what only it can be.

Changing the leader is often a lazy and superficial strategy. It preserves the idle fantasy that all will be well if we just make one simple adjustment. Only when we stop seeking the instant change or the quick fix do we turn to the real challenge of leadership: which is making the best of what we’ve already got.

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