The Church Should Be Less Like Angry Coaches

I was listening a few days ago to a radio show that featured an interview with a college basketball coach.  His team had recently pulled off a few surprising victories.  The interviewer acknowledged a good amount of their successes and then asked the coach his thoughts on the games.  The coach, without skipping a beat, threw out a cranky, “we didn’t rebound well”.

This is not an anomaly.  I have heard interviews like this numerous times in all my years of following sports.  I even had coaches like this in high school.  No matter how well you play there is always something that can be a little better.  Many coaches feel that to rejoice in a success will create a complacent and satisfied team.  So rather than focusing on the league leading three point percentage he decides to focus on the teams lack of rebounding.

I am not a coach.  Maybe his philosophy of coaching is good.  But after listening to that interview two thoughts occurred to me.  First, I wouldn’t want to play for that dude.  If he would chill out and let us enjoy the game, rejoice in success while simultaneously pushing us to do better then maybe I’d play for him.  But I wouldn’t want to play for a cranky coach that can’t celebrate.

A Second Thought

A second thought then occurred to me.  People probably get discouraged following a cranky pastor that doesn’t know how to celebrate.  “Great job on putting together that Valentine’s banquet, but did you guys notice that the spaghetti was a little too saucy”.

Don’t get me wrong, spaghetti that is too saucy (just like anything too saucy in the church) needs to be corrected.  But perhaps there is a time to celebrate success.  Maybe there are certain things, like too much oregano, that love should just let slide.

I see this problem all throughout the blogosphere as well.  I’ve seen several titles and interview questions asking things like “What is the greatest problem in the church today”, “What needs to change in the SBC”, “What is the churches greatest need”, etc.  But I seldom see questions about how the church is prevailing like Jesus said it would.  Seldom do I see interviewers probing to discover great success.

I’m not calling for some sort of sentimental, meaningless, sweep-everything-under-the rug, type of mentality.  I am merely saying that those of us that have experienced the depth of the Lord’s grace ought to live, preach, teach, and write in such a way that is fitting to such a gift.  People that really understand grace don’t gripe about too much oregano or focus on a lack of rebounding, we celebrate the joy of a spaghetti supper or a hard-fought victory.

“It is for freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery”.

That yoke is the law.  But underneath that is an idolatrous heart that can never be satisfied or rest in Christ’s work.  Living in the freedom that Christ purchased means being able to enjoy spaghetti and basketball without shackling yourself with a yoke of performance.

Live free.  Enjoy spaghetti—even if it’s too saucy.  Celebrate victories—even if you didn’t rebound well.

P.S. When I say “the church” I mean you—if you are a believer.
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  1. says

    After all, didn’t Paul say that the way Christians would stand out in a godless culture was by their lack of complaining and grumbling? (Phil. 2) Amazing about something that simple would make us shine like stars.

  2. Greg Buchanan says

    35 (BK)By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 ESV

    I think you’ve spoken a great thing here Mike. How can we be known as loving each other if we are constantly (or even consistantly) looking for toothpicks and splinters. It may look like we love each other that we are always looking in each other’s eyes, but it’s not the same thing.

    We need to give each other more grace even when it wasn’t first extended to us.

    • Christiane says

      But it WAS first extended to us . . . it WAS . . .

      and He who first extended it to us
      commands us to a different Way from the way of our own natures

      • Christiane says

        Corrie ten Boom wrote of this:

        “It was in a church in Munich that I saw him, a balding heavy-set man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. …

        And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!

        Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent. …

        “You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard in there.” No, he did not remember me.
        “I had to do it — I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us.”

        “But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein, …” his hand came out, … “will you forgive me?”

        And I stood there — I whose sins had every day to be forgiven — and could not. Betsie had died in that place — could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

        It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

        For I had to do it — I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses,” Jesus says, “neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” …

        And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion — I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. “Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand, I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”

        And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
        “I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!”

        For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely”

  3. Bill Mac says

    I know I sometimes sound like a broken record about this, but I preached a sermon about this not long ago (actually, I think it was the last election cycle). I think evangelicals are angry all the time because they can’t separate their Christian identity from their conservatism, and let’s face it, conservatives are angry all the time. The good folks at Fox News, plus Hannity, Limbaugh, Levin, Coulter and others have nearly 24 hour media coverage in which to keep everyone whipped up in an angry frenzy. Show me a peaceful and contented hardcore conservative and I’ll show you my unicorn collection.

    I’m not saying don’t care. I’m not saying don’t be conservative. I’m saying that our Christian identity should overwhelm other identities, and our Christian identity is not compatible with constant anger and dissatisfaction.

    • says

      Great comment. The reasons you cite is why I stopped years ago listening to Fox News, Hannity, Limbaugh, etc. While they may appear to be coming from a conservative/Christian perspective their lack of peace (among other fruits of the Spirit) bears them out. I know few people that get wrapped up in all of that stuff, who after listening to Rush for an hour are found praising the Lord and marveling at His sovereign rule. Mostly I see panic and an us vs. them mentality.

      Perhaps I should have said–The church should be less like an angry talk show host.

      • volfan007 says

        I was about to say…ole Phil Donahue, a liberal, used to be one of the angriest, talk show hosts on the air waves. And, there’s a lot of angry, liberal groups, out there…very angry….gay groups, PETA types, gun control groups, tree huggers, etc….that are very, very angry.

        So, it’s not just a conservative thing.

  4. volfan007 says

    Also, what about Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath.”


    • says

      Of course there is a place for anger. But what I am arguing for here is that such anger is probably to be reserved for things that actual evoke the Lord’s anger—like sin and country music. Furthermore, just as the Lord’s mercies are new every morning I think it is unfitting for a believer (and this is what Paul is saying in Ephesians 4) to be consumed by anger.

      Our anger should be tinctured with compassion and less like the prideful, bitter, bickering, defensive, nagging wife of Proverbs that is best described as a constant drip. If most of my thinking is about what is wrong with the church and I’m not spending most of my time enamored that Christ redeems and is redeeming such brokenness then I’m probably missing something. I think the Lord probably views His bride less like an angry coach and more like a faithfully in love husband.

      • volfan007 says


        Country music? Brother, you need to read your Bible, again! :)

        And, I agree with you about anger and controlling it. I agree with you about the constant, negative complaining and anger.


    • Dave Miller says

      I’m not sure that the verse so much sanctions anger as it does recognize the fact that we all become angry. We should be very careful about using Paul’s words as a justification for our own tempers and intemperate words and behavior.

      I think Paul might have been telling us that when we become angry (and we all will) we can choose to respond in grace and love instead of sinning by expressing our anger in unloving ways.

  5. says

    One thing, however, that should not carry across in the analogy (but often does in churches) is that sports teams are an elite group of top performers chosen at the expense of eliminating all other possible players. They are chosen because they outperform their colleagues and will also be summarily discarded when better options arise.

    Ministers and churches often times find their best workhorses and run only with them. They burn them out and then look for fresh players.

  6. Frank L. says

    At the risk of being chastised for being “contrary,” I will speak my mind, and let the moderators excoriate as they see fit.

    This morning in my quiet time, I wrote just the opposite of this post (before reading it). I’ve been reading in Lamentations. Not much, “enjoy the spaghetti” in that book. I began to reflect upon the Bible as a whole.

    Seems that the problem today is not we are “too angry,” but that we are not “angry enough at the right things.” The spirit of tolerance has degraded into compromise. The American evangelical church (including the SBC) seem like a ship without a rudder with a suped-up engine make great time but not knowing exactly where we are making good time to.

    1Thess. 4:1 seems to indicate to me that Paul is much more like the coach above, than not. Excellence was his goal, even when the church was doing “good” with many “successes.”

    Of course, we always need to acknowledge an honest effort and time our words well, but I think a healthy dose of “being angry at the right things at the right time” would go a long way to bringing health and hardiness, along with holiness, back into our churches.

    In order to not seem too contrary, I do acknowledge that some pastors and leaders do just seem to be . . . well . . . “contrary!”

    • says


      I actually do not disagree with your comment. I think that being angry at the right things at the right time would be quite wonderful. The problem is we are often angry at the wrong things or angry at the right things in the wrong way. And we are prone to self-justify sinful anger. For some reason God always seems to be “righteously indignant” with the same problems and people that I am. Seems kinda fishy, to me.

      There is a difference in my mind between Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:1 and the angry coach. Paul seems to be saying, “Great job, keep up the good work—here are a few things that we can work on—great job, keep up the good work”. The angry coach just says, “Your rebounding stunk” I’m not going to congratulate you on those three-pointers until you start rebounding better.

      • Frank says

        Mike, I certainly agree that the “angry coach” does not line up perfectly with 1Thess. 4:1. I was referring mostly to a sense of unholy satisfaction with where we are at any given point of time, compared to where we could, and should be.

        So, as I said, I get what you are saying. It only struck me because God seemed to be saying something the exact opposite to me this morning. I think it is a both/and not an either/or kind of thing.

        And, for those that think anger is diametrically opposed to godliness, might want to ask the Lord about the “whipping people thing.”

        Also, “be angry and do not sin,” comes to mind. Also, the number of times God displays His anger seems to indicate that there must be some relationship to a strong response to sin and a life of holiness.

    • Dave Miller says

      Man’s anger does not accomplish the righteousness of God. Our weapons are not carnal but spiritual – things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness; produced by the Holy Spirit.

      Don’t see anger among the list of spiritual fruit in Galatians 5.

      Being angry and expressing it may give me a jolt of personal satisfaction, but God gives us better weapons – the weapons of grace – that actually are imbued the power of God to accomplish great things in his name.

  7. says

    Thanks for the post. However, I do take fault with your basketball analogy. My son’s team is 5-1 and I would not mind your convicting story coming in a few weeks – when the season is over.
    In all seriousness I appreciate your writing.