FIRST-PERSON: Players & Pastors

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP) -- For several years I have been working with Baseball Chapel to provide chaplaincy services to the San Francisco Giants. Being around the players and their families during three World Series wins has been an incredible privilege.

During the playoff season in professional baseball, I am also on the road attending state convention meetings for Southern Baptists. This year, I was preaching in several of them -- from California to New Jersey. Being around many pastors, other leaders and their families also is a special privilege -- and one that gives me a unique contrast in perspectives.

Professional athletes are revered in our culture. They are followed on social media and emulated by people who wear their jerseys. They sell products, start fads and occasionally speak out on the politically correct side of cultural issues. Because they are famous, they are perceived to be significant.

Pastors, on the other hand, are generally only well-known to their parishioners. Very few have a hashtag with their name behind it. No one copies their dress code! They don't sell anything or start any fads.

When they speak out on cultural issues, it's usually an unpopular word of warning or correction. So, it might be conversely concluded, since they are not famous, they are not significant.

Wrong. Pastors, when they maximize their role, are incredibly significant community leaders. When they work together, they are a formidable national network of spiritual influence. They call us to really follow someone -- Jesus. They remind us that what we wear, buy or copy is not as important as what we believe and practice. They speak the truth about moral and ethical issues, even when it's unpopular and creates conflict.

Influencing prominent people is a privilege. Being influenced by truly significant people, like my pastor, is vastly more significant. May God give us the wisdom to recognize who really matters in our lives and in society as a whole, and then honor them accordingly.

Jeff Iorg is president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, on the Web at This column first appeared at the seminary’s President’s Blog.
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