Step Forward or Step Back

Monday morning I was on my bike in the living room of our home, spinning on a trainer, watching a documentary called “The Wrecking Crew.” I was cycling (stationarily) as part of my physical training rehab following knee replacement, and watching the documentary as part of my plan to catch up on unwatched DVDs. The documentary was about the recording studio musicians who played on most of the rock and roll hits of the 1960s … you might not know their names but you certainly know their music. They played amazing music and seldom saw their own names on record labels. They used their world-class skills to make other people famous.

wrecking crewOne of the questions implied in the documentary was, “Would you be OK knowing you are the best in the world, yet living completely behind the scenes and out of the spotlight?”

I realized I was looking at the life I want to live nowadays. Not that I want to be a recording studio musician (although I’d love to have the chops), but I want to be a spiritual leader who pushes heroes forward so they can shine. I’m happy staying behind the scenes. I’m even happier when one of my guys steps forward into his place of leadership and ministry.

I would rather be the consigliore than the Godfather, Bagger Vance than Rannulph Junah.

Early in my adult life I’ll admit I held back out of fear. I thought the front row was for the cool kids and not for me.

Later, I began to accept more lead roles, hoping to replace my fears with boldness. But even then, most of the leadership roles I held were because I was drafted, or pulled up, or recruited, not because I pursued them.

And now that I’m firmly on the threshold of my 60s, my challenge is to know when I should stay behind and push others forward, or stand up and be the front man.

Even now I’m haunted by the question: Is my desire to remain behind the scenes a noble effort, or is it merely my own fear of standing tall and taking on the risks of leadership? Am I still afraid I don’t have what it takes and so use the humble card to stay back, hiding my fears behind the mask of nobility?

Cyndi reminds me often that if I avoid positions of leadership, an important voice will go unheard and unheeded. I can’t disagree with her. I know she’s correct. I married a very smart and insightful woman. I have an obligation to give away what God has given me – grace and love and peace – and I cannot always do that from the back of the room.

And yet, I was talking to Joe Willis earlier this month about his participation in the Timothy Ministry, a mentoring program for new deacons, it occurred to me how many of the new young deacons in the past three or four years have been part of Iron Men or Journey Group with me, and I realized the unique place God had put me, to speak into the hearts of future leaders. God has entrusted some of his best young men to me, and that probably wouldn’t have happened if I insisted on being the front man in everything I do.

And so, my prayer: “God, thank you. Keep my heart full of integrity and humility and generosity. Thank you for trusting me with these young men. Give me wisdom to know when to stay in the background, and when to stand up and step forward.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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