I will never forget where I was sitting when Mike Linch — the long-time Senior Pastor at NorthStar Church — called me with an invitation to come and serve on his staff. A long-time friend, I was humbled he would even consider me for such a role! After months of prayerfully considering his offer, my wife and I agreed that there was no question, God was guiding us to NorthStar.
Even before we officially arrived, God began giving me a vision for what it might look like for us to reach some of the 30,000 plus high school students within a seven-mile radius of the church. Because I was familiar with the area, I knew I would have to start with school that just happened to sit right across the street — North Cobb High School.
Reaching a school begins with reaching its leaders, which — across pretty much any school in the south — means the football players. For this reason, I decided that my first stop would be in the coaches’ offices; I wanted to meet them and to see if there was any way I could step up to serve.
Not long after I walked in, I was introduced — for the first time — to Head Coach Shane Queen. Coach was gearing up for his ninth season on the sidelines at North Cobb and was excited to tell me about his 2014 team. Within just a few minutes, Coach mentioned that the gentleman who had spent several years serving as the team’s chaplain had recently stepped aside.
“Would you be interested in serving,” he asked. “Absolutely!” I responded.
And with that, I was in.
Initially, at least, I thought this would be the avenue that God used to grow our student ministry, but over time, I learned He had much bigger plans.
This fall, I will spend my eighth season on the sidelines at North Cobb. The man I met in the offices that day has become one of my very best friends. Just writing these words has reminded me that every portion of our journey has purpose. God was not just guiding us to a new church, He was guiding us to a group of people that have become part of our family. We are Warriors! Even as our ministry calling has moved us to different churches over the years, we have remained tethered to those relationships we built all the way back in 2014.
When I reflect back on what has caused us to stay connected, I believe it boils down to Shane’s ability to embody the culture that he is constantly communicating to our players. Shared originally by our good friend, and the long-time pastor at Burnt Hickory Baptist Church, Pastor Mike Stephens, these “5 P’s” have come to shape so much of what we do with our football players at North Cobb.
The first P is PURPOSE. We often remind our players that what they are a part of is bigger than the part they play. Knowing your purpose is paramount to success, after all, as Zig Ziglar says, “if you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”
Great leaders are guided by their God-given purpose.
It did not take me long to realize that, while Shane loves to win, winning was not what was driving him…it was a desire to make a difference in the lives of his student-athletes.
The second P is PASSION. Once a person identifies their purpose, the rest of their lives should be spent passionately pursuing this objective. The apostle Paul, in Colossians 3:17, exhorts his readers, “whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Great leaders give everything they have got to the mission.
I can recall, on several occasions, hearing Shane say something like this: there is probably a lot that people can accuse me of, but nobody can accuse me of not being passionate. Trust me when I tell you, this is absolutely the truth! Shane does not have to manufacture this passion, though, it flows from his clear sense of purpose!
The third P is PERSEVERANCE. Wiser men than me have written their definitions of perseverance, so I will certainly not claim to have stumbled upon something new, but in my mind, perseverance is simply the act of intentionally advancing.
A few years ago, some friends and I participated in an obstacle run called the Savage Race. One of the obstacles along our seven-mile course was a slog through the mud. This particular pit happened to be about two feet deep and barbed wire ran zigzagged overhead. This forty-yard crawl was challenging even for the most well-prepared runners. There was only one-way through: keep moving.
Great leaders know where they are going, they give everything they have got to get there, and they refuse to let difficult circumstances distract them from their goals.
Success in life (and in football) comes when our willingness to persevere matches our passion to win. Passion without perseverance is just a pipe dream!
Over the last eight years, I have walked with Shane through some really high highs and some really low lows. In the midst of both the mountaintops and the valleys, I’ve watched him keep coming back — again and again — to his guiding purpose, and this perseverance continues to pay dividends. Shane was recently recognized as the City of Acworth’s Citizen of the Year, a nod to his longevity and service.
The fourth P is PRIDE. Pride is a funny word. To some, it evokes immediate thoughts of condescension. To others, it is a way to describe the honor they feel in being associated with something or someone.
As the dad of four boys, I take pride in my kids! Not just in what they do, but in who they are.
For great leaders, pride is more about what happens in the shadows than what happens in the spotlight.
I once heard a mentor of mine in ministry say, “there are a lot of things that I no longer have to do, but there is nothing that I will not do.”
Over the last eight years, I have watched Shane show up early and stay into the night. From washing practice gear to giving kids a ride home, he is in the trenches every day trying to make his program better. This includes equipping our kids to succeed in the classroom and do right in the community.
While we love to win, our pride as a program is not determined by what the scoreboard says on Friday nights. No, we are most proud of our current student-athletes who are working hard in the classroom (team GPA over 3.0 for the seventh year in a row), the thirty plus Warriors now playing at+++ the collegiate or professional level, and the young men like Donte Sawyer and Tyler Queen (Shane’s son), who have completed their playing careers and come back to coach the next generation of Warriors.
The final P is PEOPLE. At the end of the day, it all comes down to people.
Great leaders recognize that — like a locomotive — they might could go faster and farther by themselves. But this sort of leadership is lonely, and ultimately, without bringing along others we really are not fulfilling the purpose for which we were created.
I — along with countless others — have been the beneficiary of Shane’s incredible heart for people. Over these last seventeen years, he has touched thousands of lives which is why — just about every Friday night this fall — you will see players from years passed making their way back to the sidelines of Albert Matthews field. Shane’s loyalty is legendary; there is nobody on this earth that I would rather have in my corner than him!
You may not be a head football coach, but the truth is, all of us are entrusted with influence. Community leaders better others and the world they live in. Whatever world you live in, by looking through the lens of these “5 P’s” we can be better positioned to maximize our impact on everyone God places within our spheres of influence.
Ordinary to Extraordinary Intersection
What is your purpose? Does your passion flow through that purpose? Are you intentionally advancing through perseverance? Who do you take pride in that you serve? Do you understand the importance of people?