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Passion is Contagious (The Secret to Great Leadership)

There is a big difference between good teaching and great teaching.


This week, as thousands of kiddos slung brightly colored backpacks around their shoulders and “cheesed” for the obligatory first-day of school picture, I said a prayer of gratitude for two things:


  1. Great teachers—the people who invested in me, loved on me, put up with me, and helped me understand all the things.
  2. That Facebook didn’t exist when I was rocking neon green bikers shorts and an oversized, sponge painted t-shirt with puff-paint for my first day of school pics.


To all the teachers out there—thank you! What you do everyday matters tremendously. You spend long, exhausting (sometimes thankless) hours investing in the next generation. I am grateful and proud and encouraged by the good work you are doing!


I’m not a school teacher. You might not be either. But in one way or another we have all benefited from a great teacher.


In third grade, Mrs. Greaves was the coolest—she had a nautical themed room and, sometimes, she gave candy or (even more exciting) die-cut paper boats as rewards! That year Mrs. Greaves taught me how to multiply and read chapter books like Hatchet, and somewhere along the way she instilled in me an insatiable passion for learning.


In sixth grade I started competitive cheerleading. Four times a week, Coach Chris lead us through an intense, hour-long conditioning routine before ever beginning cheer practice. Even after training for a marathon and competing in Crossfit competitions, that conditioning routine remains one of the most physically difficult experiences of my life. But by the time I left for college, Coach Chris had taught me to truly value discipline and never to shy away from hard work.


In college, Todd, our college pastor, invited me to join a small group of students interested in pursuing a career in ministry. He taught us about hermeneutics, effective leadership, and how to preach a sermon. But ultimately He gave me a hunger for God’s Word like I’d never experienced before.


I’ve come to realize the best teachers focus more on the “why” than the “how-to.”


Great teachers live by the principle described by Antoine De Saint-Exupery in The Little Prince, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the people to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”


The teachers who have impacted me the most have given me an appetite for things greater than the item on the lesson plan. They’ve taught me to yearn for the sea.


I’m not a school teacher. You might not be either. But in one way or another we all are given opportunities to teach—whether its through parenting or onboarding a new employee, coaching a youth soccer team or blogging.


Regardless of your profession, it is worth while to become a great teacher.


In fact, I believe Christ followers are explicitly called to be great teachers. (Matt 28:18-20) Our life’s purpose is to invite other to draw to near to The Father. (What is discipleship if not teaching someone else to yearn for a relationship with the God of the universe?)


But I have to wonder—do my words and actions vividly illustrate the “why” behind my devotion to God? Am I living in a way that opens the door for others to fall in love with Christ? Do you set an example that is contagious? (1 Corinthians 11:1)


Or am I simply showing others the “how-tos” of the faith.


How to show up at church on Sunday. How to avoid rated R movies. How to keep a prayer journal. How to be committed to my community group. How to say “bless her heart” when you really want to say something mean…


Y’all, I pray that we are brave enough to be who we needed when we were younger.


No one needs to know the how-to’s without first growing a passion for the why. And no one learns to yearn for the why, without first witnessing a vulnerable, courageous picture of passion for that very thing.


I love learning because I saw Mrs. Greaves’ eyes light up when she taught. I appreciate discipline because I heard Coach Chris’ fiery explanations of deliberate practice. And I have a deep connection with the Word of God because I watched Todd’s heart nearly beat out of his chest as he taught us how to study Scripture.


Passion is contagious.


Regardless of our vocation, may we be brave people with unbridled passion who teach others to yearn for the vast and endless love of God.

By the way, I wish I could write specifically about all of the teachers—both inside and outside of the classroom—who have invested in me. For now a thank you will have to do:

To Ms. Floyd, Scott Kedersha, Andy and Jamie Jo Braner, Sherry Brown, Paige Thiessen, Kelly Lashar, Stephanie Kaihoi, Sharon Mankin, Amy Hardie Webber, Mom, Dad, Matt Levy, Scott Covington, Jennifer Spaulding, and many others: Thank you for you time, your words, your example. You have impacted my life in ways you might never fully know. But know this—I am grateful for you.

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