By Dick Brogden
Have you ever heard of Butch Songin? Me either. Tom Yewcic? Doesn’t ring a bell. Eddie Wilson? Babe Parilli? Don Trull? What about Tom Sherman, Mike Taliaferro, Neil Graff, or Tom Owen? Still nothing? Let’s try Matt Cavanaugh, Bob Bleier, Tom Ramsey, Marc Wilson, Hugh Millen, Tommy Hudson, Jeff Carlson, Scott Secules, or Scott Zola? Anything? They all have one thing in common, and they share it with one final name: Tom Brady. All of these men played quarterback for the New England Patriots.
Tom Brady is widely considered the best quarterback to ever play American football. He is, in fact called the G.O.A.T., the greatest of all time. He has been to seven championship games (Super Bowls) and won five of them. He has won more championships than any other quarterback, and when he retires he will hold every major record. He is envied and feared, respected and admired. Every other player wishes they had the success of Tom Brady, but few are willing to pay the price.
In December 2014, an article by Greg Bishop appeared in Sports Illustrated. Bishop expounded on the disciplined life Brady espouses/practices, the discipline that makes him great and sets him apart from all others. Here are some quotes from the article with attending church planting applications:
“His career is built on, defined by and prolonged with routine.”
Church planting is not built on discovering a new silver bullet or golden key. It is doing the basic things over and over again. It’s more about endurance than excitement.
“…A diet that made him lighter, workouts that made him faster…”
Church planting requires lean and mean. We need to simplify, cut things from our inputs that make us spiritually or culturally fat. We need to be agile. We need to have a standard of living (the location of our house, its openness to the community, the simplicity and hospitality in which we function) that empowers church planting. We must not allow our money/wealth to limit our church planting.
“Football isn’t what Tom does—football is Tom. This is who he is.” (Guerrero, Brady’s fitness coach)
Church planting requires a single-eyed focus. We need to decide that we are going to do one thing: make disciples. Anything that does not contribute to making disciples and gathering them into churches has to go.
Brady is a quarterback whose daily schedule, both in and out of season, is mapped clearly… Every day of it, micromanaged. Treatment. Workouts. Food. Recovery. Practice. Rest. And those schedules aren’t just for this week, this month, this season. They’re for three years. That allows Brady and Guerrero to work in both the short and long terms to, say, increase muscle mass one year and focus on pliability the next. “The whole idea is to program his body to do what we want it to do,” says Guerrero. “We don’t let the body dictate to us. We dictate.”
Church planting requires a daily discipline: Sleep, exercise, abide, study language, BAM, evangelize, pray, disciple, time with family, mentor, sleep…repeat. We set the big rocks in place in our schedule and do them over and over again. You want to plant churches? Dictate the schedule.
For Brady to play this well for so long isn’t simply a matter of built-in aggression (although he has that) or extra film study (although he does that) or of avoiding big hits and running only when necessary. The secret to his longevity is more encompassing. “Everything,” says Guerrero, “is calculated.”
Church planting requires a calculated intentionality to what we do, how we spend our time and with whom, what we read, where we go and with whom, what invitations we accept and what opportunities we deny. Church planting is about saying no to opportunities as much as it is saying yes.
Brady…had spent the early part of his career like most athletes. He’d worried about injuries after they happened. He’d focused on rehabilitation as opposed to preventative maintenance.
Church planting requires prevention. We must think ahead and keep our soul from sin and our bodies from breakdown. We must eat right, exercise right, sleep right in the physical and in the spiritual. We must operate forward from Sabbath rest, not hold on barely surviving the week to recover on our Sabbaths.
Brady is new age in approach but old school in composition. “I played with a bunch of quarterbacks: Kurt Warner, Marc Bulger,” a former teammate says. “They didn’t match Tom’s intensity. Not even close.”
Church planting requires old-time grit, determination, and hard-nosed tenacity. We must have foreheads of iron willing to bash against strongholds of stone. We must have a warrior approach, willing and eager to fight, even as we must have a pastoral and gentle side towards those we lead.
House [Brady’s throwing coach] and Brady work to refine less than two percent of the QB’s overall skill set. That’s it. The upper end of the upper end.
Church planting requires that we focus down on what we are good at and let others do what they excel in. We work on our strengths, improve our strengths, and become even better in that which we are gifted by continually improving it.
“Our method relates to being physically fit, emotionally stable and spiritually nourished,” says Guerrero. “Emotional stability allows you to have spiritual awareness.”
Church planting requires that we are healthy in all major categories: physical, emotional/relational, and spiritual. If any of those three legs are inadequate, we will be unstable.
The back end of his career has been defined, in many ways, by his ability to win without continuity among his offensive personnel…and, largely, without star receivers. “What he’s been able to accomplish there is nuts,” says retired fullback Heath Evans, a former teammate turned NFL network analyst. “There are always new linemen, new receivers, new position coaches. Change is constant.” Those who associate Brady only with the rotating cast that he throws to or that blocks for him miss and important point. His support system—his parents, his three sisters, his various personal coaches—has remained consistent.
Church planting requires accountable stability and encouragement from an inner core and the ability to thrive in the midst of constant personnel change. Church planting teams will be be composed of superstars, yet the whole will be greater than the sum of its parts. Church planters need to prioritize lifelong brothers and sisters who will be constant, though they be few.
He has countered that fire with lighter moments that have made him more relatable to teammates who made less money. He didn’t just watch pranks and laugh. He engaged in them. He won them. Evans describes Brady as the “most humble superstars I’ve ever been around.” “Since I met him, he married a supermodel, made millions of dollars and became internationally famous,” says Troy Brown, another former teammate. “But I don’t think he’s changed much.”
Church planting requires humor, joy, camaraderie, and an egalitarian approach to team members, especially the new and inexperienced. Veteran church planters need to initiate relationship and inclusion with the new. Humility and transparency encourage other church planters that we can and must do this together.
Brady’s preparation, how he works, bolsters the way his teammates view him. He was maniacal.
Church planting demands that you do not coast on your reputation or former accomplishments. Rather, you win the respect of your colleagues every day. A single-eyed focus by veterans (proven by their behavior) spreads through teams and organizations like wildfire.
He meets with Belichick three times a week to talk over the game plane—every coverage, every hot read, every play. He summons his backups an hour before the Saturday team meetings and goes over the entire call sheet, typically between 100 and 110 plays. Twice. He asks the QBs to arrive an hour early on game day, too, then goes over everything again. Twice.
Church planting requires the intentionality of staying on the same page with your leaders—initiating and responding. Church planting requires going over and over strategies and plans and contingencies with your followers—and taking initiative that all know the plan well, that there is common ownership.
“He has a great memory from all that,” says Bill O’Brien, once Brady’s offensive coordinator, now the coach of the Texans. “He can remember from eight years ago: left hash, toward the lighthouse, third play of the game… We’ll look it up. He’s always right.”
Church planting requires we study, remember, and celebrate the past. We cannot have the hubris to think we know better than those who went before us, nor can we ignore the lessons they so painfully learned. We have one eye on the past even as we press towards the new challenges of the future.
This is the…guy who once ate Christmas breakfast with the Evans family and quietly picked all the sausage out from his omelet.
Church planting requires fastidiousness in eliminating the little vices, the small excesses, and the minor details that in combination retard the work. Church planting requires the discipline and discernment to make a thousand small decisions that lead to breakthrough.
Brady…had a program created to work out his brain the way he worked out his body. The various exercises help Brady to more quickly process information between plays, read defenses and make adjustments. They assist with his memory. They increase his peripheral vision and how far he can see downfield… Brady says: “I’m building resiliency and staying sharp. I feel like that’s really where my edge is.”
Church planting is helped, not hurt, by resistance. Resiliency is a key skill for church planters, and we learn resiliency by facing opposition and enduring through it. We get stronger the more we endure, and we should have more church planting power the harder and longer the journey is.
For years, as Brady made football his singular obsession, everyone asked what he planned to do afterward. He never really knew. He wanted only to play football, to win championships. He never considered flying airplanes or running car dealerships or whatever it is athletes do when they no longer pursue what once defined them. He thought only about football and family.
Church planting needs to be our singular obsession. Contrary to Brady, Jesus is our central obsession, but as relates our ministry and calling, we must have a single eye. We must be fixated on church planting with no other ministry or opportunity attractive to us.
He won’s need a résumé for his next endeavor, only his body of work and his actual body, how it has held up over time. “I used to joke with Alex,” says Brady, “one day, we have to go on the road. We have to teach people.”
Church planting is first caught then taught. What will give us the credibility to teach others is if we do it well over time. Teaching is critical, but only powerful if we have done what we teach well over time.
The above applications may seem extreme even if simple. Words and phrases like “maniacal,” “singular obsession,” “discipline,” “routine,” or “focus” either scare or bore us. We must ask ourselves again: “How badly do we want to plant churches?” There is a cost to pay if we want to plant churches. We will have to be obsessed with it, maniacal about it, disciplined, focused, and relentless, and to have a little bit of Holy Spirit “nasty” that fires and guides us.
In 1 Corinthians 9:22, Paul expresses his desire that by all means he would save some. This is the context for his reminder (vv. 24–27) to run with discipline: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it…therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection.”
Tom Brady does not have a greater intensity or focus than did Paul, the greatest church planter in history. Paul badly wanted to plant churches, and he knew what it took: Running with certainty. Fighting with focus. Disciplining our body and bringing it into subjection.
Do you want to plant churches? The following is required:
- Abiding in Jesus extravagantly: your soul alive and empowered
- Eating healthy and exercising: your body in good shape
- Submission and accountability: your relationships in order
- Sabbath rest and renewal: good sleep
- Ongoing language study: Gospel fluency in heart language
- Constant evangelism: never losing the heart for souls
- Steady discipleship: always pouring into someone who will reproduce
- Frequent prayer and fasting: regular times to fall on our knees before the Omnipotent
- Active faith: praying for the sick, power encounters, stepping out with no safety net
- Deep accountability: vulnerable, transparent, humble relationships
- Simple living: dying daily to comforts, preferred schedules, and luxuries
- Costly partnership: yielding to and making a way for and with others
- Risk, trouble, scorn: being thought poorly of by friends and enemies
- Dying to self: drinking the cup the Master asks of us, doing what we don’t want to do
- Spiritual warfare: casting out demons, praying through, battling back darkness.
And we must do all the above over and over and over and over again—until knees are calloused and bodies wrinkled, and emotions spent, and stubborn wills broken. Winning Super Bowls is easy compared to church planting. So I ask one final time: Just how badly do you want to plant churches?