Jim Tressel has just resigned as head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes football team. The embattled coach has stepped down in the midst of a continuing wave of accusations of NCAA violations and Tressel’s own failure to handle the situation properly.
The author of two books about faith and integrity, Tressel is seen as a hypocrite by some. Supporters still view him as a deeply religious man who has made some serious mistakes.
Tressel has been aware of some of the problems in the football program for quite a while. However, instead of dealing with the trouble head-on, he looked the other way. It seems that he was hoping that the situation would straighten itself out, without his having to intervene. Things rarely work out that way.
I must confess that, as a church leader, I have occasionally tried the same approach as Jim Tressel used—ignore the problem, hoping it will go away. No one enjoys confronting: a divisive elder, a Sunday school teacher who is undermining the authority of the church leaders or a deacon who is teaching false doctrine. The easy way out is to look the other way and hope for the best, but this is a sure prescription for failure.
The wisest action a leader can take is to meet conflict head-on. This is the healthiest way to deal with problems in a sports program, a business, a family or a church.
Romans 12:6-8 says, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is…leadership, let him govern diligently…”
I’m sure that Jim Tressel knows that verse. However, at a critical juncture in his career, he failed to live by its principle. Church leaders would do well to learn from his mistake.