My wife and I attend a Sunday school class each Sunday at our church. We’ve been attending this same class for longer than we can remember, and the same teacher has been leading the class that entire time. However, sometimes, he just needs a break, or life happens, and he needs a substitute. So he has a backup Sunday school teacher on call for those times when he knows he won’t be able to attend.
The teacher is a former NFL Football player who played for the bad boy Oakland Raiders in the 1970s. He won a SuperBowl before he blew out his knee and retired to become a financial advisor. On the other hand, his substitute Sunday school teacher is a truck driver from Simpsonville, SC. These two teachers could not be more different.
The teacher studies the Greek words of the scripture we’re reading that day. We move at a snail’s pace, and have been in the Gospel of John for well over 2 years. But he pulls so much application out of each sentence that it would be doing a disservice to go faster. That’s who he is: methodical, thorough, and deep.
The substitute, on the other hand, reads the scripture and a half dozen commentaries, makes his own notes which he usually forgets to refer to during the class. He tells tales of being on the road for days at a time, and works in applications of how God has worked in his life from those experiences.
These two teachers could not be more different. The audience, however, is the same. When the teacher is there, we know what to expect. When the substitute is leading the class, we also know what to expect. We know to expect that the truck driver will always be, in his own words, “just a redneck truck driver from South Carolina,” and the ex-football player will always have a friendly disdain for “those little guys dressed up like zebras.”
The substitute could try to be like the teacher, and I imagine that the temptation had crossed his mind to try and lead the class just like the teacher leads the class. But that’s not what he does. He knows who he is, and he doesn’t try to be anyone or anything else. The class knows, loves, and respects every minute of it.
When you get up in front of a room to lead others, who are you going to be? The best advice I have ever received was to simply be me. I am tempted to try to be like others whom I admire and respect, and I’ve tried that, but it does not work. Ever. Be yourself, and do what works for you.