Friday, June 16, 2023

The Greatest Leader I Have Ever Known

See updated info at the end of this post:

Whoa! That is a big title and full of hyperbole...or is it?

As I have been blessed to continue in my  capacity at Briarwood Christian School for coming up on my 25th year, I wanted to pause, reflect, and honor the man who has been so instrumental to me.

And it is always a joy for me to see him. He came to MANY home games this year.

In the summer of 1983, I had been hired as an intern at Briarwood Presbyterian Church by another great leader (and now my neighbor) Tom Caradine to serve college and high school summer programs. The Church was still on Hwy 280 and the school was in its current location on Hwy 119 South, though in those days you could take a nap on the road and nor get hit by a car for at least 30 minutes!

Tom sent me to Briarwood to get PE balls and equipment for a kids camp and that is where I first heard the name, shook the hand, and experienced the kind practical jokes of Dr. Byrle Kynerd.

He called his son, Kevin to open the combination lock at the downstairs PE closet. Then he said, "Mr. Mathews, I would give you the combination to that lock but we just can't trust that you might come back and steal it all later. So Kevin will open it up and son, don't you dare tell Mr. Mathews that combination."

And then he whispered something privately to Kevin.

It took me back a little how he said all of that and then we walked downstairs to that closet (which is STILL there!)

Kevin looked at me and said, "I can't TELL you this combination but you can watch me open it and you will need to remember it when you return the equipment". That was his first small practical joke by Dr. K that over the decades grew by the hundreds.

I could write thousand of stories and it has been so interesting to me to hear how many former Briarwood coaches and players tell a Dr. Kynerd story on the podcast we have been doing since the fall of 2022. As of this writing, 16 out of 27 podcasts (A.D. Update and BCS Football Classics) have told a Dr. K story.

What prompted me to write about him today?

Since Covid hit in 2020, I have found professional ministry to just feel tougher. There are always challenges and seasons of turmoil... but the landscape of our culture seems to be colder and darker. People show up as more negative and less forgiving or understanding. There isn't a ton of encouragement anywhere in our society. The culture seems less and less concerned about the things of God.

In David Lyons book on postmodernity, "Jesus in Disneyland", he outlined over two decades ago what would be the results of the rapid, consumer based lifestyle that was quickly taking over culture. He anticipated the war between Church Authority and Cyberspace Authority. He predicted that anarchy would threaten Continuity and Instant Fluidity would hurt the foundations of Community.  

Do you see it? 
Do you feel it?

I do- Individuality over Wholeness .... Fragmentation over  Purpose . The destabilization of the post modern movement has put an incredible strain on our society and is paying horrible dividends to our youth. Can anyone but me hear the creaking of broken foundations and fear the weight of sin? If we do not move back to the FAITH side of this equation, what hope is there for long term success?

What foul dust is going to be left in the wake of the collapse without a massive movement of God's Spirit?

The visible church of God is hurting and our young people especially are suffering the consequences of
a moral darkness, sort of an eclipse of God. He IS still shining, just like the sun continues to shine during a solar eclipse, He is hidden, or maybe a better term; 'blocked'. Our society seem to just be gazing at the earth.

And it makes me pause.... what keeps me going?

And though Dr Kynerd has long ago retired as the superintendent of Briarwood Christian School, and former head of Board Directed Ministries... he is still championing me to keep moving forward in gospel hope and spiritual power.

Here are some of the emails he has sent me since 2020:

WELL DONE. Thank you for your leadership

and service  Respectfully, Byrle Kynerd 

Coach, thank you for your Christ honoring and consistent leadership and service at BCS. You are a blessing to many. One special Scripture to encourage you and those you serve with is Psalm 127:1. May you see God’s encouragement day by day.  Gratefully, Byrle Kynerd 

Coach Mathews, thank you for honoring Christ, communicating with grace and corrective clarity, providing appropriate information, and the time you and others devote to informing our parents. May God give you peace and joy as you serve and gratefulness that you are a Witness

and Ambassador for Christ by the way you serve. Trust Him, forgive quickly, do the next right thing when making decisions, and be filled with the Fruit of the Spirit as you serve And arrive at

home each day.  Thank you for your example. You and BCS are in my prayers. 

Respectfully, Byrle Kynerd 

Our society today tends to honor big names, "aura', resumes, and status. We lift the youth up too soon as faddish and dismiss the veterans too early.

And in the long run... what are we missing?

I am fortunate to have been hired, mentored, and directed by a man like Dr. K- and he still is at work in keeping me going!

I don't know if many folks will ever read this... but I just felt like telling him thanks in a more public way.

And I am not discouraged or dismayed... his example and his leadership has prepared me to keep walking in the grace and admonition of Christ.


So you never know how these posts will travel and this one happened to be read by my former coach, David Cutcliffe who wanted to meet Dr. Kynerd after this post and the wonderful things he has heard from SEC admin assistant Melinda Calderini who served as Dr. K's admin assistant for many, many years.

I picked up Dr. K and we drove over to the SEC offices in Birmingham where Coach Cutcliffe serves as the liaison to SEC football coaches and the visit was special.

To hear these two great men I admire swap stories and principles of leadership was amazing! Thanks Coach Cut for honoring Dr. K- it made my day!

This last picture is the infamous video replay room at SEC HQ where crucial decisions are made on Saturdays in the fall!

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