Last night during the NBA finals halftime show, analyst and former player Jalen Rose used two interesting terms to describe the two basketball teams’ roads to success. Rose explained how the San Antonio Spurs were built while the Miami Heat were bought. No one questions the success of either team as the Heat play in their third final in three years and the Spurs seek their third championship since 1999. Both enjoy remarkable success, yet take two radically different approaches to building a winning cultue. I find some striking parallels with how we develop leadership teams (and people in general) in both established churches and church-plants.
A recent article in USA Today details the different approaches of the two teams. The Spurs core of three- Tim Duncan, Manut Ginobli, and Tony Parker- were drafted at relatively young ages out of college (Duncan) or from overseas teams (Ginobli & Parker). They’ve stayed together for eleven years and even taking pay cuts to maintain a winning culture (no mistake that they are still all millionaires). These stars, their coaches, and team as a whole have a reputation of shunning the lime light. The Heat on the other hand have a core fo all-stars known as the Big Three: Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh. Wade was drafted by the Heat out of college, but the other two were signed as high-priced free agents. Sports fans may recall how James infamously televised The Decision. The Heat are both high priced and “built to win now.”
How does this really parallel leading a church?
- Winning now vs. long-haul attitude. The winning now approach often leads to trying to grow as big as possible as quickly as possible. Leaders often will measure success by attendance, decisions for Jesus, and money (a.k.a. butts, baptisms, & budget). We can celebrate all of those successes, but only if what they measure is truly meaningful. A long-haul attitude requires asking tough questions about whether we’re truly leading people to follow Jesus as the Lord of their life or simply leading people to make an impulsive decision and wear the Christian label. The long haul approach also requires entering the mess of individual lives and the mess of our communities while working towards long-haul Jesus centered transformation. We need to think and pray through what type of long-term impact we want to see with individuals, families, and communities 10, 20, 30 years from now. Present trends with the younger generation leaving the church appear to point that the win now approach has failed.
- Signing all-stars vs. developing leaders from within. We often face the temptation to fill vacant roles with experienced “all-stars” from other churches rather than taking the time to develop the people God has already entrusted to us. We often miss that these sharp leaders did not just happen- someone took the time and energy to invest in and equip them. When we fill a void with an already gifted and equipped person from elsewhere, it all too often leads to future potential leaders sitting on the bench and never being developed. Ultimately developing leaders is the byproduct of making disciples. If we don’t learn how to invite people to follow Jesus with us, recognize how God has gifted them, and equip them to utilize those gifts, little hope exists of us becoming spiritually mature churches who know and reflect Jesus. See Ephesians 4:11-16.
- Seeking notoriety vs. making an impact. Many of us secretly desire to become the next Rick Warren, Alan Hirsch, Mark Driscoll, or Jim Wallis. We’d love to have that type of influence… and recognition. Chasing recognition will always lead to a different destination than seeking God’s glory. James 3:13-18 clearly states that when motivated by jealousy or selfish ambition, disorder quickly follows. We don’t possess the capacity to limit this disorder as it often invades our families and churches. If our true motivation is rooted in God’s glory and blessing others, then we won’t care if we’re ever given credit. Unlike even the most humble NBA player, the names of some of the most faithful servants of God won’t be known to us this side of heaven.
Please continue praying for us as we seek to plant a church with long-haul impact for Jesus in Burlington, VT. We want to remain faithful to making disciples and developing leaders from within our city and other communities around VT.