One wouldn’t think the 2014 NBA Championship would provide a lesson in how to live effectively as the Body of Christ, but that’s exactly what I saw as I watched the Spurs wrench the title from the Miami Heat. I’m not much of a sports fan, but since my son has ESPN on constantly, I can’t escape following along. I don’t have a clue about basketball, but I noticed three things the Spurs can teach us about being more effective as the Body of Christ.
The System versus the Star
The Heat’s strategy depended primarily upon one man, LeBron James. Contrast that with the Spurs. The ball flew from Leonard to Ginóbili, who fired it over to Splitter before it whizzed to Mills, who bounced it to Diaw who handed it right back to Mills, before it was finally passed to Ginóbili who put it in the basket. Every Spur on the court had a hand, literally, on those two points.
The Spurs won because their system of emphasizing teamwork overwhelmed the Heat’s strategy of depending upon the star player. The apostle Paul had a similar system for the early church.
Paul’s System is Similar to Pop’s
The apostle Paul tried to teach the church at Ephesus to adopt a similar ethos. Look at what Paul wrote:
But practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head. From him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament. As each one does its part, the body grows in love. —Ephesians 4:15-16, NET
So how does “The System” of the Spurs’ Coach Popovich (aka Pop) illustrate this concept? Essentially, its focus is selfless unity producing the best possible result for the team. And there are three aspects in particular that go along with Paul’s instructions.
Three “System” Concepts the Church Should Also Practice
1. Individuals act selflessly for the good of the group.
Pop repeatedly used the phrase “good to great” to remind his players to carefully choose the best shot for the team rather than take a lesser shot purely for personal glory.
By constantly passing the ball, the players moved as one entity. Each person possessed the ball at just the right time, and they flew past the opposition.
All players shared the workload and thus reaped bigger gains with less individual strain. “The System” insured fresh players were ready to go in the game against an opposition comprised of a few star players flagging from carrying their team.
Imagine if the church took Paul’s admonition as seriously as the Spurs take Pop’s “System.” None of us would sacrifice what is best for the Body in order to grab glory for ourselves. And we wouldn’t have burnout and exhaustion in congregations where 20% of the people do 80% of the work.
2. Celebrate unity of diversity.
The Spurs are comprised of players from all over the world and each man has unique strengths. Pop’s “System” unites the diverse players into a great team.
LeBron James is exceptionally gifted with a multitude of skills. But one guy, no matter how multi-talented, can’t stop a cohesive team when each player puts his proficiency into play at just the right moment.
Too many times I hear people in the church comparing and competing instead of pooling their gifts for the common good. Paul cautioned against this type of behavior. Read 1 Corinthians 12 to see how destructive and unproductive such a mentality can be. How much stronger would the Body of Christ be if we celebrated our different gifts and talents and joined them together to the glory of God?
3. Don’t underestimate the importance of discipleship and valuing contributions.
If only a few of the players understood and embodied Pop’s “System” it wouldn’t work. For it to have maximum effect, every person in the organization must be trained to think and act in alignment to it. Pop conceived the mindset and instilled it in the “Big Three” (Ginóbili, Duncan, and Parker) who modeled it and taught it to the rest, including any new players who joined the team.
Pop puts players who languished on the bench of other teams into the game at just the right moment to capitalize on their particular strengths. Thus, each player, whether a star starter or a reserve player, knows their contribution is valued by Pop. When your efforts are valued and make a difference to the outcome, you give it your all, and you do so with humility.
Envision for a moment how different the church would be if every believer was taught to humbly recognize and use their unique gifts for the common good and if they knew exactly how valuable their contribution was to the kingdom of God. And just think of the outcome if we all trusted our heavenly Pop’s timing as to when to use those gifts and in what circumstances.
So, how about you?
Ephesians 4:15-16 insists we act for the benefit of others. As we do so, God conforms us more and more to the character of Jesus. Christ, our source of power and being, coalesces the individual believers into a whole, as each one contributes a share of the activity. The result: the selfless building up of the body.
You may have languished on the bench before being acquired by Christ. But now that you’re a part of his team, you can trust he knows exactly when and where to put your gifts to use.
Are you training hard and readying yourself for action? When he determines the situation calls for your particular gifts and calls you into the game, will you unselfishly give it your all, move as one with the other members of the team, and advance the kingdom?
Your turn:What are your gifts and talents and how are you using those for the good of God’s kingdom? You can leave a comment by clicking here.