We are now moving forward into my favorite time of year. No, not winter! Not Christmas! Basketball season! I like other sports. And watch other sports. But basketball is the best. I won’t even argue the point here. You know it is!
Tuesday night I enjoyed watching the Indiana Hoosiers dismantle the North Carolina Tar Heels. Obviously, I’m an IU fan! It’s exciting watching them return to greatness after three years in exile. It’s fun to watch a team really work together. Play unselfishly. Give themselves up for the good of the team. And execute the game plan of the Coach.
One of the all time great college basketball coaches who preached teamwork as an ingredient to success was John Wooden. During the course of 12 seasons in the 1960’s and 1970’s Wooden’s UCLA teams won 10 NCAA Championships in 12 years. Years after retiring Wooden is quoted as saying, “I don’t like to watch (basketball) as much as I used to. I think there’s too much showmanship. There’s too much individual play. The players are better now – individually….but we used to have better teamwork.”
Wooden had a lot of great players who went on to be NBA super stars, but his philosophy was “The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.”
Bill Walton was a superstar who played for Wooden in the early 1970’s. He was unconventional and caught up in the spirit of that era of “doing your own thing.” One year during the semester break, Walton returned to practice with a bushy red beard. Wooden had a strict rule against facial hair.
When confronted by his coach, Walton said, “It’s my right.”
“That’s good, Bill,” Coach Wooden responded. “I admire people who have strong beliefs and stick by them. We’re going to miss you!”
Of course Bill shaved the beard. And UCLA went on to win another Championship.
Team sports serve as a great metaphor for Christians working together in spiritual fellowship. Consider these passages.
“Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common…” (Acts 2:44)
“From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Eph 4:16
“In whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” (Eph. 2:21-22)
The key word in all these passages is “together.” We’ve been brought together by the “Captain of our Salvation.” We belong together. We are joined together. We work together. We share together. We grow together. And we win together.
It is repeated to the point on being a cliché, “there is no “I” in team.” It’s true in basketball. And it should be true on our “spiritual team”–the church. Too many churches are failing in their God-ordained mission because of lack of teamwork.
We come together to share our various talents, abilities and skills for the mutual good. We conduct ourselves in harmony with the “rules” not only out of respect for Jesus, but each other. We are willing to give up our personal preferences, opinions and desires for the common welfare of “the team.”
On a basketball team you need good shooters. Rebounders. Playmakers. Big and tall players. And shorter, quick players. And you need everyone to play defense, listen to the coach and play with passion.
On our spiritual teams everyone is needed. All have a role. Each has a job to do. And teamwork is required.
The next time you watch a game being played the way it should be, with mutual respect, enthusiasm and team work, think how much better our churches would be if we were following and applying the same principles.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman