What A Basketball Writer Taught A Tennis Player About Ministry

Bill Simmons, who is a Boston-bred, ESPN-based author and columnist, has written the definitive history of the NBA with his The Book Of Basketball.

In this, the quickest 800 page read of my life, Simmons is in turn unfiltered, poignant, statistical, profane, irreverent, and hilarious.

His gifts for footnoting and pop culture analogies have to be seen to be believed.

Yet my main take-away from The Book Of Basketball is theological.  That’s right, a book that is both profane and irreverent makes a critical theological point.

Simmons’ assessment of the greatest NBA players of all-time revolves around The Secret:  did this player make the players around him better?  Or were his statistical accomplishments come at the expense of others?

The Secret is why Bill Russell fares better in Simmons’ book than does Wilt Chamberlain.  And it’s why Larry Bird ranks considerably higher than Dominique Wilkins.

Basketball greatness, then, comes from an ability to make the players around you better.

Why does simple truth speak with such theological power to me?

Because I am a tennis player.  And tennis players don’t have teammates.  We’re in it for ourselves.  If we play well and we win, that’s all that matters.

And so in my evolution as pastor at Good Shepherd, I have had to be diligent at moving away from my natural tennis-playing (i.e., selfish) instincts and embrace those of basketball.

Which means in practical terms than I am learning to be less concerned with 

“was my sermon good?”
“do they like me?”
“did that visit go well?”

and more focused on 

“who on staff and in church am I helping to come to life with Jesus Christ today?”
“how can I make the people around me better?”

 So wish me luck on the hardwood today.