Do you remember the dream team? in 1992, the NBA sent the best of the best to compete in the Olympics, no longer leaving it to the amateurs of college ball. And what happened? They ran through everybody. The question was not whether or not they would win, but rather by how much. The battle for the world was simply for the silver medal. Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Clyde Drexler…the greatest ballers of the era came together and put on an amazing show. They truly were the world champs.
Fast forward 10+ years later. The USA Basketball team is no longer the powerhouse it once was. The rest of the world has ‘caught up’ in skill and talent, and in understanding the game. The US players are not used to the world rules and regulations, and the way the referees call the game. And in the end, the US leaves disappointed, without a gold medal at hand.
So what’s the difference? Both teams were comprised of the greatest the US had to offer. Each athlete was simply amazing, capable of dominating a game at any point in time. Yet a common criticism against the recent squads are that they don’t know how to play “Team Basketball.” People are so proud of their own abilities and capabilities that they don’t know how to hold back and play a ‘lesser’ role. They don’t know fundamental concepts of playing what is needed instead of just playing what you want.
The greatness of Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan were that they were willing and able to play any position, at any time. In 1980, as a rookie on the Los Angeles Lakers, Magic Johnson played all 5 positions (point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, and center) in 1 game during the championships. He saw what was needed, and filled the void. Although he was small compared to the other guys on the court, he gave 100% of himself to play each position as best as he could. That is what a team player does. He didn’t first look at what he felt he could offer, but he looked at what he saw was a need, and then took what he could offer and filled that need. He humbled himself from being greatness in just one area and saw the bigger picture.
My home church in Chicago has many members, as it is the largest in our diocese (North America and Europe). And recently there had been a ‘revelation’ of us being ‘over-saturated’ with leaders – so many people capable of leading, but not enough positions to fill. And so many people have gone elsewhere to grow and to serve (…and praise God that they are allowing God to use them as so). But as I look at the church, there is constantly a desperate cry for more leadership. How could such a large body, with so many blessed and growing people, be struggling with finding leaders? The problem is that people have a distorted view of service. We look at our own abilities and capabilities, our strengths and giftings, and then seek the positions that can be filled. We have so many people who can play guitar, but we don’t need 30 worship leaders…so they go elsewhere. What we need to do, however, is first see the need. Where are we lacking? Where are people straining to survive? After we find those things, then we ask, ‘how can I fill this position?’ We are so proud of what we can do that we won’t humble ourselves to do other things. We might be great actors and dancers and singers, but if there is a need for people to teach Sunday School, we should use whatever ability we have and step up. But our eyes are too focused on ourselves and what we feel we can accomplish than what really needs to be accomplished.
Over-saturation of godly people is not a bad thing (unless there is a great need for leaders elsewhere and nobody is willing to leave a comfortable place). But over-saturation of selfish people will only lead to problems. When we stop being selfish, we will start to gain a broader kingdom perspective of the world, and recognize how to fill the needs around us with the abilities we have. We need to get back to the heart of service. We need to stop trying to include God into our will, and start trying to include ourselves in God’s will. Recognize your ability – then serve with everything you have.