Richard Exley Ministries

How Championships are Won
Posted on March 04, 2015

If you are not a fan of NBA Basketball I need to ask your forgiveness right up front because I want to begin with a story coming out of the NBA Finals a couple of years ago, which the Miami Heat won in seven games. If you know anything about the NBA you know that the Heat put together the best basketball team money could buy. They had the big three – Lebron James (arguably the best basketball player on the planet), DeWayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Unfortunately, a collection of superstars seldom win championships as the Miami Heat learned the hard way in 2011 when the Dallas Mavericks defeated them four games to two in the NBA Finals. Championships are won by teammates who sacrifice individual achievements for the good of the team. It’s hard for superstars to do that. Their egos are simply too big.

Yet the Miami Heat won the NBA Championship two years in a row (2012 and 2013). So how did they defy the odds and do that?

Great coaching!

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At forty-two, Erik Spoelstra is one of the youngest coaches in the league. When he was named successor to Pat Riley in April 2008, Riley said: "This game is now about younger coaches who are technologically skilled, innovative, and bring fresh new ideas.”

Spoelstra is all of that but his greatest asset is his communication skills. He made believers out of his superstars even though each one of them had to change his game and sacrifice individual achievements for the good of the team. Lebron had to change roles almost nightly depending on who they were playing. Spoelstra had him guarding all five positions. Some nights he was guarding Tony Parker a lightening quick point guard and at other times he was defending against the shooting guard or the power forward. On offense he might be playing point guard or posting up in the lane. He learned to trust his coach and do whatever he was asked.

Another classic example is Ray Allen, the greatest three-point shooter in NBA history and a future first ballot Hall of Famer. After having been a starter his entire career, Spoelstra ask him to be a role player coming off the bench. Like Lebron, Allen chose to sacrifice his personal game for the good of the team. He might have sulked and pouted saying he wasn’t getting any respect, but instead he trusted his coach and put the good of the team ahead of his own desires.

So what does all of this have to do with us?

Ministry in the twenty-first century confronts us with new challenges and requires us to learn new skills with the accompanying risks. To do this we must understand our core values—those things that are unchanging. Let me illustrate. The Miami Heat did not win the NBA Championship by changing the rules of the game (i.e. their core values). They won because their coach was innovative (i.e. his strategy) and he had the courage to ask his players to accept roles that were foreign to them for the overall good of the team. Of course the players had to buy in or it would have never worked.

Our core values (i.e. doctrinal absolutes) must never change but the way we do ministry (i.e. our strategy) must adapt to the varied and complex needs of people living in the new millennium. Of course our methods of ministry must never violate our core values.

If we try to hang onto the past, to the old ways of doing ministry, we will be left behind, yet that’s exactly what I’m tempted to do. Are there risks inherent in change? Absolutely, but the risks of not changing to meet the demands of ministry in the twenty-first century are even greater. No matter how uncomfortable it may be I am determined to sacrifice my personal desires for the greater good of the Kingdom!

What about you?

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Category: Ministry

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