I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership and the state of the church in the U.S.A. What is the role of a leader? What does it say about my leadership when I’m more reactive than proactive? What is a leader ultimately supposed to do? Preserve the peace? Protect the institution? Prevent the demise?
There’s a video link posted at the bottom of this post that says it all. It’s the story of Kenneth L. Sailors.
Ken was born to a farm family in Hillsdale, Wyoming in 1921. Growing up, he loved a lot of things, but nothing more than basketball. Ken and his brother, Bud, would spend hours behind the barn shooting baskets and playing the game. There was a problem, however. Ken was 5-foot-10-inches tall. Bud was 6-foot-4-inches tall. Every time, or most every time, Ken tried to shoot the ball, Bud would slap it away and say, “You need to find yourself a different sport. Basketball is a big mans’ game.” For Ken, that phrase got old.
So one day, out of frustration, Ken stood at the top of what would have been “the key” in a gymnasium, and jumped from the dirt basketball floor, shooting the ball one handed toward the hoop. Ken violated 2 rules that day. (1.) He jumped when shooting. Every coaching manual at the time implored basketball players to shoot flat-footed. (2.) He shot the ball one-handed, which violated the other law up to that point in basketball, shoot the set shot 2-handed. But the ball went in. Bud looked at Ken, first like he’d cheated or something, and then upon further reflection said, “You know, Ken, you may have something there.” And he did.
Ken amazed his high school coaches and then took his jump shot to the NCAA where he led the University of Wyoming to a national basketball championship. He was voted an All-American 3 times, 1942, 1943, and 1946. He was a unanimous selection for College Basketball player of the year in 1943 and 1946. It was in 1943 that the picture at the top of this post ended up in Life Magazine. One of the most memorable quotes from the video is about the picture.
“If you look, everybody’s bound to the floor… their feet, I mean, except mine.”
What the church needs are frustrated, 5-foot-10-inch leaders who are sick and tired of having the ball slapped away. Leaders who are determined to pray, plan, lead, and execute so that the ball gets in the basket. It’s time for prayerful innovation and God given-creativity to replace whining and criticism so that we can put the ball in the basket. Okay, you don’t like Joel Olsteen, Bill Hybels, Mark Driscoll, Rick Warren, or whomever, we get that. So what are YOU going to do to make a difference in this generation? Having the ball slapped away for the 100th time doesn’t make you noble, it’ makes you easy to defend against, and a poor steward of the basketball.
Here’s to those of you out there experimenting in order to find ways to put the ball in the basket for the church. Here’s to those of you out there sick and tired of being sick and tired. Here’s to the leader who has an idea in prayer that they execute in practice. Here’s to the leader who recognizes Nehemiah, David, Daniel, and Esther got it done, and so can we. Here’s to the leader who recognizes the fact that God was, is, and always will be a God of order and yes, strategy. (Read Jesus’ sending out of the 12 and the 72 and tell me there’s no strategy.) Here’s to the leader not afraid of shooting an occasional air-ball once in a while in order to get closer to delivering a 3-pointer. Here’s to the one who realizes that the Word of God was meant to get us from fallen to forever with Jesus and to be part of the greatest rescue mission of all time. The 66 books of the Bible were never meant to be the walls we circle to defend ourselves, but the wagon train we drive into the open country to pioneer.
Keep dreaming, keep asking questions, and keep experimenting, leaders! It’s NOT the Gospel that has grown irrelevant, but it might be our two-handed set shot in delivering it. Leaders, we need you! Don’t give up! Keep going!
Enjoy the video and go get'em!