Saturday, July 5, 2014

Church Planting and the NBA: Lessons learned from the SA Spurs

Would you allow me to share another bit of insight from the San Antonio Spurs that has to do with church planting? Here in San Antonio, as you can imagine, all the talk has been about the Spurs fifth championship and how well they played.  The headline in SA paper proclaimed the Spurs being America's team with a quote from the new NBA commissioner Adam Silver, "You showed the world how beautiful this game is."
Before the championship I posted about the Spurs' beautiful style of team basketball as it relates to the Apostle Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 12.  Every member playing an important role in the body of Christ.  This team basketball is a rare thing in the NBA today.  But with the success of the Spurs, the question a lot of people are asking is, will other teams now emulate this style of play, one where the ball moves and more players are involved in the offense.

The difficulty is that this type of basketball takes a great amount of chemistry between teammates.  It takes much longer to develop, and requires more practice time together. Not many NBA teams can accomplish this because owners are too impatient. Players are not willing to sacrifice individual accolades.  And most players don't stay on any one team long enough to get acclimated to their teammates to run this system.  The Spurs were able to do it so well because they had a nucleus of players and one coach who have been together for a long time. And they had star players that were willing to sacrifice individual stats in order to run the system.
Maybe the biggest reason you will not see many teams playing Spurs basketball next year is that it is just too difficult and takes too long to implement. It takes a lot of hard work, and it is so much easier to default to the one on one style. It is much easier to run the simple pick and roll offense, and if that doesn't work go one on one.

What does this have to do with Church Planting?  I thought about the comparison as I was coaching a young pastor who is planting a missional model church as opposed to the attractional model, which has been the standard way to plant and grow a church for years. The missional model focuses on growing many small missional groups and is a much slower process.  In the attractional model, the church basically grows from the typical worship service, advertising and trying to attract as many people to the service as possible. In this model, the focus is on the worship music and preaching.  Once the crowd is gathered, often the smaller discipleship groups are formed. The success of the church depends on the preacher and the band or worship leader on the platform.

Can you see the parallel to NBA basketball?  The prevalent way is to build around "stars" whether in church or basketball.  The Spurs way is similar to the missional model of church planting, as it takes patience, with each individual, member involved in the ministry, pulling their own weight.  The focus is not on the one "star" pastor, but teams of people discipling others.  The missional model may be a purer model of church, more like the early church in which Christians met in houses and caves.  It can be effective but takes much longer to develop.  That is why most church planters opt to go with the attractional model.  If they can find or be the "star" pastor, and have a "star" worship leader, they can attract people quickly and build a church much faster.  The problem for many churches, once they get to a certain size and their "star" moves on to another team, (church), they must continue to find the "star" pastor or worship leader to carry the church.  It is not easy because the "star" players are not easy to find.  But like going one on one, preaching from the pulpit is our default system of discipling people and growing a church.

Is there a better way?  Could the Missional model become the winning way we build churches in the future, or is it just too hard, too slow of a process?  As a church planter do you see yourself as the "star" instead of one of a team of players?  Would the world start to see how beautiful the church is, if we moved to the Missional model?

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