Saturday, June 2, 2012

Kobe Bryant's Dilemma Is The Church Dilemma

The Los Angeles Lakers have exited the Western Conference semi-finals in an unspectacular fashion for the second year in a row. In fact, in the last two series of the semi-finals they have won only one game. For a team that has won five championships in the last twelve years it is a bitter pill to swallow, particularly for one individual who many consider to be one of the best players ever to play the game.

Kobe Bryant has made apparent his desire to continue to win championships but he is facing a dilemma that I believe is the same one the present Body of Christ in our Western culture is facing.

Thanks to my wife the sports fanatic I have become an NBA sports aficionado. We watch more games than I care to admit and see several live every year. We have watched just about every Western Conference playoff game in the last fifteen years.

I have watched Kobe Bryant play since his rookie year and there is no doubt that in the talent arena he is without a doubt something special. His ability to leap, make incredibly difficult shots on a consistent basis and to slither across the court like a black mamba is something to behold. Mix in intelligence, good looks and hard work and it is no wonder that he is a superstar. But these traits which have served him so well in the last decade are now working against him.

One of the many downfalls humans have is the inability to recognize that the talents they possess that brought success can cause their downfall. Kobe has been able to rely on his abilities to consistently push his team over the hump in any game and give them the points to win. Entropy, that vicious and unrelenting force that is constantly breaking everything down catches up with all of us, Kings, Presidents and athletes without exceptions. Kobe is aging, and if he wants to win more championships he is not only going to need help, he may have to even take a less significant role as Tim Duncan has and reduce his minutes and bring in more talent on the bench and even among the starters. He may even have to bring in another superstar. Kobe Bryant is aging and as the Oklahoma City Thunder exposed he can no longer carry the team on his shoulders and the Lakers do not have the talent as a team to win another NBA Championship.

The Western Church is facing the same dilemma. Since the Second Great Awakening the evangelical churches in North America and Europe have relied on great preachers and statesmen the likes of William Miller, Dwight Moody, Oral Roberts, and Billy Graham.  Great men of God, charismatic and able to influence millions, they built the modern Church and helped many come to profess Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

With technology came the media and with the media came the power for the present evangelical preachers to reach even more with the wonderful news of the Gospel. This last fifty years should have been a glorious rise of the Church in attendance and influence of the culture. Instead, we have seen exactly the opposite. The strength of the evangelical preacher became the downfall of the Body of Christ.They became the head of the Church, a position given to Jesus by God, instead of the shepherds they were called to be. Some even became wolves in sheep clothing.

The fruit bore by the Church in the last fifty years has been less than palpable. Europe is for all purposes an entirely secular society. America is dragging itself in that direction. Over ninety percent of Americans say they believe in God but they also support abortion and in growing numbers homosexual marriage. The American people are deep in debt, divorced and raising children in a shockingly high number of fatherless homes.

And where is the Church? With its bankruptcy and divorce rates at or exceeding the society it lives in the Church is right there with them. Instead of influencing society the Body of Christ is reflecting society. Why?

When Kobe Bryant goes off in a game it is something to watch. Many times I've even seen his own teammates stand in awe as he performs circus acts. But that is their downfall. They should be moving and positioning themselves for offensive rebounds, not watching a superstar play basketball.

The Church has a tendency to do the same thing. We are enthralled by the celebrities of the Church and forget that the Body of Christ is suppose to be in the game. In fact, if we read the Bible, it clearly states that our leadership is like an NBA coach; they train us, prepare us, but aren't suppose play.

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-12 NLT)

This is the dilemma the Church leadership in Western civilization faces. If they wish the Body of Christ to influence society then the leadership must fade to the background and focus on training the Body of Christ to do the work of the ministry. They must give up the reigns and trust the head of the Church, Jesus to do what he promised which was to complete the work that he started in us.

This will be difficult. Just like Kobe Bryant, if they wish to start winning they will need reduce their minutes, if not completely. What that means and what it would look like we will explore at a later date.

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