Friday, April 13, 2007

Discipleship and the NBA

In my last post I wrote about the NCAA, basketball’s premier amateur league. I thought it was a good idea to follow it up with a something on the NBA.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is by far the world’s premier professional basketball league. It is viewed by millions of fans worldwide. Its statistics and basketball action is unmatched by any league anywhere.

What makes the NBA such is because it has a monopoly on the best ball players, coaches and trainers in the world. These individuals have chosen to play the game as career professionals. To wake up, breathe, train, practice and play in a team day in, day out. Just like an accountant would go to office everyday.

Like the NBA discipleship can become one’s career. That’s what happened to me. I was a businessman for about 3 decades of my life until my wife and I decided it was time for a change.

For years I made disciples as an amateur just like in the NCAA, all heart, no pay. Then I became what people call a "full time" minister. Basically what happened was I did not want to do anything anymore except make disciples who made disciples. Fortunately with a little training and practice I got good at it. Still all heart, this time with some pay.

I noticed that like any career one can lose his balance between occupation and vocation. And while this may seem like I am splitting hairs, I am not.

An occupation is one’s profession, job, work or trade, career. A vocation on the other hand is above and beyond just an occupation. An occupation is by its very word all about occupying oneself with something to do.

A vocation on the other hand can be all of the above and a whole lot more. It is a calling (usually for life). It is accompanied by a strong sense of destiny that says: “this is what I was created to do.” It usually involves what seems to be a sacrifice to others but not to the one called. In fact those who are cannot see themselves doing anything else.

Ask Michael Jordan and he will tell you basketball is not mere occupation but his vocation. It is also what sets him apart from all the other players. He gives every practice, training session and every game all his heart.

And it is here that (professional) discipleship as a vocation is similar to the NBA. It is when one’s vocation becomes just another occupation.

There’s nothing wrong with being a professional, as long as you don’t lose heart. Usually one loses heart when it becomes just about money - “I’ll stay in this profession as long as it pays the bills”, even though one doesn’t feel called or enjoy what they are doing.

One way I have kept the heart of discipleship was to continue to make disciples even though the people I met would never come to church (and give an offering).

Very near the city where I work is housed the enlisted men on the Philippine Army. 90% of these men and women will be deployed in various provinces and will never come to our church. To this day we continue to outreach them and make disciples out of them regardless.

As I write I am sitting at Narita airport in Tokyo. I engaged the young man from Chicago who sat with me from Manila and will engage the next passenger I sit with on my way to LA, whether or not they ever come to the church I pastor.

Needless to say there are days when I want to watch a movie or read a book specially when the person I am sitting with is uninterested.

See also my other post:

Prayer and Floodlights

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