Breaking the Rules

olympicsteamusaRecently, I heard Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K from Duke) speak about leadership. He talked about being the coach of Team USA, which included players like Kobe, Lebron, Kevin Durant, etc.

I dont’ know about you, but I was insanely curious to find out how he lead a team full of alpha dogs like that. And not only that, he led them in a way that left every single one of them singing his praises, after they won the Gold medal.

He revealed the approach he took with them: that he did not put a single rule in place for the team.

See, most NBA teams have rules like, ‘If you’re late for a meeting, you have to pay $1,000’. For somebody making $20+ million per year, this is basically a joke.

Coach K didn’t want to use meaningless fines to convince people to fully engage with what the team was doing.

So instead of rules, he asked the players of the team to help him create standards by which the team would conduct themselves.

Rules, he said, are external. But standards are something we hold internally. They are how we truly judge our actions.

So the team created standards: Nobody late for a meeting. No bad practices. Nothing short of a Gold Medal.

Coach K told us that nobody was ever late for a meeting. Nobody had a bad practice. In the London Olympics, they took home the Gold Medal.

I realized that I had made a similar switch from rules to standards in my own life, I just hadn’t recognized that change.

But lately, I have been seeking an overall standard for everything I do. A lens whereby I can view everything I do and don’t do and determine whether I’m doing the right thing.

For some people, the phrase What Would Jesus Do? filled this role in the 90s.

To be honest, I was never really in love with this standard.

I have no idea if Jesus would watch this movie, or read that book, or how much money Jesus would give to that charity.

Jesus lived in a totally different culture than mine.

I learn a ton of valuable principles from Jesus, but I also know this: I’m not Jesus.

There’s a lot of stuff he did that I haven’t been able to do yet (see: raising people from the dead). And there’s a lot of stuff I do that Jesus never would (we can start the list with driving a car and move into other stuff like ‘being selfish’).

So WWJD was a nice idea that didn’t work for me.

Here’s what I’ve come up with lately: before I do or don’t do anything, I’m trying to ask myself the following question:

Is this helping me become more like Jesus?

Because while I may never be just like Jesus, I can certainly become more like him. And I believe that is exactly what I have been called to do.

To be honest, I haven’t fully deployed this question in my life because I’m scared of where it will take me.

I’m going to have to start doing some stuff that I would probably rather avoid. And there’s stuff that I’ll probably have to stop doing that I like.

The thing is, I know that becoming more like Jesus is going to outweigh anything I have to sacrifice or give up.

I want that to be a standard in my life. Something I aspire to instead of a rule that mocks me when I fail.

What standards do you hold up before you?

Faith and Works

I was reading the book of James yesterday when I came across 2:22: “Faith is made complete by what you do.”

I imagine that Sunday morning worship services are kind of like being in a locker room with your basketball team before a game. You know what’s in the playbook/Bible because you’ve studied it. You’ve worked on your game/life. It isn’t perfect, but perfection isn’t the point right now. The point is to go out and perform as best you can. The Coach/Pastor gives you a spirited pep talk. Finally the doors open.

Do you get out there and play with every ounce of strength you’ve got? Are you part of a team effort to be victorious? Or do you slip off into the crowd, only returning for the next pep talk in the locker room?

Basketball players aren’t judged on their intentions. They aren’t judged on how excited they get in the locker room. Fans don’t care how well they know the playbook. They just care about seeing their team win.

We in evangelical Christianity are very weary of works-based salvation theology. It’s good to realize that every time you do something sacrificial or loving, you’re not getting an extra crown in heaven, or an extra room on your mansion. But if we just become hoarders of God’s love and grace while the rest of the world goes to hell in a hand basket, we’ve committed an even greater error.

Here’s the thing about the guys who win in the NBA: only the guys who put in the time and effort to be great get there. Guys like Kobe and LeBron and Kevin Durant, they put in more hours of work than their competitors. A guy like Allen Iverson, who famously mocked practice? I guarantee you he played more pick-up ball than you could believe. Talent is essential, but everybody in the NBA has talent. The question is whether you work to maximize that talent. Fans may not care about how much time and energy a player spends on practice and working out, but they sometimes forget that those are the very things that created the winner they love.

In Christianity, rather than talent, we can say that we all have the Holy Spirit living within us. But that if you don’t maximize your relationship with God, you’ll probably just end up being another bench warmer. The pews already have plenty of butts in them. What we need is more people who are seeking ways toact on their faith.

A basketball player with talent is incomplete. It will take hours of time, pounds of sweat and disciplined effort to become a champion.

A Christian with faith is incomplete. Because faith is made complete by what you do.