In fact - and here's a true sign that you can paint me Hornet purple and teal, folks - I actually think there's a few things pastor types like me can learn from the NBA Commish. Here's what I've got:
WHEN TRAGIC THINGS HAPPEN TO SOMEONE IN THE FAMILY,
FIND WAYS TO HONOR THEM AND HONOR ALL.
Last Thursday night found the Lindsleys joining a few thousand of the Hornets faithful at Time Warner Cable arena in uptown Charlotte, attending the NBA Draft Party.
You heard right, people. A draft party. This is what my life has come to.
Anyway, in addition to watching our team pick an Indiana power forward with great potential and freakishly huge hands, we also got to see this:
The real beauty of what he did? It not only communicated authentic compassion to this one player, but to everyone there. It sent a clear message: we care about you in this league. When one of us falls down, we're there to pick you up.
Pastoring people means you're there for folks in both the good and the bad. It's pretty easy to celebrate the good stuff; it's a little harder to know how to respond to truly tragic situations in transformative ways - ways that communicate the same caring love not just to the one directly affected, but to everyone. Silver led in a special way in this instance; pastors as well should keep their eyes peeled for moments to do the same.
WHEN CONFLICT AND DYSFUNCTION REAR THEIR UGLY HEAD,
CONSULT, PONDER, PRAY - AND THEN ACT.
Back in May, news broke that Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling had said some pretty heinous racial things. For those who have followed him over the years, this came as no surprise, as he'd compiled a stellar track record of offending just about every minority possible. Roughy four days later, Adam Silver stepped to the mic at a called press conference and responded - lifetime suspension, huge fine, and pushing him to sell the team. It was the strictest punishment Silver could administer per the NBA bylaws.
It would've been easy for Silver to have looked the other way (it's what his predecessor did for years) or give him a slap on the wrist. But Silver chose to act. And the thing is, he didn't make the decision in haste or by himself. It came after a pretty intense period of discernment and consultation with other NBA owners and players. He got all the information he needed, he heard the thoughts and opinions of others. And with that surrounding him, he stepped to the mic.
It's one thing to have some minor disgruntlement in a church ; it's another thing when there's an ongoing dysfunctional pattern of behavior that's harmful to everyone. Churches, like so many organizations, tend to deal with this sort of thing by sweeping it under the rug or rationalizing it away. Pastors are in a unique position to help a system heal. However - and this is key - they should never try to do it by themselves. Talk to people, seek out counsel in and out of the church, gather information, and then act. It's hard stuff, but the dividends pay off in many ways, including a healthy family system that has greater potential to flourish and grow.
DON'T TAKE CREDIT FOR THE GROUP'S SUCCESS (AND DON'T LET THE GROUP LET YOU).
Weeks after Silver's press conference on the Sterling matter, he stepped to the podium at the annual NBA MVP awards ceremony. And something unheard of happened: the place erupted in applause. It's well-known in professional sports circles that a true fan holds general disdain toward their sport's commissioner; the "big brother" that meddles and screws up the purity of the game. Heck, every time NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gets introduced somewhere the crowd boos lustily. It's like a rite of passage.
But not this time - Silver stepped to the mic and fans clapped and cheered. And how did the commish react? Raise his arms up in the air, flash the "victory" sign, pump his fists? Hardly. Slightly taken aback at first, Silver briefly paused and then proceeded with his remarks, quieting everyone down. He didn't bask in the glow - because, in a sense, he realized that it really wasn't his glow anyway. They were applauding a system that worked. He only stewarded the process along.
Pastors are a lot like sports coaches - they tend to get more credit than they deserve when things are going well, and more blame than they deserve when things are not. It's rare, especially in the church polity I serve under, that a single individual can make significant changes all by themselves. In the church, pastors and congregations "succeed" together. Just because it's one person standing up in the pulpit every Sunday doesn't mean he or she is up there by themselves. Which brings me to my next point....
WHENEVER POSSIBLE, SIT IN THE STANDS.
Watching the NBA Finals this year (another thing I didn't do much of until recently), I remember one point when the camera panned the crowd for a few seconds, stopping to focus on a relaxed Adam Silver chatting it up with his neighbor and drinking bottled water. This, when he as the Commish could've easily scored seats at floor level, or in the team owner's box sipping champagne instead of Dasani. I've since learned that this is his normal routine at games - whenever possible, he sits with the fans.
Churches are way too eager to put their pastors on a pedestal. It's an odd dynamic, thrusting a person you ought to be close to at such a distance. Pastors should find ways to gracefully resist this and plant themselves in the crowd. Consider asking folks to call you by your first name instead of using titles like "Reverend" and "Doctor." Head to the back of the after-worship lunch line instead of letting those well-meaning folks push you to the front. Keep your office door open when you're not sermonizing or counseling someone. We serve our people and lead them much better when we are truly among them, not apart from them or over them.
What are other important qualities of a pastor and leader that you see in people you admire?