• Mike Miller, Lebron James, the Apostle Paul, and Contextualization

    Mike Miller and Lebron James

    If you know me at all, I am a geek for longform articles and blog posts. I love reading them and I love writing them. Some people think they are ineffective because people in our culture have patience for only 250-500 words, and those people are probably correct. I still like them and it’s why I read ESPN’s blog Grantland so frequently. I read a piece today on NBA player Mike Miller and it was so good that it warranted me reflecting on some of the content.

    The piece was entitled Everybody Loves Mike Miller and in many ways Mike Miller’s approach to basketball should be a metaphor for the church for how we interact with culture. Here are some salient quotes:

    “He’s a chameleon — meaning he can fit in any different room,” said LeBron James’s longtime friend and business manager Maverick Carter, whose relationship with Miller began shortly after Miller and McGrady attended one of James’s high school games. “I’ve seen him with high-level businesspeople and owners, kids, people from all different backgrounds. A guy from South Dakota, he’s not from one of the coasts, he’s right in the middle of the country and I think he really can adapt to any room.

    “Plus he’s a cool guy.”   …

    “What I do is, I understand people,” Miller explained. “I understand what they’re going through. For some reason, I’m always in a good mood. It’s a blessing for me. I understand it’s a team sport and if there’s going to be individuals inside it, how do I relate to every one of those players differently? The way I do stuff with LeBron during a game is completely different than what I’m going to do with Kyrie [Irving]. Some people need to talk. Some people need to laugh. I’m always in that good mood because at the end of the day, I’m [playing basketball] for a living.”

    “What I really am is a friend first,” Miller said. “I like to be cool with people. Like Kyrie — that’s my guy. He’s a great kid, unbelievable point guard. I think I can help him be better. Not a better basketball player. Just understanding things. Dion Waiters, great kid. Sometimes he gets a bad rep. If he fits into his role here, he’s going to be really, really good. I think I can help with that. Kevin Love’s a monster. And LeBron, I’m always going to be on him with positive stuff.”

    You should read the article yourself, but because I know you won’t I will have to summarize it here for you. Mike Miller was a slashing small forward in his youth who had to reinvent his game in order to have NBA longevity, so he made a career out of doing two things – 1. 3-point shooting  2. Providing leadership in the locker room.

    A couple of principles stuck out to me from Mike’s story that we would be wise to take note of:

    Flexibility and Teachability – Mike learned early on that he needed the wisdom of NBA veterans (Ewing, Outlaw, Grant, Armstrong… ) if he was going to have long term success.

    Specified Excellence – Mike had the humility and willingness to put in the hard work to hone his craft behind the arc.

    Listening Skills – Mike learned to be humble and to listen to other people. One might argue that Mike’s ability to listen is what makes him such a close friend to so many disparate groups of people (“high-level businesspeople and owners, kids, people from all different backgrounds“). Mike’s listening skills earned for him the friendship, trust, and influence over the most revered players in the game.

    Leadership – Mike learned that the value that he had in the game of basketball was far more than just what happened on the court. He learned that his value as locker room counselor was just as valuable as his role behind the arc.

    Make others succeed – Mike made others around him succeed and took his joy from watching them succeed, even when it was to his own detriment.

    Reading the article I couldn’t help but think about Paul’s defense of his apostleship in I Corinthians 9, specifically verses 19-27:

    19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God butunder the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

    24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

    Mike, a white kid from North Dakota, was able to navigate through the social complexities of his NBA career because he learned to be humble, he learned to listen, he learned to provide timely counsel, he learned to make others successful, and he learned to be flexible. God taught the Apostle Paul this same skill set through his 14 years of discipleship at the church in Syrian Antioch and through the crucible of church planting the Mediterranean rim. Paul was a rough and violent man who needed to be humbled, bridled, and reformed.


    How amazing would  it be if the people around us felt heard?

    How amazing would it be if the people around us felt that we made sacrifices to make them flourish?

    How amazing would it be if the people around us felt safe because of our humility and teachability?


    The church could use a few more leaders like Mike Miller.


    Post-script – I actually met Mike Miller once while he was eating breakfast at Gator Dining with UF teammate and future NBA role player, Matt Bonner. It was a pedestrian encounter but Mike was engaging and kind and Matt Bonner was his typical shy, understated, and socially awkward self.



    December 4, 2014 • Christian Living, Contextualization, Culture, Sports • Views: 1218

  • Secular Worship Services, Part Two: The Superbowl

    Seattle Seahawks Russell Willson lifts Superbowl Trophy with Confetti

    Sorry to all the Denver Broncos fans out there – that was pretty rough.  The Seahawks out executed in every phase of the game.  Hats off to a humble, classy, and non-flashy Russell Wilson for his quiet leadership and on-field play.

    There are two very distinct kinds of liturgies at work in the Superbowl:  The Superbowl the Game (and half-time show), and The Superbowl the Commercials.  The game and the commercials overlap at points and in many ways are inextricably linked but also diverge at points as well.  This post will cover the topic of the Superbowl the game and the next post will analyze the Superbowl the commercials.  After analyzing a number of various forms of secular worship we will then discuss what these secular liturgies mean on a cultural level, a religious level, and an individual level. 

    The Superbowl the Game

    In many ways sports provides for men (and women also) a pressure relief valve on their bottled up, suppressed, repressed, or unexpressed emotions.  Sports can function as a kind of surrogate intimacy to other failed or stunted intimacies – this is why some men who are entirely dispassionate in other spheres (marriage, vocation, parenthood…) all of a sudden come alive in the arena or in front of the flatscreen.

    Liturgies follow formats and rhythms of expected time, space, color, and aesthetics.  In many ways, most sports liturgies follow the same liturgy:

    The Pregame (Welcome, Greeting, and Sacrament)

    The pregame is filled several elements that invite the sports worshiper into the liturgy to follow.  Elements of the pregame involve storylines of the forthcoming game, analysis of the players and teams involved, and perhaps also preliminary indulgence into the sacramental table of the expected food and drink (tailgating, BBQ… etc.).

    The Grove at Ole Miss

    The Grove at Ole Miss

    There are obvious corollaries between the tailgate and the Lord’s Supper (or eucharist); both are inviting the worshiper deeper into the liturgy (game and camaraderie)  to follow as well as serve to unite the participants into community with one another.

    National Anthem (Call to Worship)

    This is a moment of civil religiosity where we find unity in our commonality as residents (or citizens) of the United States of America.  This can also function as a kind of call to worship for the events that are about to happen on field.  It provides a very least common denominator unity to all in attendance regardless of their team allegiance.

    The Game Itself (Worship in Song, Creed Recitation, Iconography, Benediction)

    The game itself is participatory in many ways.  Most teams have some sort of team song(s) – this is common also among other sports – particularly college football, soccer, and rugby.  The songs serve to unite, provide camaraderie, and a sense of belonging.  Most teams also have at least one, often more than one creed, chant, or rally cry.  It could be as simple as an idea – Seattle Seahawk’s (aka. TAMU) Twelfth Man or longer form chants or cheers like University of Florida’s We are the Boys from Old FloridaAlabama’s Rammer Jammer Cheer, or Ole Miss’ Hotty Toddy.  Many of these serve to make great the dynasty of one’s own tribe to the detriment of the rivals.  There is also highly developed iconography associated with sport.  The icons serve far more than to merely brand but serve to identify allegiance to the particular tribe.  Most teams will also have some form of a victory cheer or chant as well.  These chants function in many ways similar to a benediction to a worship service (provided your team wins).

    Peyton Manning - Sad Face - Superbowl - Denver Broncos

    Sports can provide great elation and crushing agony (just ask Peyton Manning).  These ranges of emotions are natural because we worship with the heart – hence, success is met with great joy and defeat brings frustration, anger, and a whole host of other emotions.  We cheer when our team scores a touchdown or wins the big game and we get ticked and want a new coach when our team goes 4-8 (#Muschamp).

    Sports as Evangelism (Mission)

    Sports fans want other people to be a part of their tribe.  Sports is inherently evangelistic.  It is by nature evangelistic because it is human nature to want other people to enjoy the things that we enjoy.  Hence, there is a significant missional component that is hard wired into sports, particularly the Superbowl in America.

    This post is the second in a series of post on Secular Worship Services, the first analyzed The Grammys.  Up next, we will take a look at The Superbowl with respect to the commercials.  

    February 3, 2014 • Creed, Culture, Evangelism, Sports, Worship • Views: 560

  • New Tim Tebow Jockey Commercial


    I don’t think Tim should go into acting… but I am sure he’ll sell a lot of shirts.

    March 31, 2011 • Sports, Video • Views: 275

  • Best Links of the Week

    Kermit Gosnell

    Kermit Gosnell, the infanticide-abortion doctor, made over $1.8 million dollars a year, 17 properties, a boat, and a 41 year old mistress on payroll.  This story keeps getting worse and worse.

    Flu vaccine touts that it kills all strains of the flu virus.

    A few articles on multi-culturalism – “Ending the Multicultural Experiment” “Nickolas Sarkozy, “Multiculturalism Has Failed“”

    Some analysis of what the Egypt situation means for Christians in Egypt.

    Taxing Church Attendance?

    Saudi Arabia can’t refine enough oil to keep up with demand.

    Crazy good goal from Wayne Rooney:


  • ‘Skills Don’t Translate to the NFL…’

    Tim Tebow’s skills clearly don’t translate well to the NFL.  He’s too slow, has an awkward throwing motion, and will get hammered by faster and stronger defenders.  I couldn’t resist.



    December 19, 2010 • Culture, Sports, Video • Views: 526

  • Best Links of the Week

    Chuck DeGroat has one of the best pieces I have read in a long long time called, “What’s Wrong With Your Pastor?”  Orthodoxy without orthopathos is orthoworthless.

    Tim Tebow writing a memoir about ‘faith, family, and football’ entitled Through My Eyes, and can be pre-ordered in hardcover and Kindle.

    Marvin Olasky is resuming full-time duties at World Magazine.

    Kansas State nutrition professor loses 27 pounds over two months while eating a diet of Twinkies and Nutty Buddy Bars, while lowering bad cholesterol by 20% and raising good cholesterol by 20%.

    Company creating an app and cell phone plug-in device to test for STDs.  I am not sure if this is exceedingly strange or a good idea… or both.

    iPhone app of the week:  MileBug – creates IRS compliant travel logs simply and easily and you can email yourself the reports in both Word or Excel formats.  If you don’t want to pay the $2.99 they have a Lite version that allows you to create 10 trip reports before having to email yourself.  Also, it allows you to take notes and add parking, toll, or food expenses to each mileage report.

    Pretty crazy trick play in a Middle School football game:


    Women solves Wheel of Fortune puzzle with just one letter:


  • Best Links of the Week


    Some cogent thoughts on church planting by Ed Stetzer (see video above)

    Tim Tebow Documentary coming out soon:  Trailer Here

    Excellent piece in Vanity Fair by Michael Lewis entitled, “Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds

    WSJ article on Obama pushing for a tax cut and a tax hike?

    Further Seems Forever reuniting with Chris Carabba.  I am hope that the new music is substantive and layered.

    HDR video using two Canon 5D Mark ii‘s

    Very-well written piece utterly dissecting Lady Gaga (and by corollary the generation that has made her famous) in an article entitled, “Lady Gaga and the Death of Sex.”

    Interesting debate in Israel over daylight savings time and theology.

    Tennessee Volunteer football coach has to coach up players on how to take a shower properly after a series of staph infections amongst players.

    Popular Science gallery on 30 Awesome College Labs (classes).

    Stanford creating seriously peer-reviewed rival to Wikipedia.

    Infographic on who is in the blogosphere. (HT: Challies)

    How to block abusive or unfriendly email on Gmail

    Fidel Castro reportedly saying publicly that Cuban model of government and economics does not work… then states he misspoke and meant to say “capitalism doesn’t work.”

    Really strange soccer goal (HT: Uri)


    Why the Chinese economy is expanding – efficient production.  Note – the video has not been sped up


  • Best Links of the Week

    "I believe that God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. When I run, I feel His pleasure..."

    WSJ Article:  How Missionaries Lost Their Chariots of Fire and Why They Should Add the Gospel Back to Their Good Works.  In this vein Desiring God had a great series re-thinking short-term missions as well as the Chalmers Center.

    White House Spent $23M of Taxpayers’ Money on Fight to Legalize Abortion in Kenya

    Man squatting foreclosed home tells judge in his defense that he “bought it from Yahweh.”  You can’t make this stuff up.

    Someone else has finally put into words the frustration of the script of the USPS mandatory upsell.

    Man attempts to smuggle 18 monkeys through security and onto plane by hiding them under his shirt.

    Ed Stetzer has an insightful post at Challies on “rockstar” pastors.

    Black parents give birth to blond haired and blue-eyed baby.

    How to win at Rock-Paper-Scissors.

    Some of the craziest pools in the world.

    Old Spice Voicemail Generator.

    The man claiming ownership of 84% of Facebook may actually have some merit.

    ESPN mocks itself and the ridiculousness of the “Lebron Decision” special with the help of Steve Carell and Paul Rudd:


    HT:  Kevin DeYoung

  • Best Links of the Week

    Quite simply one of the most amazing stories I have ever read.  Perseverance squared.

    First Things on G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy as an anti-dote to modernity.

    NY Times article on a Polish Neo-Nazi converts to Orthodox Judaism

    Russian President Medvedev calls for Russian Olympic officials to resign.

    USA Today article on USPS proposed 5 day delivery week… is this the beginning of the end for the USPS.

    NASA reporting that the Chilean Earthquake shortened the day and shifted the earth’s axis.

    Amazing photos from the Indian/Hindu festival of Holi.

    Image Journal’s, Top 100 Books of the Century.

    Rep. Stupak on Abortion Funding in ObamaCare 2.0.

    For those with book/library lust, check out video of R.C. Sproul, Ligon Duncan, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, John MacArthur, and C.J. Mahaney’s personal libraries.

    Ice found on moon.

    The new face of the 2nd Amendment is an elderly African American man.

    Why a Salad Costs More Than a BigMac.

    Interesting article on why to not use PowerPoint when preaching.

    March 4, 2010 • Culture, Culture Wars, Interesting Article, Preaching, Science, Sports • Views: 294

  • Video of Tim Tebow Superbowl Ad


    Update:  so apparently the above version was not the one played in the Superbowl, this one below is the one that aired.  Not sure which I like better.  Not sure what all the fuss is about, both are pretty vanilla.  I don’t think the culture wars will be dying down anytime soon.

    Also, a much longer video with Bob and Pam Tebow give much more back-story of their pregnancy with Tim is worth watching here.



    February 7, 2010 • Culture, Culture Wars, Sociology, Sports, Video • Views: 383