The great coach of the San Antonio Spurs, Gregg Popovich, gave lucid answers as to what makes a great team. He should know. He has won five NBA championships. He explains how to build a great franchise and what he looks for in players. His answers equally well explain how to build a great church and what he looks for in a Christian leader. By interchanging a basketball team and a church, here’s what he said:
- The leaders of a great church must be HOT. “A synergy has to form between the owner, whoever his president is, whoever the GM is, whoever the coach is. There’s got to be a synergy where there’s a trust. There (are) no walls. Everything is discussed. Everything is fair game. Criticism is welcome, and when you have that, then you have a hell of an organization.” The leaders must be HOT: honest (criticism is welcomed), open (everything is discussed) and transparent (no walls). This is amazingly trinitarian and refreshing! A thriving church must be trinitarian. Imagine a church like the Trinity: “The doctrine of the Trinity reminds us that in God there is neither hierarchy nor inequality, neither division nor competition, but only unity in love and diversity. The Christian community is the image of the icon of the invisible God when its communitarian life mirrors the inclusivity of divine love.” Catherine Mowry LaCugna (God for Us, The Trinity and Christian Life). What I love about UBFriends is that we can freely discuss anything and everything, without malice or bitterness. There is no pulling of rank nor unnecessary censorship. I also like that we are clearly imperfect and quite messy and probably also rather messed up. Or maybe I’m just speaking about myself! But by the grace of God we have freedom in the gospel.
- There is no entitlement. “Because you were born to these parents or this area geographically, or this situation, you deserve more than somebody else? … That’s the most false notion one can imagine. But I think a lot of people forget that. They think that they’re entitled to what they have …” One who feels entitled about anything (“Because I’m a good Christian, you better look up to me and give me what I deserve”) is the one who turns your stomach.
- People are not full of themselves. “We’re looking for character, but what the hell does that mean? We’re looking for people — and I’ve said it many times — [who] have gotten over themselves, and you can tell that pretty quickly. You can talk to somebody for four or five minutes, and you can tell if it’s about them, or if they understand that they’re just a piece of the puzzle. So we look for that.” Those who are full of themselves think that they know what is best for others. They have their own agenda. They impose themselves on others. But those who are not full of themselves welcome those who are different from them. They understand diversity and that others do not have to be like them. Thomas Merton said, “The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves.”
- People can laugh at themselves. “A sense of humor is a huge thing with us. You’ve got to be able to laugh. You’ve got to be able to take a dig, give a dig — that sort of thing.” Those who take themselves so seriously are likely a pain in all the wrong places. But G. K. Chesterton said, “Angels fly because they take themselves lightly.”
- People do not think that they have to be the answer. “And [you have to] feel comfortable in your own skin that you don’t have all the answers.” It’s just too easy to act as though one is a know it all.
- People do not take things personally. “We need people who can handle information and not take it personally because in most of these organizations, there’s a big divide. All of the sudden, the wall goes up between management and coaching and everybody is ready to blame back and forth and that’s the rule rather than the exception. It just happens.” A stifling church is where people lack a sense of humor and take things so seriously that they can’t take a dig.
Popovich would have made a great church leader. Imagine that.