The Los Angeles Lakers and UMC Local Church

Los Angeles Lakers Wordmark
Los Angeles Lakers Wordmark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I’m writing this, the Lakers have yet to make their final pitch for coveted free agent Dwight Howard.

By the time this post goes live, there’s a great chance that Dwight will be playing for the Rockets.

I don’t think D12 is going to stay with the Lakers.
Why would he?
If everything goes right, people will give Kobe all the credit.
If things go wrong, people will be wondering why Dwight is struggling and not making a bigger impact, and blame him.

No matter what Kobe or the Lakers say, as long as 24 is on the court, it’s Kobe’s team.
Besides, the Rockets have the biggest audience due to their immense popularity in China thanks to Yao Ming and Jeremy Lin (though Lin is being shopped around.) Rockets can really help Dwight become a global icon.

But what interested me is the way journalists, sports talk radio, and the Laker fans were making their pitch to Dwight.

The pitch is along the lines of:
We’re the Lakers!
Look at what we’ve done!
This is a storied franchise!
We have a great history and tradition!

If I were Dwight, my response would be, “So?”
Sure, it’s a great franchise with a rich history.
But the future isn’t looking so great for them.
They have a point guard who’s 40 years old.
Their marquee player is coming off a serious injury and is old in NBA terms.
Ron Artest, or Metta World Peace, says he’ll return to the team which isn’t the best thing for the Lakers, skill wise and salary cap wise. They’ll most likely look to amnesty him if D12 comes back.
Gasol is softer than the Marshmallow Man.
And, Dwight did not like D’Antoni’s system.

Their future seems fairly strapped.
And the fans and folks of LA are saying Dwight would be an idiot to pass up playing for the Lakers because of all the things the Lakers have done in the past. 

What’s the point of playing for a storied franchise if you feel like you’re not going to be able to win championships?
Who can the Lakers beat with this current roster? Certainly not the Heat. They at best have a puncher’s chance to just make it to the Conference Finals.
And Kobe wants to play for 3 more years.
With Dwight’s contract and Kobe’s contract, the Lakers are strapped to make any big impact deals. Except for maybe a player who’s way past his prime. But that role is currently filled by Nash.

So, many are hoping that the allure of being a Laker and all the Lakers’ accomplishments of the past will entice Dwight to stay for the future.

It just seems to parallel many of the struggling congregation of our denomination and conference.
The past; the history; the tradition dictates too much of the direction the church is going. And because we are so embedded in the past, the direction the church is going is rarely forward.

A colleague, Kelvin Sauls, tweeted, “When you have more memories than dreams, your future is at risk.”

And many of us operate more out of memories than dreams. The past seems secure and safe; the future risky and scary and full of change. So we rely on memories more than dreams.

My friend and colleague Brent Ross said, “The church, perhaps more than anything else, are those unafraid of the future.”
That’s the way it should be. Because God is pulling us towards a brighter and greater future. Because God will always be with us and never forsake us.

But, many of us are afraid of the future, because we hold onto yesterdays rather than hold on to God’s promise of a greater future.

Look. As much as I dislike the Lakers, they always find a way to bounce back. A few years ago, when things looked really bad and Kobe was demanding to be traded to the Bulls (remember that?), they somehow landed Pau Gasol and made a run for 2 championships.
They have the money to find ways to bounce back.

Our churches, though, living on memories, and memories only, will handicap us and lead us nowhere.

The past, the history, and the tradition of the each local church are important.
They should be celebrated. They should be honored. They should be remembered.
But, we can’t linger there in the past.
Because God is nowhere near done with us.
Greater things are yet to come and greater things are still to be done.

And God can’t use us for the future, if our eyes are fixed on the past.
As Jesus said, “No one who puts a hand on the plow and looks back is fit for God’s kingdom.”

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