June 24, 1998 was supposed to be the day everything changed for the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team. After a horrible season in which they won just 17 games, while losing 65, the Clippers finally had something to which to look forward: they had won the right to the #1 pick in the 1998 NBA Draft. With the prized top pick, the Clippers selected seven foot tall Michael Olowokandi, who had averaged 22 points and 11 rebounds during his senior year at University of the Pacific. Out of the dozens of players they could have picked, the Clippers’ management was convinced Olowokandi would change the franchise’s fortunes for years to come.
I’m afraid it’s easy for the church to fall prey to the myth that a church is dependent on a game-changing addition to the team. Sometimes it leads us to complacently wait on a “game-changer” to fall into our lap. So we say, “If we just had somebody who could do this and that, everything would be so much better. But we don’t. Oh well.” Other times it leads us to expend all our energy trying to “acquire” such a “game-changer.” So we say, “We’ll do whatever it takes to get that person to join us in our efforts, because if he or she will buy in, then all kinds of people will follow.”
What fans of the Los Angeles Clippers know is how foolish it is to put all your hopes on a “game-changer.” After all, it turned out Michael Olowokandi did virtually nothing to improve the Clippers’ fortunes. In fact the next year the Clippers managed to win just 9 games, while losing 41 in a shortened season, and the year after that they won just 15 games, while losing 67. All in all, Olowokandi played just 500 games in the NBA, never so much as making an All-Star team. He has been labeled a “bust.”
June 24, 1998 was also the night seven foot tall Brad Miller was deemed unworthy of being one of the sixty players drafted in the NBA Draft. Despite being unwanted and undrafted, Miller has gone on to play in nearly 800 NBA games, be voted onto the NBA All-Star team twice, represented his country in the World Championships, and led his team to the playoffs in seven of his first eleven seasons.
As it turns out, sometimes that “game-changer” doesn’t change the game at all. So perhaps we as Christians would do well to stop dreaming about game-changing people or events or ideas and do the best with what God’s given us, entrusting the game-changing to God. After all, Jesus didn’t seek out superstars, but a ragtag band of fishermen, tax collectors, and overlooked women to join him. Look what God did through them!