The hometown crowd let out a collective groan as Jerome’s desperation shot bounced off the rim and over the backboard. Their hopes and dreams for a championship rolled off the court like that basketball, only to rebound when the referee called a foul. How things can change in the blink of an eye.
Down by one point, their best shooter stepped to the line. Three chances to make two; no way were they going to lose. The opposing coach called a timeout in hopes the young player would crumble under the pressure, but the only observable result was an increase in cheering as a calm, unperturbed Jerome stepped to the line.
Two dribbles, a bending of the knees, a smooth release and a graceful arc could not disguise the ball bouncing off the back of the rim. The groan returned, but with encouraging words this time.
“Don’t worry kid; you still got two more shots.”
“You’re just increasing the drama. Bury these two and let the party begin.”
Jerome heard none of that. He focused his attention on the basket that suddenly turned against him. Focus failed him as the second shot veered to the right.
The bounce of the basketball echoed throughout the silent arena as Jerome set for the last shot. Every eye followed the trajectory of the orange orb as once again it teased the rim by rolling around a few times before falling over the side.
The game was over. All the dreams of a state championship died with that twisted roll of the basketball. The hero, Jerome Woodard suddenly became the villain. It was his fault the team lost. He cracked under the pressure. It was fun and games when they won, but when it really counted, he came up short.
Everyone turned against him: fans, teammates, coaches, cheerleaders, and even his parents. Newspaper headlines screamed that the rising star of basketball was simply a shooting star that burned up before it accomplished anything. Jerome’s career would have ended that day, if not for a sensitive and caring pastor who sought him out.
“So, how’re you doing Jerome?”
“Just great Pastor, for someone who choked at the most important moment of his life.”
“I guess you believe the headlines?”
“Yea, I do. I lost the game for the team.”
“You know Jerome, I was in your situation not too long ago.”
“You lost a basketball game?”
“No, nothing like that. I almost lost a church. It seems that people have forgotten that basketball is a team effort. Nowadays, people want a super player, like you. Unfortunately, the same applies in the church, so I became super Pastor. At first, it was great, but over time, people depended on me for everything. One day I snapped under the pressure. It was something simple, like a foul shot.”
“Wow… You know, I’ve never missed three foul shots in a row in any game. I guess the pressure got to me.”
“Tell me Jerome, what would have happened if you were ahead by one point when you missed those shots?”
“Well…it wouldn’t have mattered.”
“Because we still would have won.”
“What if you were down by ten?”
“Same thing, only even if I made them, we still would have lost.”
“So it only matters when you are down by one?”
“Yea, I guess so.”
“Last question Jerome. Did your teammates make every shot they took?”
“No,” Jerome replied with a quizzical look on his face.
“So who lost the game then?”
“I thought the last question was your last question.”
“You know how pastors are. I was speaking evangelistically… my point is that if any one of your teammates made a shot they missed earlier; you wouldn’t be the goat right now. Basketball, like a church, is a team sport. Every player is important, but no player is more important than another; especially the pastor. Once I realized that and taught my people to do the work of the ministry, God began building His church. You need to stop being a superstar and start being a team member. You’ll be surprised at what five guys can accomplish compared to one.
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