FIRST THINGS FIRST: TIE YOUR SHOES
If there’s any debate as to who is the greatest men’s college basketball coach ever, the starting point has to be John Wooden. Winner of ten national championships while coaching at UCLA, including an unbelievable seven in a row, he set a standard that would be hard to beat. Along with that winning record, he also gained notoriety for the rules he set for his teams.
One year two of his best players, Bill Walton and Sydney Wicks, came to his office to complain that he had no right or authority to tell the team that they couldn’t have beards or mustaches or long hair. Wooden listened patiently and then he surprised them by agreeing with them 100%. He said, “You are absolutely right. I do not have the right to say you can’t grow beards or have long hair. No right at all to do that.”
Walton and Wicks were more than surprised at that and they were feeling pretty good about themselves. Until Wooden continued, “The only authority I do have is to say who the twelve men are who will play basketball at UCLA. And those men will have their hair cut and will not have mustaches or beards.”
It wasn’t just his rules, though, that defined John Wooden, it was his commitment to the basics. He started every year at the first practice by showing his players how to tie their shoes so as not to get blisters. Pretty mundane you’ve-got-to-be-kidding kind of stuff, but when you’ve won as many championships as he did, his players learned to listen to him.
So what are the basics of the Christian life? What are the things that help believers do well in following Christ? How do you tie your discipleship shoes?
There’s probably no better place to look than in the Book of Acts when the early church just exploded into being. Thousands of Jews were becoming followers of Messiah Jesus and the apostles had the task of helping them keep going and do well as disciples.
How do you do that in first century Jerusalem? No Christian colleges or seminaries back then. No Christian bookstores. No YouTube for watching great preachers or listening to your favorite Christian music. No internet to search for whatever information you want. They didn’t even have a church building of their own to meet at.
And yet somehow that group of believers thrived. Not only did they grow in their faith, they began reaching scores, then hundreds, then thousands of others for Christ, too.
Acts 2 describes the action and verses 42-47 capsulize it. Five things stand out, five things that these believers were committed to that helped them do really well, five things that you might call the basics of discipleship:
• learning God’s Word
• being together with other believers
• worshiping God
• sharing their faith with others
Those five things are the basics. Sure, other things can help, but without these five the chances of being a healthy, growing follower of Jesus Christ are somewhere between slim and none.
They are the how-to-tie-your-shoes-right of the Christian life.
Author of “Ouch! When Ministry Hurts”