Today, San Antonio Spurs player, and quite possibly future hall of famer, Tim Duncan announced his retirement from the NBA after playing 19 seasons. As a fan of the game, I will miss seeing Tim Duncan play whether I am cheering for the Spurs or not. He was always fun to watch even against my favorite team, the Houston Rockets. What is amazing is that Tim played for one team his entire career which is a rare feat these days.
As I was thinking about Tim Duncan calling it a career, I was thinking what pastors and those in ministry can learn from him.
1. Longevity in one place is not a bad thing.
Tim Duncan stayed with the San Antonio Spurs since 1997. I was a sophomore in college when that happened and I have not met my wife yet. Duncan is not the only player in professional sports that stayed with one team, but in the NBA that seems near to impossible. Like NBA players, some pastors are not known for how long they have been in one place. Young pastors want to preach the word yet some of them only plan to be there a short time till they see an greener grass opportunity.
Pastors should plan for the long haul. God may have better plans for you in one place versus 20 different places. Don't misunderstand me, if God is clearly calling you to go somewhere else, obey His calling. Till then watch over the flock that God has given you to care for.
2. Success and failure will happen
Duncan played 19 years in the NBA and made the playoffs every season, which is incredible. Not every player can say that, however, he only won the NBA Championship 5 times. You would think he would have won more. Even though, he met a lot of success, Duncan also experienced a lot of failures. Pastors, you will have the same issue. There will be seasons where everything is looking good and seasons where you wish you can throw the towel in. It is easier to quit than keep on going when hard times come in ministry, which come in various forms.
3. Be submissive
One thing about Tim Duncan that you don't hear about, at least I have not, is arguing with his coach. Even though Duncan was the team captain and the player everyone looked up to, he still listened to his coach. Pastors need to be submissive to God's leadership in how to lead the church. That comes through reading the Bible and prayer. Elders need to follow the same suit. As their lead elder is submissive to God, so they must be also. It is easy for a pastor to become self-centered, which is why he must be submissive to God's leadership and the elders come behind him and hold him accountable.
4. Finish well
Tim Duncan may not have won the NBA Championship in his last year, but he finished in the playoffs just as he started his career. The internet has pouring in their support for Duncan by thanking him for an incredible 19 years. The day will come when you leave the church you are ministering at, regardless where and what God is leading you to. The best thing to do for your church is to finish well. Don't use your last days in the church as a means of getting your own way or cut down that one critic that seems to be against everything you have done. There will be people who thank you for your ministry while there might be other who will say, "Good riddance." You last days in the church should be marked by gratitude not anger. Finishing well means leaving everything off on the right foot so whoever follows you can pick up where you left off. As you started strong in your preaching ministry, that is where you should finish.