Each week in The Holy Huddle, Doug Hankins takes a look at the goings on of the sports world from a distinctly Christian perspective.
Shaquille O’Neal is known for his quotes. The Hall of Fame NBA center is widely perceived to be one of the best for interviews in professional sports. After all, who wouldn’t want to interview a guy who said this? Or this? Or this? Or this?
Shaq may be a jovial champion on the court, but his off the court way of life merits reflection and—gasp—consideration as an approach that might just benefit the church body.
Are you aware that Shaq is a shrewd businessman? The MBA-earned Shaquille (U-Phoenix online) admits that his business acumen is often overlooked because of his sports persona:
The biggest surprise (to potential business partners) is that I do my due diligence ahead of time. If you contact me, I do my homework . . . You get a great partner when you get me. I’m not interested in just taking your money. . . I’ll promote, I’ll help, I’ll do anything I can to make it work for both of us.
Are you aware that Shaq is a police academy trained reserve police officer? That his stated aim is to work with Miami Beach police to stop crimes against children? Police spokesman Robert Hernandez says of O’Neal:
“He made it clear when he decided to come to Miami Beach that he wanted to get down and dirty and do the job . . . He’s here to conduct investigations and to make arrests.”
Are you aware that Shaq just earned his PhD in leadership development? He’s worth $700 million dollars. Why would he waste his retirement years pursuing a silly PhD? Shaq gave this quote:
I don’t like being Shaquille O’Neal, the “has-been” basketball player. When I first came out of the league, I started purchasing businesses, but when I would meet with people, these people would sweet talk me . . . So I said, let me go get my master’s degree and show them I’m not just a dumb athlete . . . I want people to see me more than just a basketball player.
Shaq wants to be more than just a basketball player, a businessman, a police officer, an educated man. Although he may not make such an theological statement to reporters, it seems as if Shaq just wants to be a human being who is open to all the possibilities that life has to offer in God’s creation. He wants to be a man who lives without regrets, who takes life by the horns, and lives it. He wants to be a human being who does not waste his life.
I think this philosophy or ethos or model of living is worth consideration from that Christian community at large.
Consider this haunting testimony from a retired pastor in the Reformed Church of America. When he attends a new church, people inevitably ask him if he is a pastor:
I’m not sure how to answer that any more . . . Am I still a pastor if I don’t have a congregation to pastor? The denomination allows me to retain the designation/title, but its theology teaches that the office is dependent upon a call. I am not called to retirement.
This pastor’s experience, which is common among many retired pastors, is a stark contrast to Dr. Shaq. Dr. Shaq has a life outside of his primary career. What about the pastor?
This identity/life crisis extends to church members as well. An author for The New York Times recently blogged about a phenomena called “The Busy Trap,” in which people are ”addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.”
This doesn’t sound like what Shaq is doing. But it does sound a lot like the parishioners of churches in America. They are too busy to serve, too busy to disciple their kids, too busy to go on a mission trip, too busy to evangelize, too busy to join a small group or Sunday School class, too busy to participate in the ministry of the church. And then, when they retire from their professional lives, they are, like the Reformed pastor, without an identity. And they are not sure what to do now that the busyness has subsided.
If Dr. Shaq could prophetically speak to the church in America today, he might just deliver another zinger of a quote: CHRISTIANS, DON’T WASTE YOUR LIVES.