Last night the Golden State Warriors won their second NBA championship in three years. What’s worth noting is how unsurprising this is. Many people gave the championship to Golden State last summer when superstar Kevin Durant (this year’s Finals MVP) signed with them. What’s even less surprising is that the Warriors are already the heavy favorites to win next year again. We’re witnessing a dynasty in the NBA akin to the Bulls in the 90s and the Lakers and Celtics in the 80s.
But let’s go back to how this dynasty was built, because how they got here is just as intriguing as where they are now. And more importantly (at least from my perspective), there are incredible lessons to learn for today’s church. The Warriors didn’t win their second NBA championship in three years because they wanted it more or loved basketball more. Every NBA team comes in with the same desire and the same love. In the same way, some churches aren’t successful simply because they want it more or they love God more. All churches love God. So what makes the difference? Here’s what the Warriors did, and here’s what today’s church can do to build a dynasty of kingdom success:
1). Develop your talent into All-Stars. I know most will look to Kevin Durant as the Warriors chief reason for success, but remember the Warriors had already won a championship without him. Before Kevin Durant ever stepped foot on the floor in a Warrior’s uniform, the Warriors had developed three All-Stars. And by developed I mean that Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green did not enter the NBA as ready made All-Stars. Look at where they were drafted: Steph was drafted 7th in his draft year, Klay Thompson was drafted 10th in his draft year, Draymond Green was drafted 35th in his draft year. Forty-nine players were selected before these three (in total). The Warriors’ All-Stars were developed.
For the church, what is your system of leadership development? What are you doing to recruit, train and equip the volunteers you already have? You have potential All-Stars sitting in your pews. Instead of bemoaning your lack of talent, churches need to intentionally institute a system to develop the talent they already have.
2). Play selfless and move the ball. One of the things the Warriors are known for is moving the ball and passing. Don’t take that for granted. To do that, you have to convince NBA players, who heard for their entire lives that they were the best player in the world and who came to the league to make a name for themselves, you have to convince these players to approach the basket and then pass it to someone else who’s open, allowing them to get the bucket and the glory. Most teams can’t get over this hump, which is why most teams don’t beat the Warriors. The Warriors have bought into the idea that when you personally sacrifice for something bigger than yourself, everyone wins.
In the church world, this is convincing your members to serve. A standard rule of thumb is that 20% of the people do 80% of the work. If you want to build a dynasty of kingdom success, you need to flip this number. You need to recruit and equip 80% of your people to serve in meaningful ways. When this happen, you reach a critical mass of selflessness that builds a dynasty. (This is difficult to do but possible. In the church I pastor we have over 700 that come on at least a semi-regular basis. 500 of them are serving in some capacity).
3). Learn the new math. One of the biggest ways that the Warriors have revolutionized the game of basketball is by their complete dependence on the three-point shot, something unheard of until recently. But the math is in their favor. If you take 30 2-point attempts and make half of them, you’ve got 30 total points. If you take 30 3-point attempts and only make 40% of them, you’ve got 36 points. They’ve figured out the best way to win within the rules of basketball.
In the church world, the new math is simply the modernization of the church. We can’t reach people in the 21st century with methods perfectly designed to reach people who died a century ago. From the buildings to the programs to the music to the preaching style, churches that succeed are churches that have translated the timelessness of the gospel message into the modern world.
4). Take advantage of unique opportunities. The Warriors transitioned from a great team into a dynasty with the addition of Kevin Durant, which is the subject of the last two points. NBA teams have a salary cap, which allows them to pay two or perhaps three All-Stars, leaving the rest to be distributed throughout the rest of the league. When the Warriors signed Kevin Durant, they signed their fourth All-Star. How was this possible? Because of a unique set of circumstances (through a new television deal with the NBA), the salary cap took a monumental jump last year. The Warriors took advantage of that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and used their new cap space to sign a once-in-a-lifetime player.
For churches, this is where dependence on the Holy Spirit becomes so critical. There are opportunities all around us, new partnerships, new ministry opportunities, new staff to hire. But not all opportunities are created equal. Listen to the Holy Spirit and follow His direction to exploit unique opportunities in your community for kingdom growth.
5). Create a culture that attracts success. In interviews this past year, Kevin Durant has said repeatedly that what attracted him the most to the Warriors organization was its culture. He wanted to play in a better environment. His previous team was semi-successful but a bit dysfunctional. He saw something appealing about the Warriors and wanted to play there. Success attracts success.
For the church, a dynasty is not built overnight. For the Warriors, their first dynastic piece, Steph Curry, was added seven years ago in 2009. The last piece, Kevin Durant, was added last year in 2016. It takes years to create a dynastic culture of kingdom success, but once it’s in place, success attracts success. That’s when success becomes a dynasty.