Ask any serious College Basketball fan who is the greatest coach of all time and you will more than likely hear the name John Wooden. He is the first person inducted into the Basketball Hall Of Fame both as a player and as a coach!
As a coach he led the UCLA Bruins to victory in ten NCAA National Championships in a twelve-year span, a record unmatched by any other college coach. In 27 seasons under Wooden’s leadership the Bruins won 664 games!
But each year as a new season began and great players such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton dressed up for their first day of practice Wooden would rehearse something very unusual.
He would have the players re-tie their shoelaces!
What? That’s right. And often the team would balk over this explaining they were great champions and had played for years!
But Wooden brought it all back to the basics. If a player doesn’t tie his shoes correctly they could come loose. This could cause the feet to slide around and form blisters. Not a good thing for a basketball player to have blisters! Or perhaps the shoestrings could come untied causing the player to trip.
Watching the greats of this sport it is hard to imagine something so mundane as shoelaces. Who even thinks about their shoes unless you are focused on the squeaky sound of rubber on the court echoing in the gymnasium?
But Coach Wooden did. And he made sure this one, simple, basic discipline was attended to before his team left the locker room!
As pastors, worship leaders, members of worship teams and lay leaders we may often bulk at going back to the basic discipline of making sure we are suited up properly for our ministry.
We may not be champions in the sense of great Basketball players, but most of us have played for years. We know all the moves. We anticipate the loose balls. We can dribble blindfolded and shoot with one hand. We’ve tasted the victory of seeing God’s Spirit move and we rest confidently in the laurels of our abilities and calling.
But shoestrings can come untied if we are not careful. And what slips is not the foot but the heart. In the Psalms there are several places where the psalmist uses the imagery of a foot that slips. Asaph, in Psalm 73 talks about how his foot nearly slipped and how he almost stumbled because his heart was off course. Later in Psalm 94 the psalmist was reminded of God’s steadfast love holding him up when he thought his foot had slipped.
The Apostle Paul exhorts us to “take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the Gospel of peace.” (Eph. 6: 13-14)
He continues with the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, all necessary for the battles we encounter.
Suiting up properly for warfare or worship or any kind of ministry is paramount. We are to “stand firm”, to withstand evil, to keep our heart in focus, having put on the readiness given only by the Gospel of peace which is tied securely together in a daily, vibrant relationship with Christ!
The late Coach Wooden, a dedicated Christian, would often remind his players, “It’s not about Basketball, it’s about your life”!
Ultimately he was more concerned about their success in the things that matter most.
And I must remind myself, and my team, that it is not about our worship but about our lives because that is what will make the greatest difference “in” our worship. It has been said, that “God is not seeking great worship, he is seeking great worshipers”!
So check your shoelaces!