My Michael Jordan Experience

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

Even as an Introvert in High School I loved to preach the Word of God.  This led me to join a “preaching class” that was used as an elective for seventh period twice a month.  Actually our class didn’t teach us how to preach, but was an excuse for students to share a message they had been working on.

One Wednesday when it came my turn I used a well-known passage from the book of Matthew.

Matt. 16:24   Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

To illustrate the idea that wealth or riches cannot save a person (Matthew 16:26) I decided to use a fictional conversation between Michael Jordan and God at the Judgment Seat of Christ.  That year Jordan won his fourth NBA title out of six, and cemented himself as the greatest basketball player of all time, so using him would get peoples attention.

The conversation involved Jordan listing all of his accomplishments as reason for him to be let into Heaven, and God refusing him entrance because he had not accepted Christ as Savior.  It ends with the voice of Michael Jordan echoing as he is thrown into hell, “My name is Michael Jordan, don’t you know who I am?”

That wasn’t the first time classmates had heard me preach, but that story along with an explanation of Scripture definitely changed their perception.  Up till that time I had been the guy who didn’t talk and had the social life of a large rock, but now I was someone who could communicate in a powerful way.

As shocking as that moment was for the others, I can guarantee you nobody was more surprised than me.

Growing up I had spent many years looking for the one thing that I could do better than anyone else.  Now after a long search my gift had finally been found, I was the guy who could speak with confidence in front of large crowds, and actually enjoy doing it.  Everyone in the class told me what an awesome sermon it was (after picking their jaws up off the floor) and for the first time in years people actually started to notice me for something other than my lack of a social life.

The excitement of that class-period and the realization God hadn’t created me with no talent was enough to give confidence for at least a year…but things were just getting started.  A few days later a Senior named Paul (one of the most popular kids at school) walked up after seventh period and asked if I would share my Michael Jordan illustration during Homeroom Devotions (played over an intercom to everyone in the student body).

Almost immediately after saying, “Sure okay,” my heart was filled with crippling fear.  There was a huge difference between speaking to a small group of fellow students who I knew well, and having my voice transmitted to every classroom in the High School!  As the day approached I viewed it as a test to determine if the Lord had truly given me a gift to communicate with others..

To this day I’m incredibly grateful that nobody actually saw me speaking that morning except for Paul and the school secretary, because I was literally trembling from fear, and had a hard time holding the microphone still enough to talk into it.  Yet in the midst of that fear and trembling I found peace in my heart.

In recent years the term “coming out party” has been created to describe individuals (particularly sports players) who seem to come out of nowhere and play the game of their lives.  The ability of hindsight allows me to go back eighteen years and see that five-minute devotional as my coming out party.

Suddenly people who didn’t even know I existed the day before were running up and congratulating me on doing such a great job.  There were even quite a few who thought I was a new student, even though I’d been sitting in class with them for a year and a half.  Slowly more speaking opportunities came and my confidence continued to grow.

A few months after my Michael Jordan story the impossible happened, I became popular.  And it’s that popularity that created one of the most exciting experiences of my life.  But I’m getting ahead of myself….the Mountaintop Experience comes next week.

As a Ninth grader I truly felt like the only person in the world who didn’t fit in during High School, but the truth is there were many others who had struggles much greater than mine.  Today more than ever there is a challenge to find something you can do well and promote it as your identity or be viewed as an outcast.

A few weeks ago I met with a High School Senior whose part of a mentoring program and listened as he expressed frustration over not being able to fit in at school.  My heart broke for him because in his eyes I saw myself and definitely knew his pain.  That’s why it felt so good to lean over the table and explain there was something special inside of him, something that he could excel at, and take great pleasure in.

I don’t know what that talent is but I do know God has placed it within this student’s life.  And I can only hope to be there for his “coming out party,” because it’s going to be glorious.

Published by

John Wilburn

Church planter, teacher, and disciple-maker in Barrouallie St. Vincent

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