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The Curse of the Hometown Hero

July 19th, 2017 by Elroy Byam

The following is a list of the top five NBA players who spent their entire athletic career with one franchise:

1. Kobe Bryant – 20 years with the Los Angeles Lakers
2. Dirk Nowitzki – 19 years with the Dallas Mavericks (and counting)
3. John Stockton – 19 years with the Utah Jazz
4. Tim Duncan – 19 years with the San Antonio Spurs (and counting)
5. Reggie Miller – 18 years with the Indiana Pacers

These players were (and still are) extremely loyal to their franchises and fan bases. Over time (Kobe notwithstanding) they were more comfortable with taking less money to make space for other players to shine. The more years they stayed, the more the locals loved them.

They were the hometown heroes, the ones who never left for another team.

But what if their pseudo-patriotism is part of a meta-narrative God wants us to change?

Abraham. Moses. Joshua. Jesus. Peter. Paul. All were nomads for the greater cause. They grew up in one location but were called to serve in other locations because God told them to.

And in some way, He’s told us the same.

“But I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” (Luke 4:24, NLT)

Writer Brian McCann summarizes The Law of Familiarity and how “we lose a bit of our edge when we are around something for a long time.”

This can happen when pastors shepherd churches for several years or after the honeymoon phase of marriage. Things get too familiar, and the freshness and adventure can die.

The last words from Jesus before He ascended were movement-based:

“…and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:26, NIV)

Three men from Galilee weren’t in Galilee when Jesus told them this message. Neither was Jesus in Bethlehem. They were all away from home and on a mission.

If you’ve been in the same place for a long period of time, maybe it’s time for a change. I’m not saying that you’re automatically ineffective after a while, but staying in the same position and place for years can block you from God activating you for greater work.

It’s hard not to fall in love with the familiar. But sometimes the familiarity becomes a curse – not allowing us to be as effective in the gospel as we can be.

Let’s take a look at those NBA players again, this time in terms of where they’re from:

1. Kobe Bryant (Played for Los Angeles, born in Philadelphia)
2. Dirk Nowitzki (Played for Dallas, born in Germany)
3. John Stockton (Played for Utah, born in Spokane, WA)
4. Tim Duncan (Played for San Antonio, born in St. Croix)
5. Reggie Miller (Played for Indiana, born in Riverside, CA)

Even though all those players spent their entire career with one team, none of them started their lives in that location. They had to leave where they grew up in order to be more effective.

In this cultural zeitgeist, the world calls for braver people to reflect Jesus in towns, cities, and countries other than their own. Of course, Jesus referred to Jerusalem first, meaning we should start spreading the message where we are.

Just don’t stay there. For too long.

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