Shaquille O’Neal’s jersey retired for the fourth time: How to live a legacy for eternity

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Site Search
Give

Church leadership

Shaquille O’Neal’s jersey retired for the fourth time: How to live a legacy for eternity

February 20, 2024 -

Shaquille O'Neal is joined by his family as they watch his jersey being raised as the Orlando Magic retire his jersey number after the team's NBA basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Kevin Kolczynski)

Shaquille O'Neal is joined by his family as they watch his jersey being raised as the Orlando Magic retire his jersey number after the team's NBA basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Kevin Kolczynski)

Shaquille O'Neal is joined by his family as they watch his jersey being raised as the Orlando Magic retire his jersey number after the team's NBA basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Kevin Kolczynski)

Do you ever think about your legacy?

Do you wonder how you will be remembered when your current ministry is completed or when your earthly ministry is over?

I do. In that context, this headline caught my eye: ‘Shaquille O’Neal becomes first player in history to have his jersey retired by the Magic.” The Orlando franchise recently raised O’Neal’s No. 32 jersey into the rafters at the Kia Center.

Here’s what especially impressed me: this ceremony was the fourth time for O’Neal: his jersey has also been retired by the LA Lakers, the Miami Heat, and by LSU, where he played in college.

The story raised an ironic question in my mind: What if churches honored their pastors the way teams honor their players?

Would we see pulpits suspended from the rafters of our sanctuaries?

Would autographed clerical robes (or suits for the less liturgical among us, or jeans for the more casual among them) decorate the halls of our facilities?

What about picture collages of us “in action” as we preach?

Probably not.

Many churches are “one pastor behind”

In my experience, a small number of retired pastors are given an “emeritus” title and an ongoing role in their church’s life and work, but most are not. The new pastor usually has an obligatory “ask the former pastor back” Sunday, but for the most part, he’d rather not have to look over his shoulder at his predecessor.

As a friend once observed, many churches are “one pastor behind.” They tend to remember the good their previous pastor accomplished and measure it against all the shortcomings they perceive in their current minister.

It’s also true that except for a few noteworthy exceptions, most of our members don’t remember much of what we said last Sunday, much less over the course of our careers.

Here’s the point to remember: a legacy that matters is forged not by the opinions of people but by the judgment of God.

Taking divine dictation

As you know, the Lenten season began last Wednesday. Whatever your denominational or personal tradition regarding liturgical worship and patterns, I believe these weeks of spiritual focus and discipline can help us prepare not just for Easter but for eternity.

Paul reminded the Corinthians:

No one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:11–15).

Before God judges our works, it would be good for us to do so ourselves.

Many years ago, a colleague at a staff retreat shared with our team the concept of a “spiritual inventory.” He encouraged us to take a piece of paper and a pen, get alone with God, ask the Spirit to bring to our minds anything in our lives that is displeasing to God, and write down what comes to our thoughts. No one would see what we wrote, so we could and should be brutally honest. He then urged us to confess these sins individually with repentant hearts and claim God’s forgiving grace.

We then dispersed to conduct our own inventories. I began by writing down issues I knew I needed to confess to the Lord. But before long, it was as though I was taking dictation. Sins and failures came to my mind that I had long forgotten or never really acknowledged. As I then confessed them specifically to the Lord, I sensed a new peace and strength in my soul.

I now try to repeat this discipline regularly and encourage you to do the same across the Lenten season.

“There is no one who should not be more advanced”

When we allow sin to creep into our lives, our souls are impoverished, as are those we are called to serve. Oswald Chambers warned: “If I allow any private deflection from God in my life, everyone about me suffers.”

By contrast, when we “keep short accounts with God,” as the Puritans used to say, we position ourselves to experience our Father’s best in our lives and through our ministries. We build with “gold, silver, precious stones” and will “receive a reward” in eternity. And our lives will leave a legacy that matters for all time.

St. Leo the Great (died AD 461) observed:

There is required a daily renewal to repair the shortcomings of our mortal nature, and whatever degree of progress has been made there is no one who should not be more advanced. All must therefore strive to ensure that on the day of redemption no one may be found in the sins of his former life.

Dear friends, what the Christian should be doing at all times should be done now with greater care and devotion, so that the Lenten fast enjoined by the apostles may be fulfilled, not simply by abstinence from food but above all by the renunciation of sin.

When we take time across this season to “repair the shortcomings of our mortal nature,” our Lord will be glorified and our people will be blessed.

This is the promise, and the invitation, of God.

What did you think of this article?

If what you’ve just read inspired, challenged, or encouraged you today, or if you have further questions or general feedback, please share your thoughts with us.

Name(Required)
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Denison Forum
17304 Preston Rd, Suite 1060
Dallas, TX 75252-5618
[email protected]
214-705-3710


To donate by check, mail to:

Denison Ministries
PO Box 226903
Dallas, TX 75222-6903