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Home > 2012 > February Web Exclusives > Linstantly a Leader

Normally, February is the dullest month in the sports calendar. The NFL season concluded with the Super Bowl. March Madness is not yet on the horizon. Pitchers and catchers haven't reported. And games in the interminably long basketball and hockey seasons feel meaningless.

But not this year. This February has been more exciting than ever, dominated by Linsanity, the phenomenon surrounding the improbable rise of New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin.

In his first six games in the starting lineup, Lin has been unstoppable. He scored more points than any other NBA player ever had in his first five starts. In his fifth game, Lin hit a game-winning three pointer with less than a second left on the clock. In his sixth start, he had a career-high thirteen assists. Six starts, six wins. It has been Linsane.

The Lin story is so compelling, not just because of the endless puns based on his name or what he has accomplished on the court, but also because of who he is as a person and the road he has traveled to get to this point.

Lin is Taiwanese-American, the very rare American born Asian player to make an NBA roster. He went to Harvard University, which is not exactly known as a basketball powerhouse. In fact, he is the first Harvard graduate to play in the NBA since 1954. When people imagine great basketball players, they don't normally picture an Asian-American from Harvard.

Lin was undrafted coming into the league, but was able to work his way onto an NBA roster last year. This season, Lin was cut from two other teams before ending up on the Knicks bench. He was reportedly just five games from being let go by the Knicks as well, before an injury forced him into the lineup. Linsanity is proof that he has made the most of his opportunity.

The meteoric rise of Jeremy Lin from unheralded, undrafted benchwarmer to international sensation is nothing short of remarkable. ESPN analyst Tony Kornheiser captured the sentiment while discussing Lin on his radio show, "The thing that stands out is how this guy has gone from non-factor, on the bench, not even going to play, to without question, the leader of a team."

Most leaders don't like to ride the bench. They want to be in the game, making a difference. They see how things should be and are anxious to do something about it. Often, this impatience can backfire, causing leaders to compromise themselves ethically or morally. Moses was one such leader whose first attempt at liberating the Hebrews from Egypt caused him to murder a man. God benched Moses for forty years.

Leaders must be able to discern, not just the right things to do, but also the right time and place for making progress. Good leaders know that influence that is forced or coerced will backfire. Often, the best leadership opportunities arise naturally and organically. At just the right moment, leaders are called from the bench into the game, but they're ready and willing to step up.

By all accounts, Jeremy Lin is succeeding now because of what he did while he was waiting on the bench. Far from sulking or seething, Lin used his time on the bench to get ready—learning his coach's system, watching the mistakes made by the point guards who played ahead of him, figuring out his teammate's strengths and weaknesses. He has made the most of the leadership opportunity that has arisen for him.

The bench is where we learn perspective, looking at life from new and unexpected angles. The bench is where we learn patience, realizing that everything can't always be fixed by the waving of our magic wand. The bench is where we learn humility, valuing the whole team and not just our own skills and abilities. The bench is where we learn to lead.

We don't know how long this Linsanity will last, but we do know that Jeremy Lin maximized his time on the bench. And because of that, he is now making the most of his leadership opportunity in the game. We need more patient, humble leaders like Jeremy Lin.

Robb Ryerse is the founding pastor of Vintage Fellowship in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He is the author of Butterfly Theology, available in September from Civitas Press.

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Posted: February 20, 2012

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Displaying 1–5 of 7 comments

Melody Harrison Hanson

February 23, 2012  4:39pm

I think Lin is highlighted here because he's an incredible bb player who was ready, who stepped up at a serendipitous moment. He is known and loved by many at Harvard and I have seen on my FB stream many white Christians affirm and admire him as a great role model! What strikes me as significant too is that he broke through a ceiling! Asian American kids have a role model they can look to and say if HE can do that, maybe I can. This is not a post-racial world. That he is Asian matters only in that respect, to me. It's beautiful what is happening and it blows through our stereotypes about great bb players mainly being Black and sometimes white. It's blowing people's minds and they are getting caught up in the Linsanity for a reason. He is ever as much a hero as Tebow. More so, for me because of all that he has had to endure in his life as an AA player. There is a whole world out there who knows there is no "mold" for a Christian leader and welcomes JLin as an example. Gal 3:28

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Helen Lee

February 22, 2012  7:21pm

"Speaking the Truth": I never said there are no race issues in the church: quite the opposite, actually. I took issue with the fact that your original contention was that evangelicals wouldn't embrace Lin--I just wanted to point out that the "evangelical" umbrella does include many of us who are not white Americans. I also took issue with the idea that a non-white evangelical cannot be embraced and affirmed as a leader. Of course that may be true for many, still (sad to say), but just because it is the case for some (or many) doesn't mean we should not continue to strive for a future in which we can truly appreciate and affirm the value of each and every person, regardless of race. Believe me, I have no blinders on. But nor do I want to simply accept that the way things are is the way things will always be.

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dennis day

February 22, 2012  6:17pm

As I sit and watch my Warriors and lament the loss of a quality kid like Jeremy I am saddened by the narrow and cynical view of some who would criticize white evangelicals for being too racist when it comes to a great kid like him. I am a 62 yr old pastor (white) and former H.S. b'ball coach. Every brother I know who loves and knows 'ball' can't wait for the next installment of 'Linsomeness'... Great article...great kid...great testimony...PTL

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February 22, 2012  6:07pm

I just read about Jeremy Lin recently and realized he's an evangelical Christian -- very strong in his relationship to God, too. I'm white and I'm super impressed by him. Reading his comments about his Christian walk, I think he's awesome!

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Speaking the Truth

February 22, 2012  5:32pm

Michael Oher was not accepted in the church his adopted parents had him in, because some parents felt that he would be a threat to their "white" daughters. To think that's there's no racial issue in the church, is naive, and looking at things through rose colored glasses. I think Lin is an excellent player, but let's be honest. How long will it take for the white evangelicals to embrace him, I don't know, or if they ever will. They surely have been running to Tebow's side every since the Focus on the Family commercial. Even Fox Nes doesn't showcase him like Tebow, and this channels is watched by the religious right, a lot. Also, I've seen my pastor preach at several churches with white congregations, and it never ceases to amaze me how some people don't show up that night, but another white minister comes and the church is full. Again, if you think he'll get the same attention from white evangelicals or southern baptists evangelicals. You're not being honest with yourself.

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