Setting Up the Alley-oop!

Written by Thomas Manning 

If you’re a basketball fan, right now is an important time as the NBA Finals are in full swing! I don’t watch the sport as much as I used to, but one of my most favorite dunks in the game of basketball is known as the alley-oop. Here’s how it works – one player throws the ball near the basketball hoop, where another player on their team jumps up, catches it, and dunks the ball before he touches the ground. It’s truly an incredible sight to see! 

So what does this have to do with ministry? Our lead pastor, Jeff Leake, recently preached a sermon where he referenced the ministry of the late Billy Graham. Whether you’re a follower of Jesus or not, when I say that name, there’s a very good chance you know who Billy Graham is. But if I mentioned the name Albert McKain to you, would you recognize that name? I didn’t the first time I heard it. 

Albert McKain worked for Billy’s father, and in the year of 1934 he encouraged Billy Graham to attend a church service. His family attended church at the time, but a visiting preacher, Mordecai Ham, came to town and delivered powerful messages. And it was in one of those services where Billy gave his life to Jesus Christ. The rest, you could say, is history! Millions of lives have been touched by Billy Graham, and Albert McKain is the one who passed him the ball, so to speak. Albert set up Billy with an alley-oop to score! 

Oftentimes, we think of our own calling, about what God is calling us to do in our lives, relationships, and professions. But it’s just as important that we ask God who we can equip and invest in

I always encourage our Ambridge campus church family with this – I want to reach the one that’s far from God, but there are people they know and YOU know that may never come to church, which puts you in a better position to reach them! I not only want to grow in my relationship with God and His calling, but I also want to equip our church family to pray, minister, and share Christ with others. As much as I love to dunk (figuratively speaking. I’ll never accomplish an actual dunk unless it’s on a child hoop!), I also want to pass the ball and set up others for the alley-oop! 

Here’s a biblical example: Saul of Tarsus would have never become Paul the apostle, would have never written a majority of the New Testament, if Ananias hadn’t obeyed God’s calling to go to Saul and pray over him:

Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 9: 13-17 (NIV)

Two years ago I spent time in Kampala, Uganda, where I led a gentleman to Jesus. After thanking me, he told me that all he needed now was a Bible. I brought a travel Bible with me, and I felt prompted to give it to him. One small act of equipping another can lead to extraordinary things! Maybe that gentleman will lead others to Jesus, start his own ministry, church. I don’t know, but God does. And it gives me joy that I played a small part in his life with Christ. 

God could be calling you to reach the one who will reach others in the same way Albert McKain reached Billy Graham. Inspire others with your faith, serve them, and maybe even extend an invitation to church one day. As you continue to grow and understand the calling God has placed on you, let me encourage you to also pray for the one you can invest in, the one you can raise up and equip. Pray for the one that you can pass the ball to and set them up to score, an alley-oop that will make an ETERNAL impact! 

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Colossians 3:16 (NIV)


Thomas Manning is the Ambridge campus pastor of Allison Park Church. He is a graduate of the Northeast Ministry School and he and his wife Cecelia have been married for over nine years and have three boys.