An Interview With Former NBA Player Lawrence Funderburke on Stewardship

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Professional athletes struggle. While many don’t struggle financially, it’s a hard journey transitioning from the post into purpose. This transition was nothing for former NBA Power Forward, Lawrence Funderburke.

Funderburke, 48, was a basketball star at Ohio State University from 1991 to 1994. There he led the Buckeyes to the NCAA Tournament. In 1994 he began playing professional basketball in Europe. After three years he transitioned to the American league. He began his eight-year career with the Sacramento Kings and ended it in 2005 with the Chicago Bulls.

Funderburke retired from the league at 34 well prepared for the next phase of his life. In my interview with Funderburke, he described his life-long journey with God. He believes His relationship with God was what prepared him most for what he would do post his career.

Lawrence Funderburke’s Early Life

Thanks to an elderly white man, Funderburke gave his life to Christ at the tender age of 12. Remembering how he “grew up in, arguably the most difficult, challenging housing project in central Ohio,” Funderburke recalled how this elderly white man “would pick us up on the bus [stop] and would give us a doughnut to entice us to go to church.” Funderburke admitted he only went to church for the doughnut. But while he was there he “came to know the sweetness of Jesus as well.”

Funderburke quickly learned that accepting Christ and walking with Him are two very different things. Like most professional athletes, Funderburke engaged in the life of a basketball player. While “partying and carousing and [doing] stuff that was very common in professional sports,” Funderburke felt a “gnawing feeling” that he couldn’t live like this anymore. So he walked away from it. Funderburke said, “Lord, I’m going to surrender to you. I’m not going to run. I’m not going to hide. It has been 21 years since that time.”

Comprehensive Care of God’s World

Armed with His relationship with God, a Bachelors degree in Business Finance, and a Masters in Business Administration from Ohio State University, Funderburke is committed to using his gifts to educate and give to the Columbus, Ohio community and beyond.

An author of three books, a certified financial planner since 2010, and the CEO and Co-Founder of Lawrence Funderburke Youth Organization, Funderburke is constantly looking for ways to best help his community financially and through mentorship with his wife Monya. His most recent book, The Stewardship Playbook: Biblical Guidelines and Practical Tools to Handle God’s Possessions with Diligence and Care helps readers take ownership and accountability for their possessions. “Stewardship is more than money,” He said. Funderburke explained that “most people think of stewardship in terms of managing your finances…[But] everything we do should be an act of worship to the Lord – our charity, our work experiences. When we treat them as a form of worship we look at work a lot differently.

Practical Pointers: The Stewardship Playbook

I asked Funderburke if he could give me some pointers on the various ways we can be good stewards for God. He began to break down the different categories we are responsible for and why. I found it to be very practical advice that can be used in all aspects of life.

  • Stewardship of Time: Funderburke is not a Seventh-day Adventist, but he spoke about allows allocating time for rest. He said, “I’ve always [known] that the Sabbath is sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. I know some people say it has changed, but I don’t buy that in scripture.”
  • Stewardship of Talents: Funderburke believes that all talents are given by God. He said, “when you come from the housing projects like I did you go through this [need]…to validate yourself in the eyes of others. And I did that. [We look] for the applause of men and women to make [ourselves] feel good. I felt that…getting in the NBA was all my doing, when in actuality the Lord gave me the skills and abilities, and I took His credit. He really convicted me that everything you have is a gift that belongs to Jesus. For many people who are very skilled and very talented the temptation is to always take credit…”
  • Stewardship of Temple: The Funderburkes believe in the importance of physical health.  Monya, a certified Personal Trainer, is particularly involved with FunderMax Fitness. A co-owned and co-operated health facility, she teaches a class called “physical tune-ups” that includes education on the importance of both diet and exercise. Lawrence explained to me that, “even our tastebuds belong to the Lord. We believe we can eat what we want, but at the same time the Bible says, you reap what you sow. If you’re eating bad foods you’re going to reap the consequences.” Lawrence then began to talk about how they eat healthy as a family: “we eat very clean. I don’t eat pork, I don’t eat shellfish, I don’t eat dairy, I don’t eat GMOs, I don’t eat gluten. We eat only real foods, organic foods the way God created them.”

I Am A Role Model

Although it would be easy for Funderburke to rest in his accomplishments coasting through retirement, he relishes the chance to be a role model and help others find peace – financially, physically, and spiritually. He asked, “[Do] you remember the old Charles Barkley commercial where he says, ‘I am not a role model?'” “I rejected that. The Bible is clear. To whom much is given, much is required. As athletes we have a very revered place in society. Sometimes we’re given too much attention. Nevertheless, we have a tremendous responsibility.”

Funderburke proceeded to explain how this responsibility is magnified because he is an African American man who comes from a single-family household that lived on welfare for 18 years. He said, “I have a tremendous responsibility to say i’m from this environment [but]…you can still be successful in spite of what your environment says.” In fact, Funderburke keeps a food stamp in his pocket as a reminder “of what what poverty was like.” He is intentional about keeping it and looking at it because he “never want[s] to be disconnected from where [he] came from.” “A lot of athletes lose sight of the path they had to take to get to where they are,” he said. And maybe it’s this loss of sight that makes it hard for them to find their way forward.

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