Church & Moneyball

Did anybody else out there watch the Oscar nominated movie Moneyball and note the similarities between trying to change baseball and the church?

I did!

In fact I was so intrigued…I watched it twice back to back.  (Truth be told, it’s the one movie I don’t take off my iPad)

The movie stars Brad Pitt and tells the true story of Billy Beane, General Manager for baseball’s Oakland Athletics, and his attempt to create a championship team by using very unconventional ways. As he begins his “mission” he quickly discovers that “baseball” has very set ways of doing business. Coaches, scouts, players, and even fans rise up against Beane as he dares to challenge some of the sacred foundations of America’s Pastime.

As I watched I was struck by some of the parallels between Billy Beane and those of us within the Christian faith that are trying to “do”, “undo” and “re-do” church.

There is an epidemic failure within the game to understand what is really happening and this leads people who run major league baseball teams to misjudge their players and mismanage their teams... Baseball thinking is medieval, they are asking all the wrong questions and if I say it to anybody I’m…I’m ostracized. I’m a rebel. (Peter Brand from “Money Ball”)

Likewise there is a epidemic failure within Christianity to understand what is really happening…or what is really important! That failure manifests itself by worshiping Jesus on one hand, and then completely marginalizing what He actually cares about on the other. (Matt 15:8 These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.)

And yes, if you do ask too many questions, you will be ostracized and declared a rebel.

Chances are if Jesus came back and visited your church, there would be shouts of praise and Hallelujah ringing through the air. Yes indeed, the congregation would welcome him with open arms…on day 1. But what if Jesus then hung around for a while and joined the church?

In six months they would want him gone!

If you think not, you better think again. Jesus entered Jerusalem to shouts of praise and Hallelujah; then one week later those same people were calling for his execution. Even his disciples deserted him.

And why? Because he challenged a very entrenched system; He upset the applecart to much.

At the end of Moneyball Billy Beane gets some words of encouragement from the owner of the rival Boston Red Sox. He sees what Beane was able to accomplish and explains:

I know you’ve taken it in the teeth out there, but the first guy through the wall, It always gets bloody, always. It’s the threat and not just the way of doing business, but in their minds it’s threatening the game. But really what it’s threatening is their livelihoods, it’s threatening their jobs, it’s threatening the way that they do things. And every time that happens, whether it’s the government or a way of doing business or whatever it is, the people that are holding the reins, that have their hands on the switch, they go batsh$t crazy!

I understand the feelings, particularly pastors, have at challenging the way of doing things. To be told that the system you have invested your life into needs to be reorganized from the ground up can be tremendously unsettling. As a Christian minister myself I am not unsympathetic to the real fallout a reworking of the church will have on people whose identity and economic livelihood is connected to the current system.

I recently watched a pastor and church planters leadership talk. The guy leading the conference asked by a show of hands how many in the room where over 50 and then how many were under 50. He then told the guys over 50 “You’ll be OK, there is enough of the old system to sustain you financially for the immediate future.” To the pastors and church planters under 50 his recommendation?

“Get a job”, he said, “the landscape of the church in the 21st century is going to be much more organic with leadership shared among a greater number of the local churches.” He elaborated that there will be fewer “paid” positions and recommended that people called to ministry have a Pauline “tent-making” trade that can do to sustain themselves and their families.

Jesus is coming…which means change is coming. A lot of people ain’t going to like that!

4 comments

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  • Oh my God! You said it. Now your in trouble. Hahaha. Thanks for saying IT.

  • Thank you. I liked that movie a lot and appreciate the parallels, though I’ve only seen it one time. However, it struck me as very eye-opening. The days of the one man show have to end, or at least, our world-view of church has to. Man has taken it and made it Religion and its almost irrelevant to our world today. (And I say that word, presuming a Christian is reading this because the word “religion” to church outsiders carries a different meaning than to those inside.) Pastors who are awakening to the fresh wind of the Holy Spirit today reference Seminary as outdated and out of touch. I’m seeing that there seems to be an uprising of Godly men and women who have God’s relevant message and the world is inclining their ears, but they haven’t come up by going through Seminary, and it ain’t within the four walls of our white-washed, tomblike churches! There is indeed a new way that God is calling us to do church, but it’s only new to us because he has said it all along. It’s a new day, God has a new way for us. The time is short. We should be so in tune with him as our all-in-all and understand what that really means so that if our comfort level is threatened, we are ready to pull up camp and go wherever he leads. Whether we work in the church or not. For instance, Christians are losing their jobs but God is our answer, right? So, maybe instead of feeling afraid and doubting, we can get excited, instead, and know that God is moving us on, we are in transition to what he has for us next, even if it doesn’t go the way we thought it would. He gave the Israelites new manna every day, they couldn’t save it for a rainy day. Today he is saying “Moneyball.” So, if we’re switching it up, we follow his lead and trust him that “where God guides, he provides,” in every way, and get on with Kingdom business and bring Glory to our Lord, right?. And to go easy and support the first guy through the wall!

  • It’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it! – Upton Sinclair. I think this is my favourite all time quote at the moment and has been for awhile :). Think I best get to watching the movie.

  • Dawayne

    Reply

    Spot on Steve! The initial drive of Jesus and conversion to Him is lost in the management of the establishment pretty quickly when building programs, choir robes and salaries have to be paid for. When Emperor Constantine “legalized” christianity in 313 AD, the christians had to start managing the establishment. At the heart of it, chritianity must remain true to the human soul, not the human flesh. Powerful fleshly or physical displays of earthly manifestations while marginalizing the soul misses the mark by a mile.

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