Moneyball & Church
I just returned from a week in China working with a charity project I’m involved in. The travel involved allowed me to finally watch the film Moneyball that has been on my iPad unwatched for about six months now.
In fact I enjoyed it so much…I watched it twice.
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. Alot of people ain’t going to like that!
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