Moneyball and Change in the Church

It’s a long time since I last posted anything on my blog! Six weeks ago or so I was reading a blog by another church leader and he recommended seeing a film called Moneyball. In fact he didn’t just recommend it he said: “If you haven’t seen the movie Mo
neyball yet, you need to. Like now. Click out of this window. Close your laptop. Get in the car. And go buy it. Not rent. Buy.”

I haven’t bought it, but I might. But we watched it last week. Interestingly at the same time I was preparing for my sermon last Sunday on how the early church responded to the radical challenges that Christianity brought to the Jews who made up the worshiping community of the church as it started. Based on the book called “The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why” by Phyllis Tickle, I talked about a 500 year cycle of upheaval and change within both the church and wider society. In the clip that I used she ended with these words: “we’re just lucky – we get to live through one!”

Our society has radically changed in the past 50 years or more and the pace of change doesn’t seem to be slowing or diminishing. Children today are being educated for jobs with technologies that haven’t even been invented yet. Work has changed, society has changed, views on morality and ethics have changed and community has radically changed. The church has also changed, but not nearly so radically. Sadly one of the changes has been that the number of people connected with church in the UK has greatly reduced. For many in our society today the church seems an archaic reflection of the past with little or no relevance to their lives today. I don’t agree with them, I believe that the Gospel has every relevance to life in 2013. The Gospel hasn’t changed however the way that it is communicated has to change.

What has that got to do with a film? Moneyball is about baseball – something I know nothing about. BUT the story of the film has everything to do with the state of the church today. The film is about the fascinating mix of men behind a major cultural shift in the game of baseball and how a risky vision, born from necessity, becomes reality, when a ragtag team of cast-offs rejected due to unfounded biases, get the chance to finally prove their potential.

In the game of baseball there is received wisdom as to how you pick and run a team of players. It’s always been done this way and it’s the only way of running a professional team. Two men see a different way to pick and run a team and they risk everything to do just that. They go against the received wisdom, they fight against the way things have always been done. They fail, but they keep going. They force their way on others who don’t agree, willing to take the criticism and the knock-backs. They keep going until the team starts to win, and then carries on winning and achieves an all time record for the number of consecutive wins.

Towards the end of the film the owner of one of the richest baseball teams offers the coach who has risked his career on a new system a once in a lifetime offer. In doing so he says: “The first one through the wall always gets bloody.”

What if we’ve been trying to build church based on the wrong principles for decades, if not centuries? We may not have known the foundations and principles were wrong, but they were all we knew. What if there are new principles, principles that make the Gospel understandable to the majority in our nation who never darken the doors of our church buildings? Maybe, just maybe, we need to seek God for the principles and foundations for making disciples in the 21st Century and allow him to build his church which will probably look different to anything we’ve known before?

“If you haven’t seen the movie Moneyball yet, you need to. Like now. Click out of this window. Close your laptop. Get in the car. And go buy it. Not rent. Buy.”


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