Posted tagged ‘Moneyball’

Feeling It!

March 25, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         March 25, 2017

                                          

There is a TV commercial airing these days from a high-tech mainstay that promotes one of their products that can help assess the shooting ability of a basketball prospect. Showing it several times during each March Madness college basketball game gets noticed by viewers. They add a small “megabyte” of humor to it, but the point is clear: Technology is a valuable tool in assessing talent and potential!

Moneyball was a book and movie about how the Oakland A’s baseball team used statistics and probabilities to figure out how to put a winning team on the field with a small payroll. I loved the movie! Once again, however, it brought the concept to the forefront of using technology and statistics as the determining factors in making decisions.

“Feeling it” seems to be getting pushed further and further back in the decision-making process. I can appreciate that. Hunches, intuition, and feelings are prone to being misread and misleading. If the Cubs had ended up losing the seventh game of the World Series against the Indians their manager, Joe Madden, would have been crucified for following his gut feeling and using relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman on short rest. He would have been rooming with Steve Bartram!

But, thank God, there is still some room for following what a person is led to do or say. Thank God Martin Luther King didn’t say “I have a statistical probability!”; or Obi-Wan Kenobi didn’t encourage Luke Skywalker with the line “May the analytical findings print-out be conclusive for you!”

It seems that churches have bought into the information and analysis age as well. One program that is being sold right now promises to be able to help churches fill their sanctuaries on Easter morning. Follow the program and have success.

My cynical side has always been a bit suspicious of a church whose worship leader guides the congregation into worship, complete with raised hands and tear-filled faces, but ends the gathering after an hour because there are two more worship services scheduled that morning. It’s like we trust the leading of the Spirit to a point…er, a time…and then the emergency brake gets engaged. It’s like leasing God instead of buying into him!

What happens when a church is “feeling it?” What happens when the Spirit is truly leading? Unfortunately, most times in recent history when the church has “felt it” has gotten communicated in grandiose projects such as new building campaigns and launching satellite campuses. “Feeling it” doesn’t seem to surface in the relational areas of being led to ask for forgiveness and the practicing of grace. It seems to be in gigantic Solomon temple-sized visions! Perhaps that has made the church, and its people, a bit hesitant about the whispers and leadings of the Spirit.

In my old age I still lace up my sneakers from time to time and play hoop. A couple of weeks ago I was playing with some young guys and every shot I took except one went in. In two pick-up games I made like… ten baskets (Not that I was keeping my “statistics” or anything!)!

“Feed the old guy!” was the increasing emphasis because the old guy was…”feeling it!” It went against success probability and 62 year old player analysis, but they kept giving me the ball and I kept burning the nets.

That “feeling” doesn’t happen very often now, although I still have a “shooter’s touch”, but when it does you’ve got to go with it. To carry it a bit further, there is nothing quite so frustrating as having someone “feeling it” and someone else reluctant to feed the fire.

That sort of summarizes the church, doesn’t it?. We are a people of faith, hatched by an unbelievable God-story… driven most of the time by statistical probabilities!

Harmony Church

January 8, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       January 8, 2016

                                   

I was leading a group of seniors in a study of 1 Peter yesterday. We were able to get through one verse in the ninety minutes together. The verse was 1 Peter 3:8. It says:

   “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit…”

Harmony! What is that? We made the point…several times…in our discussion that harmony does not mean uniformity. We are not cookie-cutter followers of Christ. We are all unique, complex and simple, confident and cautious, narrow-minded and totally open-minded. Diverse, that’s who we are. Thus, the challenge of harmony is understanding that the body of believers will not always be in agreement on such issues as brand of coffee to serve, dress style preferred, how quiet children should be in worship, and what songs get sung. The interesting thing is that it is those petty issues that so often cause the most conflict. Perhaps that says something about the spiritual depth of a congregation that such topics of division revolve around whether donuts or muffins should be served?

Harmony is a sign of a church that gets it. Disharmony makes the news. Harmony is newsworthy. Strong personalities are a constant challenge to harmony. It isn’t that people with strong personalities are evil, but must be reminded that harmony does not mean giving into their ideas, thoughts, and demands.

Harmony is often forfeited for the sake of progress. What progress is often gets written on a stats sheet, like the church is the religious version of the Oakland A’s in  Moneyball.  Progress is the chafing rub to harmony. It has a way of becoming exalted and worshiped at the expense of all else.

Peter’s point to those he was writing to then, and to us now, is that those who are not of the church…are not on that faith journey with Christ, look with suspicious interest at the church. Why would these people gather on a Sunday morning week after week? What do they get out of it? What does it mean? What draws them together? Is there emotional support for those who are hurting, and relational stability for those who are lonely?

A lot of questions! And the harmony of the body of believers communicates that this thing we call a journey with Christ is real, it is authentic, it isn’t some kind of put-on!

Since most of the lives of Christ-followers is spent separate from one another, doing our own things, going about our own business, lack of familiarity with one another limits the hold of harmony. Crossing paths for a few moments at a worship service makes us acquaintances, but detours around harmony.

Harmony in the church is like a surfer trying to stay upright on the board as the waves push him forward. Harmony is wonderful, and yet that next wave…that next crisis…had the potential to send things crashing down.

In a world that seems to love to fight, harmony seems like the uncle who often gets forgotten to be invited to the party. And yet, harmony is a sign of a church that gets it!