Wednesday, August 1, 2012

When Your Church Flounders

Before July hit I had a little bit of hope that the Kansas City Royals could make some sort of playoff run.  I did not realistically expect them to make the playoffs but I thought they could at least make it interesting.  At one point they were only 5 games back from first place.  And this after a horrendous 12 game home losing streak. 

Then July happened.

In July the club won a paltry 26% of their games.  They closed out July a hearty 13.5 games out of first place and sitting in dead last looking up at even the lowly Twins. 

On Monday long time Royals reporter, Bob Dutton, asked Yost about his approach during the floundering month of July.  Yost responded by saying that they do not change a thing. 

“You don’t do crazy stuff that you wouldn’t do if you were winning ballgames. You try to stay as even-keeled as you can. You stay positive. You keep working. We don’t change anything.”

What’s a church to do?

The approach of Ned Yost got me to thinking about what a church ought to do when it finds itself in a season of decline.  When the numbers aren’t growing (or even going backwards) and the giving plummets and the churches enthusiasm seems to be about as lively as our rose bush in this Southern Indiana drought, what should the church do in response?

  • Do you take the Ned Yost approach and simply keep doing what you are doing?  (This of course is assuming that “what you are doing” is faithfully plodding in preaching and teaching the Scriptures). 
  • Or do you listen to the pithy statement, “If you do what you’ve always done you’ll get what you’ve always got”? 

Part of me wants to scream at Ned Yost and say, “Seriously, keep playing Yuniesky Betancourt?  Seriously?!  Keep refusing to bring up Wil Meyers?  Are you insane!?  Sacrifice bunt with Alcides Escobar when he’s on fire and the guy following him couldn’t hit a beachball?  No, Ned don’t do what you’ve always been doing. 

And I guess in as much as the church is really making bonehead decisions it might be wise to assess and say are we doing things like bunting with our hottest hitter?  Are there things that are not vital to the gospel that we are doing or are not doing that ought to change?  If so, and you take a Ned Yost approach then you might be mistaken. 

But then again there is a good amount of wisdom in what Yost is saying.  If you have talent and you have young players that are growing into the game and you are for the most part playing baseball the way it is supposed to be played then you don’t switch things up and start doing weird things just to get different results. 

The wisdom here is that if you do something really crazy—like getting all the guys to wear their athletic supporters on the outside of the uniforms—and then they have success they’ll start attributing it to the crazies instead of what really got the wins.  And the same thing applies to churches.  If we switch things up and go all out and make church like nothing “they” have ever seen before then we’ll be in danger of attributing our growth to our weirdness. 

Such growth won’t sustain itself.  Eventually the crazy athletic supporters on the outside of the uniform won’t be enough and something else will need to take its place.  Before long you’re that crazy church that replaced the Cross on their steeple with a giant pickle just to make people ask questions.  And then it’s not about the gospel anymore. 

So, what do you think?  What should a church do when it experiences floundering?  Is there wisdom to the Ned Yost approach?

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