Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Building a baseball team like I would try to facilitate building a congregation

Stories about regarding how the American Civil War divided families between supporting the Union and the Confederacy.

Fast forward 150 or so years--will my family be split about whether it is wise for Ken Griffey, Jr. to return and play for the Seattle Mariners. I don't want Griffey back. My youngest brother wants him back. My Gram probably wants him back--she's into nostalgia. Not sure what my mother and father think--but I'm sure my father and I will talk about it soon. In building my favorite baseball for 2009 and beyond, I admire the Mariners' new General Manager Jack Zduriencik's plan as I see it. Building relationships, analyzing data, finding good people, and basing decisions not on former glories, but good fits for the organization--its context, strengths, and resources. In a very tight equation, Griffey might fit. There's probably better solutions.

As an interim pastor, I see congregations make many decisions based on their former glories. They have a hard time distinguishing their principles, theology and mission from cultural preferences and emotional connections of the past. I am not against cultural preferences and emotional connections--I have my own deep connections with the faith of my youth and what conditions help make it so. If I remain stuck in those connections, I will not be able to grow and flourish.

Mariners fans get stuck in the period from 1995-2001, when Griffey, A-Rod, Edgar, Jay Buhner, Norm Charlton and Randy Johnson roamed the Seattle Mariners baseball diamonds. They were blessed with favorable draft picks, a few good trades, and a manager who caught lightning in a bottle. Mainline Protestants tend to get stuck in 1950's, days when social, cultural and political conditions favored their growth and flourishing.

Nostalgia is fine and appropriate in individuals, congregations, baseball or a variety of other situations. The point is not to get stuck in that place. I believe that a fixation on Griffey is getting stuck in nostalgia. Jack Zduriencik will only make the move if it fits for the flourishing of the organization. That is why I like him.

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