The Times They Are a-Changin’
A man who is used to acting in one way never changes; he must come to ruin when the times, in changing, no longer are in harmony with his ways.
~The Prince, Machiavelli
There’s a scene in Moneyball, the 2011 movie based on the book about the 2003 Oakland A’s and their focus on analytics, which was at the front edge of what we see in today’s game. In this scene, one of the team’s scouts is having a conversation with the general manager Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) about how his analytical approach is going to lead to disaster.
The scout talks about how there are certain things about baseball that aren’t going to be revealed in the numbers and only baseball people can really see them. He describes an approach to baseball that is about intuition and going with the gut that many people still subscribe to today. During the conversation, Beane just throws up his hands and says, “Adapt or die.”
While some are slow to adopt the analytical approach to the game, most teams by now have some kind of analytics department that digs into the data in order to help make personnel and game decisions.
Analytics aren’t going to get it right every time. But, then again, neither does intuition. What teams need these days is an approach that has both working together. The teams that don’t? Well, they may shine through from time to time, but if you aren’t using the best tools available, you aren’t going to be successful in the long run.
This is true in nearly every aspect of life. We have to be willing to be adaptable if we want to continue to thrive in today’s world. Whether this is in sports or in our careers. The world is changing at a rapid pace, especially in the last 150 years. Not all new technology is immediately impactful, but some of it is, and our refusal to adapt can be our downfall.
In the church, we talk a lot about people saying, “We’ve never done it that way before,” as an excuse for why they shouldn’t try something new. Unfortunately, an unwillingness to try something new is almost always going to result in stagnation, and stagnation eventually results in decline.
Now, don’t get me wrong, growth is not the ultimate goal in the church. Growth is a result of a healthy and spiritually growing congregation, but it’s not the goal. There’s a difference.
When churches make numerical growth the ultimate goal, they do whatever they can to get people in the seats. This is when you find the concert atmosphere, over the top, promotional giveaways in the local church. It’s when the gimmicks take over, and the real work of the church gets pushed to the side. As you can tell, I’m not a fan.
What this ends up doing is attracting a bunch of people to the church for the entertainment value, not for the whole “following Jesus” part that is the primary goal of the church.
When we focus on creating healthy environments, we can grow mature disciples, who then reach people with the hope and love of the gospel. This is when we make a real difference in our communities. Getting the biggest crowd together looks good, but what good does it ultimately do? It’s a difficult balance we have to be able to work on.
We do have to be able to adapt. Yes, we have a timeless message, but how we share that message needs to be culturally appropriate, and our culture is constantly on the move. It is constantly changing, and we have to learn how to adapt or the times will pass us by.
This takes a lot of humility and a willingness to learn new methods, but when the alternative is to become obsolete, I think it’s pretty clear what direction we need to go.