What Christians & The Church Can Learn From The Cubs Rebuilding Process
With the start of the baseball season around the corner, I was recently reminded of the Cubs great run last year to win the World Series. I actually think there are some really important lessons Christians and the church can learn from how the Chicago Cubs were built and managed.
First let me say though, that building a church should never be the goal of a minister. This isn’t a post about the 5 to 10 steps of building a great church. Jesus builds the church. One of the most important things my Bible College taught me was that you don’t use people to build a ministry. You use ministry to build people. So this is about how to go about building people up in their relationship with God.
The manager of the Cubs Joe Maddon is known for having a very people oriented, positive approach. So that is one thing the church can be reminded of from the Cubs right off the bat. Negativity and trying to motivate by guilt and fear is not an acceptable approach in my opinion. Also, being people oriented is the opposite of being results oriented. You would think in a profession like sports where it’s all about results and winning, that a results oriented approach is the only logical approach. Joe Maddon understands that he can get the most out of his players when he treats them like actual human beings and not statistics.
When you treat people in your church based on how much they give, how much they serve, etc., you are teaching them to know themselves in the flesh based on what they do, what they have and what is happening to them as opposed to having their identity in Christ. When you see people like God does it allows you to just keep loving them regardless of what they are doing. When you are committed to this, you will see that it eventually brings out the best in them. It’s like when I adopted my dog almost 10 years ago now. He must have been beaten or something by his previous owner because he had a tendency to snap at people whenever they tried to get close to him. But as my girlfriend at the time and I just kept loving on him regardless of his actions, he started to be able to live inside this perception of himself being loved, instead of believing he had to defend himself all the time.
When I look back at the 2016 Cubs and how fast they were able to make the turnaround they did, I was quite amazed. For those who don’t know, the Cubs lost over 100 games just five years ago in 2011. That was the first year that new General Manager Theo Epstein took over. Since I am a big sports fan, and a lover of fantasy sports, I pay attention to how General Managers manage their teams and the moves they make. I would have to say Theo Epstein is one of the best, if not the best I have ever seen. It is well documented how he almost completely turned the Cubs entire roster over since he started. He did this through a number of different ways like the draft, trades and free agent signings. This is not the first time he has done this either. He also brought the Boston Red Sox two championships, who had an extremely long championship drought before that as well.
So how does this relate to the church you might ask? Well the strategy Theo used to build this team is the main thing. See most General Managers don’t have the patience, courage or time to do a complete rebuild of their roster like Theo did of the Cubs. What happens a lot of times is that teams never really go into full rebuilding mode and bottom out. As a result they stay right around the mediocre level. Never becoming so bad that they are one of the worst teams in the league, but also never bringing the pieces together necessary to build a championship caliber team.
This is kind of where I see the church in its current state. What I mean by this, is how we teach people to relate to God and live their Christian lives. Similar to how most General Managers build their teams, I believe most pastors and ministers nowadays don’t stress enough how important it is to completely bottom out in their trust in themselves so that they can be completely dependent on God. So I’m not saying that churches need to rebuild by getting all new people. No. I’m saying we need to rebuild by evaluating how it is that we are going about the process of building people up.
Admittedly, this is a tough thing for most people and one that most don’t want to hear. The pressure on these ministers comes from people wanting them to preach about the 5 steps they can work to get what they want from God (not about how God has already given them all things that pertain to life and godliness 2 Peter 1:3). The pressure is there from people lusting for life who want to build a big church, have lots of money, etc. They think those things will justify them (not that they have been justified in the spirit already). And not that there is anything wrong with those things per se, it’s just God doesn’t want those things to have us.
Want to know why the church is in the state it’s in? Because the process we go about for building people up needs to be reevaluated in most churches. We have one foot in the love of God and one foot in the wrath of God. We tell people about grace to get them to come but them hit them with law when we want them to start acting better and giving more, etc. Know what that results in? People being confused about how God really is. Know what that leads to? People ultimately saying no to God. Want to know why? Because a confused mind always says no.
If people aren’t sure about what they are getting into, they will be reluctant to get into it, if at all. That’s why we see people trust in God for salvation, but not want anything to do with the church. That’s why we see people come to church, but not have a real relationship with Him. They are not interested in getting to know the God they are hearing about. What a shame. It’s why it’s so important to always be preaching and hearing a message of pure grace and love.
The Remedy – Taking the Axe to the Root
So what ends up happening in the typical Christian rebuilding process is that the focus never really gets to the root of the problem. What I mean by this is that we are usually trying to get people to act right and modify their behavior, rather than dealing with the beliefs that lead to those actions. If the church is ever going to have members who have the fruit of the spirit manifesting in them, they will have to be taught how to walk after the spirit, not the flesh. If the focus is on the flesh and our outwardly actions, we will always be walking after the flesh. Even if you don’t desire to do so, if that is where the focus is, that is what will happen.
The fruit of the spirit doesn’t come from people doing it in their own will power. The fruit of the spirit speaks to a life that one experiences as they are living their life with God inside the persuasion that He sees and treats them the same as He does Jesus. Walking in the spirit is not God barking orders at you and you following them. The fruit of the spirit happens to you, it’s not something you do.
Once somebody is free from the belief unto the flesh, or belief in their own will power, then God can come in and start doing His thing. The only thing that hinders God from being able to work in our lives is us not giving Him room to work. It’s like the clenched fist example…if we have our fists clenched trying to do things in our own might, it’s not that God doesn’t want to work in our lives, it’s just that we aren’t allowing Him to flow in our lives. We have free will, so God won’t force Himself upon us. However, if we position ourselves to allow our hearts to be persuaded by God, He will come in and change our beliefs, which will then lead to the actions and the fruit. Just like Theo did with the Cubs, we need to go into full rebuilding mode. We can’t have one foot in and one foot out. We have to allow God to completely turn our thoughts over from belief in ourselves to belief in Him.
The Sweet Fruit of Patience
The thing about going into complete rebuilding mode is that just like the Cubs, we may have to go through some tough years in the beginning. This is the thing that most people either want nothing to do with or are completely ignorant of. See the Christian life is completely contrary to the way of the world. The world’s religion is hard work. They believe and trust in their hard work. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with working hard and desiring to be successful. We just have to be very careful that this is not where our trust is. It always has to be solely on God. Otherwise the way of the world will infiltrate the church and spread like the little leaven in the bread that Paul referred to in Galatians 5.
This is where patience comes in, which is a fruit of the spirit as a reminder. The key to having patience is having a confident expectation of the life that God has promised to you and trusting in Him to bring it forth. So your eyes get off of all the things you think you lack or need and onto the One who is faithful to bring them about. Going back to the Cubs analogy, the main reason the Cubs were able to suffer through those tough first couple years is because of the confidence they had in Theo and his track record. I wrote a post about God’s Track Record here if you’d like to learn more about His track record. It will help you to be able to trust Him.
So being able to deal with adversity and continuing to trust in God are very important qualities in a leader. It is known that Epstein looks for how players deal with adversity during his scouting process. You can tell a lot about somebody by how they deal with adversity. In the Christian context, a sign of maturity is being able to trust God during adversity. If you see them start going back to preaching about the things we need to be doing like more praying, reading the Bible, giving, etc. then their trust is still not completely in God. They say the best thing for babies is when they get on a routine. So they know when they will be fed, when they will go to bed, etc. This way their minds aren’t always thinking about when they will get food or rest. This is a picture of how God wants us to be with Him. If we find ourselves in a position where we are in need of something, He doesn’t want us to get busy thinking about how we can fix the problem. He just wants us to trust in Him and go to Him about it.
I hope this helps us see the importance of the rebuilding process, especially the first few years. I think we tend to place unrealistic expectations on new believers. We desire to see fruit in them before they are ready and it leads to us making false judgments about them. Then we start blaming the people for all the problems in the church. We start to think well if we just didn’t have a bunch of lazy and stupid people in the church, then our church would be good.
We have to start taking some responsibility for the message we are preaching to people. It’s the message of the Gospel that has the power to transform people from the inside out. This is what we always need to keep hearing about. Otherwise the belief unto the flesh will creep in and we will never see the church functioning as it’s supposed to be. You may see some Christians start off well this way, but it will eventually lead to burnout. That’s why the purpose of the law was to drive us to the end of ourselves. Belief unto the flesh and life born from our own willpower and self effort is not a viable long term strategy. We need to have the trust and confidence in God to go about the rebuilding process the right way. I’ll leave you with a few scripture references and a quote from Joe Maddon below. Thanks for stopping by. Blessings.
– Mortifying Your Members – “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth…” Col. 3:4-5. Greg Henry has an awesome message on Mortifying Your Members here. You mortify your members by not enlisting them for a service they cannot perform and trusting God.
– Taking the Axe to the Root – “And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet.” Mark 11:13 KJV. “And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.” Mark 11:20-22 KJV. This fig tree represented a system of belief unto the flesh. Jesus judged against this system as a way unto life. This is what the scripture that says God is not mocked is talking about I believe. There is a way that God has designed things to be and He is not going to agree with us telling Him it should be another way. This belief system (belief in your own strength) doesn’t produce the fruit He intended for us to have.
– Waiting on the Lord – “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Is. 40:31 KJV. The word wait there means to intertwine yourself with Him. It doesn’t necessarily speak to waiting like a waiter does. This again is the root that produces the fruit.
– Christ Becoming of No Effect – “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” Gal. 5:4 KJV
– Creating An Ishmael – “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.” Gen. 16:1-5 NIV. “The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. 9 But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, 10 and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”11 The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son.12 But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring[a] will be reckoned.” Gen. 21:8-12 NIV.
Quote From Cubs Manager Joe Maddon
Q: How do you explain what comes across as a fearlessness in your team? One of confidence, they don’t have the experience, but it does comes off as fearlessness.”
A: “I really believe the process is fearless. If you’re really focusing on outcome and just winning, then you can become fearful. But if you just focus on the process, the process is fearless… I’m telling you, man, from the beginning of Spring Training, that’s all I talk about. I don’t want to play any different game when it gets to October than we played in Spring Training, in April… You play the same game, and if you prepare that way and don’t apply more weight to any particular moment, chances are when you get to a more weighted moment from the outside, you can play your game.” ~ Joe Maddon