Lessons for the Church from Brad Pitt and Moneyball (part 1)

moneyball pic

Can the church learn anything from baseball?  The recent movie, “Moneyball”, gives us a few points to ponder.

The question in this movie is “how to win ballgames” with a very limited payroll budget.

Moneyball depicts how the Oakland A’s answered that question in 2001.  They were a struggling team, with a small budget, in need of some good players.

Oakland’s manager, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), was in a dilemma on how to get quality players in order to win games.  How could he afford any of the marquee players with the smallest salary budget in all of baseball? During a meeting to talk trading players, he runs into Peter Brand (Jonah Hill).  Brand is a baseball statistic geek who Beane hires to help him build the team.

The whole premise of the movie is about determining the right statistics to use in measuring a player’s ability to help the team win games.  Instead of RBI’s they use OBP (on base percentage).  It doesn’t matter if a player gets on base with a hit, a walk, or is hit by a pitch.  It’s getting on base that counts.  No runs are scored unless someone gets on base first.

Other uncommon statistics are also elevated in their importance to player selection. Brand shows his manager how to find low cost players who have great statistics. Thus, the A’s acquire an unlikely crop of new players passed over by the rest of baseball. Some border on being misfits, but they have the right stats to win games.

So what does this have to do with the church?

Instead of “winning games”, our question as a church is, “how are we winning at making disciples”?  Are we making progress in the great commission?  And is what we are measuring helping us answer this question?

Most church’s Sunday bulletins have a little blurb about last week’s attendance and offering (including ours).  Sunday school or small group attendance may also make it in there. While I have no problem measuring those things (being a former accountant), do these stats really tell us anything?  On a small level they do.  Certainly we would rather have “some” people attend worship, small groups, and Wednesday activities than “no” people.  And it does take cash to pay the electric bill, buy curriculum, and provide salaries. And we need to know how many people attended in order to manage our building, rooms and ministries.

But to really measure how we are doing “making disciples”, these stats tell us very little.

Wouldn’t it be helpful to have a summary every Monday of how well our local church did last week in the “disciple-making” category?  Stats that included sharing the Gospel as well as growing in the Christian life?

Here are some stats I would love to see each Monday morning; and admittedly they are heavily weighted in the ‘evangelism’ area:

1. Friends:

  • How many new friends did our church members make last week?
  • How many members spent one hour with an unbelieving friend or neighbor (meal, coffee, playing games, etc.)

2. Gospel “Attempts”:

  • How many times did our members share the “basics” of the Gospel with someone?
  • How many of our members had a 30-minute Bible study with an unbelieving friend?

3. Growth and Community

  • Had a 30 minute Bible study with a believing friend (as a mentor or being mentored)
  • Participated in a church small group (we call ours Gospel Communities)
  • Attended one of our worship services.

4. Serving

  • Served 1 hour in a church-based ministry.
  • Served 1 hour in our community.

Tomorrow I’ll share why I feel these are some of the right statistics to measure; and the basis behind these stats being important.

I’m interested in your input. What stats do you feel would help measure a church’s progress in “making” disciples?

(ps…for baseball fans – check out the trailer for Moneyball here )


Lessons for the Church from Brad Pitt and Moneyball (part 1) — 61 Comments

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  57. I do believe that there are things accomplished for the kingdom that aren’t readily measurable in concrete numbers. In fact, many Christians live out their Christian lives before the world, being the salt of the earth, sharing a consistent daily witness, without ever being heard of or noticed. I think that’s ok, in fact, maybe it’s the way God intended. God knows how faithful I’ve been and that’s all that matters. I heard someone say years ago, “Don’t say that God isn’t doing anything unless you’re sure that God isn’t doing anything.” God is at work all the time. We just aren’t always aware. Am I off the subject on this? Thanks for your thoughts and I hope I’ve made a little sense. God bless, Shawn!

  58. Got here from Caff Thoughts. Interesting to see that you once lived in the KC area. I live downtown in the River Market.

    My thinking is that faith is quite a bit different than baseball. Especially when you consider than we all work directly for the owner. 🙂

    • Hi Bob, good to hear from a KC person! Baseball is only used for an illustration that sometimes we don’t measure the “right” things in trying to accomplish a goal. Do you have some ideas of what could be measured in the church to determine if we are doing the right activities to make disciples? (Shane from Caff thoughts is a friend and also a part of our church).

      • Thanks for asking Shawn! I am always comfortable with the Jesus model of disciple making where the leader invests their life into a limited number of folks. Anything else looks more like what I learned in the corporate world where the product overshadowed the person. But I do understand that church can often resemble a business where shareholders want Moneyball type of measurable stats. I think that is okay. I am just not comfortable with it.

        Hope you are having a great week.

        Blessings, Bob

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