Friday, August 10, 2012
Chaplain Mike refers to one of Driscoll's lessons from baseball at Internet Monk, the one about cutting overpaid vets
This week Chaplain Mike over at Internet Monk posted an entry called "Why `Leaders' Are Not the Church's Greatest Need". After a significant wind-up the pitch, so to speak, was observing how Mark Driscoll's lessons from baseball about leadership came off as very corporate in its mentality. Chaplain Mike could have emphasized that competitive athletics in the professional and collegiate sphere have become so competitive regarding money and prestige that in some cases scandals have arisen because valuing the protection of brands and institutions over people has led to some legal situations. I'm not going to rehearse all of that beyond allusions.
Now the thing about the specific lesson Chaplain Mike chose is that the title suggests corporate speak and sports speak all at once. Cut underperforming, overpaid veterans: leadership lessons from baseball is dramatically announced with just the word "cut" and then a giant scroll-down gap before you reach the rest of the title. In page layout terms this is the show and tell headline.
The entry is quote short:
Every team has older veterans whom the fans love but who can no longer catch or hit a ball. The General Manager has a tough call to make. Do they cut them and let new talent take the field, even though they will lose money and their fans will be unhappy, or do they let them take the field, thereby taking away an opportunity from another player and causing the team to lose? If there were a solely Christian MLB team run by a church, it would have highly paid, broken old veterans and lose every game; but, it would have a small and devoted fan base, along with a well developed theology of suffering to make it all seem spiritual. Teams, organizations, and churches have to cut the underperforming, overpaid veterans who are hurting the team. Even if they remain leaders, they have to be given another position without a salary and go find another job to pay the bills. The Mariners fielded this team a few years back and although the fans loved the broken-down, overpaid old lineup, the team could not have won a wiffle ball tournament at a retirement home. The old GM lost his job and the new GM fired every one of them and started over.
There's an axiom if there ever was one, cut under-performing, overpaid veterans. How does this get defined? It's one thing to say that every team has older veterans whom the fans love but who can no longer catch or hit a ball. But, really, what does this even mean?
Now let's camp out briefly on the indefinite plural pronoun here. "They" has a tough call to make. I'm not aware of any General Manager who is more than one sentient personality in the real world. Now in the land of comics I totally get how Two-Face or the Ventriloquist could be "General Manager" while having two distinct personalities but I would not generally recommend Batman villains with split personality/dissociative disorders as ideal pastoral candidates. They aren't real people anyway.
The other obvious point to draw out from Driscoll's use of "they" is that "they" will never be women if the church is modeled after the kind of leadership Driscoll says churches should be run by. So there are potentially two levels of ambiguity where clarity would be better.
Now I'm aware that some people would say that we need to read these words of Driscoll in the spirit in which they were meant. That's not hard to do but that's also the essential problem. Driscoll wrote those words in 2010 and there's no intimation he has any thought that one day the overpaid, under-performing veteran who doesn't know how to catch or hit a ball is going to be him one day. Driscoll's words suggest a pragmatism that, were he one day to be on the receiving end of it, might not feel so pleasant.
Let's consider momentarily how one might define veterans in a religious institution as young as Mars Hill for a moment and consider who would qualify as a veteran? What defines being a veteran in a church like Mars Hill? For such a young church a veteran would be hard to find, unless we automatically defined founding elders as veterans by now. Thing is, the other two co-founding elders of Mars Hill are nowhere to be seen or heard of at Mars Hill now. "Veteran" may be a relative, even indefinite term. The lesson from baseball has the appearance of wisdom but it says more, ultimately, about Driscoll's interest in baseball to me than it can say anything about church leadership. The lesson might be pregnant with meaning and birth babies of insight for someone else, though.