Monday, November 8, 2010

Rearranging the Deck Chairs (Part 1)

Just over half way into the NFL season this year, and my a word...suck.

It's been highly disappointing to watch this team, loaded with talent, underachieve with gusto.  Watching the Cowboys play this year (aside from the one game I attended) has been worse than watching a train wreck.  I and I only say worse because you can't take your eyes off a train wreck.  Believe me, you can definitely take your eyes off the Cowboys and not miss a dang thing.

I've listened all year for the calls from fellow fans to fire Wade Philips the Cowboys' head coach.  I've heard calls to fire Jason Garrett, the Cowboys' offensive (double entendre anyone) coordinator.  I've seen folks say that certain players should be cut, benched, etc.  Yep, there has pretty much been an outcry about doing anything and everything to this team because of its performance, or lack there of this season.

However, in my opinion, all such maneuvers are simply rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship.  Let's move some of the furniture around to make things look better even though the darn ship is sinking.  Never mind the gigantic, gaping hole in the ship.  Let's make it at least look good.

Of course, yours truly believes the problem with the Cowboys goes straight to the top.  As aggressive a businessman and as good for the totality of the NFL as Jerry Jones has been, he has not done too well as a team general manager.  Don't know if he really and truly can look in the mirror and face that fact, but to many in the sports world, it's as obvious as the nose on your and my face.

If we really expect anything out of the Cowboys in the future, there's going to have to be more than a simple change in coaches or players.  There will have to be a radical shift in how business is done, beginning with the man at the top--Jerry Jones. 

Now, I am not suggesting that he fire himself or sell the team.  Far from it.  A good leader recognizes when it is time to shift gears and head in a different direction.  A good leader recognizes when a different kind of leadership style is appropriate.  A good leader knows when to pull back and push forward.  A good leader knows when to let others do their jobs and stick to his or her own.  Jerry Jones would do well to realize such a thing and begin looking in the mirror first and foremost when it comes to his team.  Anything else would simply be rearranging the deck chairs.

I know this isn't a sports blog, and thus far, I am writing about a sport's team and offering my "professional" opinion about such a thing.  Yet, there is a very real connection with what is going on in the church of which I am a part: the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

At times, I feel like I am on the Titanic.  For those who are not familiar, the ELCA since its inception has seen a steady downward trend in worship attendance and growth.  It has bought into a particular mind set and followed the course stubbornly--to its detriment.

As if the church wasn't having enough issues in losing members and resources, folks at the national assembly a year ago in August voted to add another hole to the ship's hull.  Not surprisingly, the ship started sinking faster.

And what has been the response?  Have we tried to take a good hard look at ourselves and the things we are doing and not doing?  Nope. 

Instead, many keep trying to defend our actions and act like nothing is wrong.  We keep pushing the same things over and over again, and we keep expecting different results.  But we keep sinking.

So, we will move the deck chairs around.  We'll tinker with the church structure a little bit here and there.  We may have to downsize the national and synodical offices.  But we won't tinker with the core. 

Hello!  The ship's still going down!

Then, we'll try to make things look good.  I kid you not.  At one recent Synod Assembly, they were showing charts of the continuing decline in worship attendance and membership.  The speaker looked at the charts and said something to the effect of, "Many folks would panic by seeing such a thing, but I see an opportunity.  I don't think there's anything to panic about."

Hmmm.  I wonder if they say such things in IBM or Wal-Mart in the board room when they see downward trends in profits and sales?  Not that the church is a business, but I'm just asking.

The ship's still sinking.

Fortunately, as a whole, the church is doing pretty well.  It's growing rapidly in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.  Millions of people are coming to believe in Christ all over the world.  The vast majority are flocking to churches that have a strong sense of identity, a strong sense of purpose, and are orthodox in their teaching and practice.

Not so in my beloved Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  Part of it is we have no shared, strong identity.  We have no strong sense of purpose despite what the website and those in positions of authority would say.  And we darn sure aren't orthodox in our belief and practice.  It's a recipe for disaster, one that we are already experiencing.

The ship is sinking.

I, for one, am tired of rearranging deck chairs.  I think it's time for my church to start examining the core principles and beliefs of what it means to be a Lutheran Christian.  I think it's time for my church to stop trying to be all things to all people and dig down into the roots of what made it special at its inception. 

What are those things? 

I'll delve into that next post.

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