What Brad Pitt In Moneyball Can Teach the Church



Oakland As vs MetsCan 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 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 )

Photo Credit: Declan McAleese via Flickr (CC-By-NC-ND 2.0)