Archive for February 8, 2008

Playing to Win

Posted: February 8, 2008 in Church, Leadership, Uncategorized, vision

Playing to win vs. playing not to lose. 

I love watching games where everyone involved, from the coaches to the players, are playing the game TO WINI hate watching games where everyone, from the coaches to the players, are playing the game trying NOT to LOSE.  There is a HUGE difference between these two philosophies.  One is fun to watch, the other is…not.

Playing to win is proactive, aggressive, adventurous, exciting, full of risk, full of potential gain…at times…HUGE gains(but also at times loss…HUGE loss). 

On the flip side, playing not to lose is tentative.  It is cautionary, it is slow, it is defensive, it is reactionary, it is passive, it lacks excitement.  The potential for something big…something large…something massive isn’t present because the risk involved to have such is lacking. 

Churches, like sports teams, have to decide whether they are playing to win, or playing not to lose.  And the way this normally works out for churches is a leadership philosophy that either:  a) has a vision and mission that involves winning the world for Jesus and in so doing takes great risks, becomes proactive, finds adventure, gets out of a comfort zone, is willing to put everything on the line…to make clear sacrifices…to win – to see people find Jesus.  OR in contrast the church leadership philosophy that: b) has no other vision than to keep everyone in the church happy and hope they don’t leave.  They are playing not to lose…membership numbers, tithes & offerings, the look and feel of a bygone day, or whatever.  

The end goal of church leadership who is trying not to lose whether anyone likes it or not becomes appeasement of its members.  It has to because they are playing NOT TO LOSE.  And it doesn’t take long before members of a church begin to demand appeasement…or else…”we’ll go somewhere else”; or “we’ll stop giving”; or “we won’t participate”; or “we will do everything we can in our network of relationships to put a stop to…[you can fill in the blank]”.  So, in an effort to NOT LOSE – the leaders become passive, tentative, unwilling to make risks, enter into the unknown, encourage adventure and alongside it – excitement and grand possibilities.  It is a boring place to be.  And the irony is you lose even though you are trying hard not to.  Seriously, how in the world can you possibly appease every person’s preference for any length of time?  You can’t!  And people end up leaving anyhow.  But leaders are still committed to playing with a philosophy of NOT TO LOSE mentality. 

Every leadership must chose who they are going to lose.  Will it be the larger world that Jesus was sent to bring life; or will it be to those members who believe the purpose of church leadership is to make sure they are happy and satisfied?  And if the leaders choose the world, you can bet that you will lose those church members who were hoping you would focus on them.  Don’t worry…they will find another church (and will most likely end up leaving that church to find another one after that).  

Often, some will ask the question, “Why can’t you have in the same church both philosophies?  Why can’t you have some who lead to win the world and others who try to keep church members happy?”  Well…often times you will find some attempting to do both.  In fact, you see it all the time.  Take for example a church that has two worship services…one contemporary and one traditional.  [quick qualification:  Now – if you have both because it is missional and winning the world…hallelujah!!  But if you are doing it to appease church members in an attempt to not lose any…I wonder how that it going?  (Motive and intent is everything…not traditional and/or contemporary)] Are there tensions?  Do you hear those comments, “That service gets more attention and resources than ours.”  “I remember when we just had one service and it looked like [fill in the blank]!”  Then, as one grows and another slowly dies off (often times with great protest from those who are trying to keep it alive) it ends with hurt feelings and anger. 

The divergence of these two leadership philosopies is especially dangerous when it divides the leadership itself.  Often you will see that the minister wants to play to win but works alongside a board of elders who is playing not to lose.  Or a group of elders who want to play to win and another group that wants to play not to lose.  And then when there is perpetual conflict, stress and tension – what did you expect? 

The reason why a church, in my humble opinion 🙂, cannot house both philosophies is because as the church begins to reach out to the world (play to win), their is always a counter-reaction from those who are frightened.  The increasing tension that continually exists ends up wasting everything…not only the ability to reach the world – but also the ability to keep anyone happy.  Thus, it becomes like that broken old wineskin that couldn’t handle the dynamic fermenting nature of wine (the Kingdom of God).  EVERYTHING IS WASTED…AND THE WINESKIN BROKE TOO!  So, each church, and each leadership must decide.  If the leadership collectively decides to play NOT TO LOSE…peace on that house (even if it is BORING).  And if the collective leadership decides to play TO WIN…how exciting!!  BUT – if the collective leadership is divided on this philosophy…run!!!

Might I suggest you to play to win.  I think it is the only thing worth giving your life for.  Just ask Jesus.  Get in the Game!

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