All baseball fans tend to love, or hate, the New York Yankees. When they win some fans are filled with joy. Others, like me, relish the moment. I became a real fan, at age eight, in 1957. That was the year the Milwaukee Braves beat the New York Yankees in seven games in the World Series. I became a real fan of the late Eddie Matthews and Warren Spahn, and the legendary Hank Aaron, who hit all those home runs without steroids!
Last night I relished the recent failure of the hated Yankees (who lost in the first round of the playoffs this year) while I was on my way to see my hometown Chicago White Sox play the Los Angeles Angels in Game One of the ALCS series on Chicago’s south side. What a thrill the whole evening was, with great atmosphere and true fun.
For those who don’t know this fact, the Yankees have, by far and away, the largest payroll in baseball. They pay in excess of 200 million dollars for twenty-five players to perform for 162 games. One player, Alex Rodriguez, makes over 25 million dollars a year. Besides the fact that this is insane it raises an important question that goes well beyond the game of baseball: "Can money buy success?" In the case of the Yankees it has not bought ultimate success for the past five seasons. In fact, money has once again turned the Yankees into a group of rich players who do not seem to play well as a team. And a great manager, Joe Torre, might become the next casualty of their failure to perform up to expectations.
This is my point. In some areas of life spending more money does result in greater and greater success. But in baseball it does not work that way. Baseball is much like ordinary life and, in some ways, this might have lessons for the church. We would do well to realize that spending more and more money, building bigger and bigger churches, and marketing ourselves more professionally in every way possible, does not translate into success. As in baseball you can get more out of less if you major on things like commitment, sacrifice, team work and unity.
I don’t want to rag on the megachurches, since they do good in many places. But the cult of personality, and the major budgets that are behind these operations, does not always result in the benefits promised. I just wish one or two megachurch leaders would admit this but I am not holding my breath.
Meanwhile, the White Sox have work to do. The Angels are good. They beat us 3-2 last evening. Paul Byrd, a fine Christian man, pitched a gem for LA. I am disappointed but our "small ball" team still has some fight in it. We shall see. Chicagoans have a defeatest complex about their teams but these Sox might be for real. Hope springs eternal for the Second City.