Time and Patience: Why Your Congregation Can't Beat the System

Chicago Cubs 1908 I’m a Chicago Cubs fan. It has taken a lifetime of failure to get this miserable. In fact, in the case of the Cubs, it’s taken the lifetimes of my grandfather, my father, and me to get this miserable.

Two years ago, the Cubs hired some boy geniuses, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, with a reputation formed in the crucible of the struggles of the Boston Red Sox. The boy geniuses said that what the Cubs needed was a complete cultural overhaul—a fundamental shift away from hiring expensive free agents to a focus on dismantling the minor league farm system, and rebuilding it. That was the only way, they said, that the Cubs could be perennial contenders.

Epstein and Hoyer said from the outset that the process was going to take time and that it was going to be painful. Cubs fans, they said, should expect some losing years as they retooled a broken system.

And they were right. The Cubs have had the two worst seasons in their history. And it looks like next year doesn’t promise to be much better.

Two losing seasons already, and most likely a third to come, has many fans in Chicago yelling for somebody’s head. You’d think that fans of a team that hasn’t won a championship since before World War I would be able to scrounge up a little patience from somewhere. But many of them are angry.

“It’s taking too long. The geniuses must be doing something wrong if we can’t see the progress we were promised. Something better change quick or we’re going to have to think about going in a new direction.”

With all the writing I do about congregational transformation, I sometimes think I fail to emphasize the difficulty involved in reorienting a congregational (or worse, a denominational) culture. I suspect that I come off sounding sometimes as if there could be nothing easier than whipping a congregation in decline back into shape.


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