Evil Empire and the Pastor

“In short, the record shows that there is only one Evil Empire in baseball and it is the New York Yankees,” wrote the judges. “Accordingly, we find that [the Yankees] have a protectable trademark right in the term . . . as used in connection with baseball.” – WSJ Article

The Royals are undefeated with eleven wins**. The Yankees have embraced the truth, suing to hold onto the title of baseball’s “Evil Empire” (that the title would require lawsuits is fitting). And for this moment all is right with the world.

Unfortunately this moment arrives during Spring Training. The season for dreams, where we dare to believe that the winter of suffering is finally over. Every year Spring turns to Summer. Where our dreams are put to the test and there our hopes wilt in the hot sun.

**As I wrote this blog the Royals were promptly defeated 12 to 2.

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Last night I was approached by a personnel committee member. They are gearing up to evaluate me this summer (Is it a good sign that they are already preparing?!) and he asked how to best evaluate a pastor. It was an interesting question. Carrying all the more weight since I might be judged by the answer. I rambled off a few thoughts. Choose the main duties of the pastor. Evaluate effectiveness on a sliding scale. I also thought we could look at the church’s overall health (chart growth, etc)…

But in the end I wondered if any of these things could get at the heart of what it means to be a good pastor? This is not baseball, where wins are all that matter. Even an “Evil Empire” can be successful in baseball. No matter how full or rich or popular, that is not the case with the church.

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While fitting, it is amazing the Yankees would sue to keep the title of “Evil Empire”. How did they come to the point of embracing their reputation? – not as good or smart, but evil??** Maybe it is the reality of a fading empire. The Yankees enter the season holding the line on their salary (no longer the highest in baseball – second to the Dodgers). The best free agents were signed by other teams, the Yanks were outbid for some of their own free agents. Their players are aging and many enter the season hurt (A-Rod, Teixeira, Granderson). It is legitimate – not my pipe dreams – to say the Royals will be better than the Yankees.

And in this reality, the Yankees are suing to keep symbols of the past.

**More amazing, how did the Yankees amass enough evidence to win in court? Not only did they embrace the title, but were able to convince a judge, “there is only one Evil Empire in baseball and that is the New York Yankees.”

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The church of America is in decline. And in this moment it is easy to confuse what is important. To sue (or fire) over the wrong things.** To base performance on numbers in the pews or plates. To judge on superficial qualities, as though it were a popularity contest.

In the end, it is question of following Christ. If we are meeting Christ every week this may not lead to numbers or dollars. It may not lead to popularity – since the call of Christ is intense. But how do we judge this reality?

Success in the church is life change. Following Christ means we are no longer following our own selfishness. So to review me or to review the church, the first question is asked of ourselves, “Has my life, have my own actions, changed?” and “Does this change look more like Christ?”

When you answer this questions you already know my review.

**Stepping back, there is nothing wrong with looking at all angles for a staff review. While following Christ is the goal of the church and life change is the sign of following – each facet of the job can reveal areas of improvement. Plus the review becomes good moments to ponder all that I am doing. To see how I am connecting with the community (or not connecting). More importantly to ask the question of every area of my work, “I am connecting people to Christ?”

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