Can Christian Leaders Learn Anything From Bazball?
Backing risk taking
Yesterday we looked at how Bazball has taken off because of a united leadership and a clear message. My third observation is that the new cricket leadership has backed risk taking. This is something that we are often averse to in the Church of England.
I once was asked to give a talk on ‘Word and Spirit’ in a conference (it was the only time I have had three bishops in my audience!) and in preparation I asked a friend about what differences he saw between conservative and charismatic Christians. Amongst other things he said - conservatives talk a lot about the sovereignty of God but charismatics put it into practice - they are happier to take risks that might not come off, in the knowledge that God is in control and we are safely in his hands.
The Brendon-Ben duo have insisted that they will have a go at any run chase even at the risk of failure. What a turn around from the dawdling approach against the Kiwis only a year ago - where we dithered and procrastinated until giving up and going for a bore draw! This is not to advocate needless risks in church life especially if you can’t bring people along with you - but the ‘He who dares wins’ might have been have been a motto of the early disciples of Jesus - as they risked life, limb and reputation to spread the good news of the Kingdom of God everywhere.
Creating an atmosphere of fun
Fourthly, this new leadership has put a smile back on the players faces and also on the supporters. Apparently, settling for life in the foothills, and trundling along in a rut doesn’t excite players but enjoying the moment (and not constantly planning for the next Ashes series) leads to improved results. Of course early successes help enormously and it will be interesting to see what might happen when things go all wrong (such as with the ODI team at the moment).
I have wondered how we might look up at God more, not be bowed down by difficult situations (and we have all had them over the last couple of years, haven’t we?) and enjoy the amazingly privileged life that God has granted us. Jesus came to give us life to the full - am I and my family and leadership team modelling that? I’m not sure Paul was a wise cracking comedian but he knew how to throw a praise party on occasions - as the prisoners in the Philippian jail could testify to.
Fifthly, celebrating successes together. It is encouraging seeing how all the team celebrates each other’s successes. There doesn’t appear to be any jealousy of each other. Root’s 10,000 runs is celebrated, Bairstow’s four amazing centuries in five innings is praised hugely, as has been Leech’s ten-for and newcomers like Potts and Overton assimilated and applauded when they contribute to the team. Ben Stokes doesn’t mind being outhit by Bairstow our Root being outclassed as captain by his successor (and hasn’t Joe played a John the Baptist role to Ben Stokes messiah status - amazingly well?)
I recently received some wise advice in my ministerial development review. Being someone who would like to change the world yesterday, I was encouraged to aim for small bite size mission objectives that could be achieved and celebrated before getting on with the next one (they could all fit together to achieve the bigger goals - say planting or starting a new congregation within five years). We can celebrate setting up a new CAP office and debt centre or redoing the church notice boards or despite only having one person come along to an evangelistic course seeing them get saved. Parties in heaven can be echoed on earth.
Giving people chances beyond what you’d expect
There are several other things from the dramatic change in cricket test team culture that have led me to reflect on my ministry as I have done my exegesis of the cricket pages but I’d just like to finish with one final thought. With the new leadership, they have been giving people chances beyond what you’d expect.
Bairstow is an obvious one - when everyone was criticising him for three one digit scores at the beginning of the New Zealand series as he appeared to carry on in IPL T20 mode - he was backed to continue in the same way in line with the bazball vision and the rest is history - one of the great streaks of dominance of bat over ball has followed. Lees looked slower opening than an evangelical lighting altar candles but has been persevered with and has surprised everyone by been transformed into an attaching opener. Even Zac Crawley, who I normally end up shouting at when I see him on Today at the Test, is beginning to score a few runs.
It reminds us of God’s loving patience towards us despite all the times we make mistakes, taking our eye off the ball, wafting outside off stump and hearing the dreadful rattle of timbers. Even when things seemingly go terribly wrong - the dream team of Paul and Barnabas was split by a disagreement about John Mark - God is the king of second chances. Mark ended up being reconciled to Paul, regarded as a son by Peter and wrote the second gospel. We mess up, or others do in our congregation, but God can restore us all and use our lives for his glory.
Well, I have loved the beginning of our summer test matches and am excited to see how things will go against the South Africans. I hope that a few ideas that the new test leadership has sparked in me might help our local church be able to make a similar impact in our parish, through God’s grace and for his glory.