November 2, 2017

Okay, Let’s Try Again

I’m not a Houston Astros fan. Not at all. But, I realize how much this city is rallying around its championship-caliber baseball team. Watching this playoff run, I’ve seen many parallels to the City of Houston itself, and even one major lesson we in the church world can learn.

A recent sports blog wrote a great profile of this team and this city (I’m not linking to the profile, because the language is decidedly not family-friendly). The article highlights the fabled futility of many professional baseball teams, like the Red Sox, Cubs, and Indians. Stories are shared, movies are made, and identities are solidified around these loveable losers.

But you we don’t talk much about the historical struggles of the Astros. It’s not a part of the team’s identity.

Instead, this team’s identity - and this city’s identity - is in embracing failure and trying again.

It’s too hot to play baseball outside much of the summer, so the Astros build the world’s first domed stadium. Grass can’t grow inside domed stadiums, so the Astros developed turf. Then they have a couple good years, and then the wheels fall off and they have the worst record in baseball.

But all they say is “okay, let’s try this again.”

The Astros don’t have a “curse” (like, say, the Cubs or Red Sox, because they don’t care about curses.) They just wanted to tear down the fossilized ambition of their past and use the shards to build something even more ambitious. It’s what they do.

It’s what we do.

After Hurricane Harvey, a profile in The New York Times talks about Houston’s “try again” mentality. “Not long after a pair of New York real estate speculators founded this city on the banks of a torpid bayou in the 1830s, every home and every business flooded. Though settlers tried draining their humid, swampy, sweltering surroundings, the inundations came again and again, with 16 major floods in the city’s first century.”

Try again, try again, try again.

There’s no reason this city should exist. It’s hot and sticky, and water will occasionally shoot from a fire hose out of the Gulf of Mexico and flood the region. Why is this place here?

Because we always try again.

I could write for hours about why I love Houston. But I’m supposed to make some connection with the church. So, here it is: are we willing to give up on some things and try again?

Are we willing to look at changing demographics, changing attendance patterns, and changing lifestyles that mean the church of the 1940s (or even the 1990s) isn’t very effective today? Are we willing to say “okay, let’s try again”?

I’m not saying we abandon everything. There is a core to what the church is and does. But sometimes things don’t go as planned.

Are we willing to take a hard look at everything we do - all the liturgies, programs, and ministries - and make hard decisions? If people aren’t growing (like the grass in the Astrodome), we need to try something new.

Are we willing to try again?