The big news round here this weekend is the appointment of Rafa Benitez as manager of Newcastle United, the troubled football club.
Rafa has won most of the major club competitions including the Champions’ League in 2005, and started this year as manager of Real Madrid.
How have Newcastle United been doing? Recently they have hit hard times and have had 4 managers in the last 15 months. The most recent incumbent, former England manager Steve McClaren had presided over a terrible run of form and has been fired. Taking on Rafa was a bold (and expensive) move, but it was clear that the present structure was not working; it was time for something new.
So let’s ask a different question: how’s the Church been doing?
If the Mainstream Church in England was a football team, it would be doing even worse than Newcastle United. It would have suffered serial relegations over the last 50 years. There would be fans outside demonstrating, chanting “Sack the Board”. It would be clear that the present structure was not working; it would be time for something new.
So is the church looking for a new direction?
Apparently, Church Contemporary Music is on the way out. Now I don’t see any evidence for this, but if it is true, then maybe we should try Rap, or Bluegrass or Electronic? If it’s not working, then surely the answer is to go for something new?
Yet bizarrely, in blog after blog after blog I read that the answer for the church is to go back to singing the hymns of the Eighteenth Century.
In all the heartache and desire for change at Newcastle, nobody has suggested going back to the managers who have failed in the past. In fact, of the 12 different people who have managed Newcastle over the last 10 years only one was a returnee, Kevin Keegan, and that ended in tears.
So why do people see the answer to church decline as being a return to that which we know has failed?
My experience of working in the mainstream church, is that it felt as if I was pushing out from inside a rubber balloon. As long as I kept pushing, things would change, but as soon as I stopped, it would all snap back to what it was. There was an inherent tendency in the system to return to singing the old songs.
This is the football equivalent of the return of John Carver – which nobody wants.
What do you think?
PS My tip is that Sunderland will stay up, and Newcastle will join the unable to score Norwich City and the dismal Aston Villa in the Championship next year.