Wrestlemania 34 and the Church

As of writing this, Wrestlemania is about a week away, followed by the much-anticipated Andre the Giant documentary on April 10. And I’m legitimately excited.
AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura?
Charlotte vs. Asuka?
OH! Daniel Bryan cleared to wrestle again!?!?

Yes. I still watching wrestling.
Yes. I know it’s “fake.” But really, it’s not fake. It’s scripted. And you can’t tell me it’s fake if you watch anything that’s not live sports.
Oh, and the obligatory:

But here’s what I’m not looking forward to: the whole thing is projected to be about 7 hours long. 7 hours. (Which is including the pre-show…)
One day, I’d love to go to Wrestlemania with my son. But not for 7 hours.

And it’s because the card is stacked.
They have a great load of talent on their roster and they feel the need to make sure everyone gets some ring time for their Super Bowl.
So they try to cram everything and everyone in. There’s a quite a few triple-threat matches. And there are two battle royals — one women’s and one men’s. (Battle Royal is when a handful of wrestlers, probably 10, are in the ring at the same time and you get eliminated when you’re thrown over the top rope and the last person remaining is the winner). Both Battle Royals are scheduled for the kickoff show, which is disappointing, particularly the women’s.

One of the best told storylines in the past few months have been the deteriorating friendship between BFF’s Sasha Banks and Bayley (just stick with me for a moment). It’s been teased for months that Sasha was going to turn heel (the ‘bad guy’) and stab Bayley in the back or was Bayley going to be the one that turns heel?

It’s been a while since the WWE was able to tell a compelling story, especially leading up to Wrestlemania.
The payoff of Sasha’s and Bayley’s story should be Wrestlemania. But it’s not going to be. Because they’re doing too much.
Think about it. The best told narrative won’t have a climax on the biggest stage of wrestling because WWE is doing too much already. Sure, seeing Ronda Rousey at Wrestlemania is going to be cool — but that story leading up to it has been disappointing.
AJ v. Nakamura is a dream match but they dropped the ball in building excitement for that match.
Most of us are fatigued of both Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar…. but I digress.

At some point, these 7 hour long shows — which probably will get longer at the rate WWE is going — is going to get tiresome. And it’s going to get convoluted. And oversaturated. And overexposed. And boring.

At some point, WWE is going to have to tell their wrestlers that they won’t receive a Wrestlemania payday (… or split Wrestlemania into a two-night event…)

I bring this up because a (declining) church’s natural tendency is to try to do all the programs and ministries they can to reach as many people as possible. 9 out of 10 times, the result is that everything they do, at best, is average and they reach no one.

It’s either do a few things excellent or try to do everything average.
The former is always better than the latter.
I’ve used the In N Out (… how I miss you…) and Golden Corral (I’ll see you when I need to engage in some mega self-loathing. So, soon…) metaphors a-plenty in my ministerial career.

When Life.Church was starting, they decided to focus on 5 things and 5 things only. From Pastor Groeschel:

One of the most important decisions we made was probably around 2005. As a church, we decided to limit what we did to only five areas of focus. Instead of continuing to add ministries (like sports, singles, men’s, women’s, conferences, etc.), we chose to focus on these things: 1) weekend worship, 2) small groups, 3) kids ministry, 4) student ministry and 5) missions.
We stuck to that plan for about seven years before we loosened up just slightly. We always say, “To reach people no one is reaching, we’ll have to do things no one is doing. But to do things no one is doing, we can’t do what everyone else does.”
Because we limited our focus, we had the margin to do things that hadn’t been done before like launch the world’s first online church and create and fund the Bible App. Because of our relationship with other churches through free resources, we were able to unite over 2,300 churches to do a series together called One Prayer that turned into a global movement of prayer, serving, giving and church planting.

I heard him share that during those critical years, they didn’t do a VBS. Could you imagine that?? No VBS?

That’s the In N Out model. You go to In N Out mainly for a Burger; a Cheeseburger; a Double-Double; some fries and a soda/milk shake.
Sure, there are things on the secret menu — but it doesn’t stray too far from their original menu.
You want a chicken sandwich? Go elsewhere.
You want a taco? You deserve a taco… (who eats taco…), but you’re gonna have to go elsewhere.
Feeling healthy and want a salad? Good for you. But not here.
In N Out does burgers– and I don’t care what y’all say– and they do burgers well!

But that’s not what many churches — particularly the declining ones — do, is it?
They’re afraid of losing people so they try to do everything that is there to be done. So they do what they’ve always done AND try to do what everyone else (the “successful” churches) do.
And they end up doing nothing well — a la Golden Corral.
Look, I love me some Golden Corral. But no one has ever gone to Golden Corral and thought their food was out of this world. We go to buffets because we’re indecisive and/or we want to eat lots and lots and lots (and lots) of food. Most of Golden Corral’s food is decent, at best. Their steak is a bit tough, but hey, for $14, I could have as much as I want. Their Asian section is salty, but hey, where else can I go and have some grade C steak with a side of spaghetti with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy with a side of fried rice and orange chicken with a side of tacos with a side of fried chicken and a side of fries and onion rings and top it off with their chocolate fountain for dessert?
Is it great food? Hell no. But I’m full. I hate myself, but I’m full.

Adding more things to do is rarely the wise choice. We end up being stretched too thin and our volunteers and staff are doing so much that they can’t do the important things well.
But in order to do a few things in an excellent manner, hard conversations and difficult decisions need to be made. Sacrifices have to me made; programs/ministries have to be cut; mission and vision has to be crystal clear.

It’s biblical. Jesus talks about pruning the branch — cutting off the branch that bears no fruit. Think about how many non-fruit-bearing branches your church is white knuckling. And why? It’s not bearing fruit.
Why do we hold on — with one head — a branch that bears no fruit and hasn’t for years and with the other hand try to plant a whole new garden?
And the crazy thing is — we never do this outside of the church! We know this doesn’t work in the “real world.”
Yet it’s like when we enter the church, we take off our thinking caps and put on our nostalgia fedoras and dream that the good ‘ol days will be back again.

Perfection, as Bruce Lee said, isn’t achieved when there’s nothing left to add but when there’s nothing left to take away.

In other words, the healthy and thriving church does a few things and does them well. 
The declining church tries to do more and more and more and does nothing well and ends up dead.


For the first time in a long time WWE facing actual competition (since destroying and absorbing WCW) from another wrestling promotion: NJPW (New Japan Pro Wrestling).
I’ve been sucked into watching NJPW and it’s exciting and far more fun than WWE. You can see why they’re gaining steam.
When asked what the major difference between NJPW and WWE is, Kenny Omega (one of my favorite wrestlers to watch) said: (it should be noted that WWE markets themselves as “Sports Entertainment”)

“We [NJPW] are not a soap opera. We are not sports entertainment, we are not acting and not dancing. We wrestle and we are wrestling – we are New Japan Pro Wrestling. Watch a Shibata match and the way he kicks, that’s New Japan Pro Wrestling. [Tetsuya] Naito, [Hiroshi] Tanahashi, and [Tomohiro] Ishii all wrestle and fight. That is entertaining, but it is not entertainment. It’s wrestling.”

Funny that NJPW is gaining on WWE because they’re focused on wrestling...

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