Secular Wisdom at the Movies: Moneyball

In this series, “Secular Wisdom at the Movies,” we hope to offer student leaders a resource – whether for summer programming or just regular teaching. So often we overlook biblical insight from the secular world. The movies in this series each offer a unique Gospel perspective that we can bring to our students. To read our last post in this series, click here. 

I really care about this article. It is personal, because it is the life I am living right now. This time last year, I left a great church in Tennessee, and literally followed behind the moving truck to our new home in Alabama to pastor a church of 100 people. As I drove, and thought about this being the biggest risk I had ever taken (especially as it involved my family), one thought in particular stuck out in my mind: the movie Moneyball.

God brought this movie to mind, not only in the drive to our new home, but during the whole process of this major change in my life. Can a movie really have that kind of impact? Absolutely. Let me tell you why Moneyball should have an impact on how you view ministry.

Moneyball is a movie based on a book where the author, Michael Lewis, says the definition of “moneyball” is the art of winning an unfair game. Sound familiar? The book and movie follow the 2003 Oakland Athletics, a team that had just lost all of their star players, and with less money than every other team tried to make it back to the world series.

The general manager, Billy Bean, comes to see the game of baseball (through the help of a new friend) as completely broken. As teams spend millions of dollars going after the rock stars of the game, Billy sees that what really wins games is simply the score at the end, which occurs by getting players on base, no matter who they are, what they look like, or where they come from.

What does this have to do with ministry? Everything.

Ministry in western America is a world of distraction. In a world where thousands of new Christian books are published every year, where we’re constantly pulled to attend conferences that will tell us how to make our churches bigger and better, and where seminaries aim to produce the next big league preacher, we are hardly focused on the main thing. Just as Moneyball illustrates – that what really matters is building a team of people who can simply get on base and cross home plate – we need to be refocused each day on our job of discipleship and evangelism, plain and simple.

What would a week look like in your life and mine, if we were totally focused on the nuts and bolts? If we took our eyes off of what’s going on in different Christian circles, churches, and celebrity pastors, and just did our joyful job of discipling young people? Ironically, some of us laugh at that kind of focus, thinking that we cannot let all the other balls we are juggling just fall like that.

It does not matter to our Lord Jesus who you are, where you come from, if you can preach like the preachers you love, or if you ever write a best-selling book. Take that student, parent, or stockbroker to lunch and over a hamburger or coffee, tell them why you love Jesus. Tell them that Jesus died for them, and loves them too. This is the great commission, a simple mission.

Remember that discipleship is a person-by-person deal. When it comes to youth ministry, Moneyball reminds us of the principle to do for one what we would do for many. No matter the size of our ministry, or our budget, we have no idea how our time with just one individual might impact that person and the kingdom of God. Students will notice our intentional one-on-one investment, which models for them to do the same for others. This is the heart of discipleship. Like my little ministry, Billy Bean was willing to put his career on the line for this washed out and forgotten baseball team. His passion in the movie is palpable and inspiring. There is also fruit in our own passion and intentionality in our ministries, no matter the shape and size.

Every time we open our mouths to talk about how great Jesus is (to any living soul), we are on the front lines of the Great Commission. And every time we take time off of the Great Commission, distracted by the “wild world of ministry,” we take ourselves off of the true front line.

This is what keeps me going in this small church, a church I believe God has big plans for. The little encouragement of a movie like Moneyball, can have a massive impact because it reminds me to slow down and focus on the task of growing people, not programs. If it was not for just twelve men being faithful to remain focused 2,000 years ago, you and I would not be Christians today. The message of Acts is a group of people not doing everything, but doing a few things with all of their heart! Prayer, proclamation, evangelism, and discipleship. Let us get back to the focus of what we are called to do, and ditch everything else.

Join us for Rooted 2016, an intimate youth ministry conference, where we will explore the good news that God’s grace is sufficient for our relationships: with ourselves, with others, with the world, and with God. Jesus is our reconciliation yesterday, today, and forever.

To learn more about gospel centered youth ministry, check out more articles and podcasts from Rooted’s youth ministry blog.


John is the Pastor at Jackson Way Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama. John is a candidate for a Masters in Divinity at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. John has been serving in ministry for the last 13 years as a Student Pastor. John's heart is to preach and communicate the Gospel to the world by serving the church and making disciples. John's writings have been published on The Gospel Coalition website, and The Vision Room website.

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