Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts was interviewed recently and was asked about the Cubs’ team this year. He responded, “I think we have a team right now that can go to the playoffs.” This statement quickly yielded criticism all across the Twitterverse. People were angry, claiming that Ricketts was blatantly lying to Cubs fans. Now, if you have not been following the Cubs recently, you probably do not know that they are in the process of trying to rebuild their team with a strong core of young players. In that process, they’ve seen their team over the last two years finishing near the end of the line in terms of their win-loss record. It has been assumed, since they did not add any major players to the team this year, that it will be another year of poor play for the long-suffering Cubbies. So, the owner stating that he believes this team could make the playoffs seems like a lie.
I think there is something else going on here. Tom Ricketts is setting a vision for his team. Is it a lofty vision? Yes. Will it be challenging to attain this vision? Certainly. But is it right for the owner of the team to set a vision like this? Absolutely. Perhaps you are reading this and you are not yet convinced. Perhaps you think Mr. Ricketts is truly delusional. Perhaps you think he simply answered a no-win question with the only acceptable answer and there was no premeditation to his words. I can certainly understand your skepticism. But my theory was supported when both team manager Rick Renteria and team president Theo Epstein said the exact same thing. They, too, believe that the 2014 Cubs could surprise people and make the playoffs. Renteria went so far as to say he “expected” it. Is it possible that Ricketts’ words were just an off-the-cuff response to a difficult question? Yes. But I think it is more likely that Ricketts was communicating to his staff, coaches, players, and fans that making the playoffs this year is the vision.
So, if that’s the case, and the vision for the 2014 Cubs is to make the playoffs, but actually achieving that vision with the team they currently have looks unlikely, are Ricketts and Epstein and Renteria basically lying to their team and fanbase? Is a lofty vision basically a veiled lie? Absolutely not. When you set a vision for an organization, no matter what that organization is, you have to set your goals higher than would seem logical. Why, you ask? Because setting your goal as something above what seems within reach pushes your organization to work harder, try more, be better than they might otherwise have been. When you set a lofty vision and you communicate that vision with clarity and passion, the hope is that every member of that organization will buy into that vision and seek after it with energy and drive. It will motivate them to do more than they might otherwise have seemed capable of. And organizations need that kind of drive to succeed.
So, don’t criticize Tom Ricketts for having faith in his team to achieve greatness. That is his job. He is the one who sets the ethos for the organization and a baseball team without a drive to win is a baseball team that no fan wants to support and no player wants to play for. This same thing is true in the Church. A church without a kingdom vision, a vision that stretches them beyond what seems possible, is a church that very few people really want to be a part of. A vision is not a lie. It is an end goal. And in sports, or in the church, the impossible CAN happen.