We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

When "Good Enough" is Not

In the 2012-13 season, Minnesota Gophers men's basketball coach, Tubby Smith, led his team to 21 victories and a place in the NCAA Tournament, the "Big Dance," at the close of which he was promptly fired in spite of a winning record over six seasons.  Smith restored a degree of stability and respectability to a program that has been through periods of turbulence and mediocrity.  Smith was not fired because his teams could not win.  He was fired because they had trouble winning Big Ten games and February games—winning, that is, the games that mattered the most.  He improved the team by one or two levels but then didn't seem capable of taking them to the "next" level.

That being the case, a debate has been raging in the Minnesota sports press between those who feel that Minnesota is doing "well enough" under Tubby and not likely to do any better under anybody else.  It isn't ever going to become an elite Big Ten men's basketball team and Tubby is good enough.  With still more passion, those who support firing Smith are not happy with "good enough" and want to see Minnesota take its basketball program to that next level where winning Big Ten seasons and NCAA berths are givens.

It could be years before fans in Minnesota learn whether firing Coach Smith was a good move or
dumb one (or somewhere in between).

In any event, the whole situation has its parallels in many mainline churches today.  In times of declining membership, attendance, and resources, churches frequently make do with "good enough," especially when it comes to leadership and what  is expected of leaders.  Make do.  Cut corners.  Go with the flow.  In sum, settle for good enough.  In some situations, good enough has to be good enough, but in others good enough is deadly.  It allows a downward spiral to continue when it need not.  In still other cases, there is the possibility of a new church growing out of the ashes of a dying congregation, smaller and with fewer resources but not tied to a building and a dying program—a church with a new vision and a new calling.  Often enough, then, "good enough" is worse than no good at all.  Amen.