What the football transfer market has to say to church membership

If you follow football, you will know about the exorbitant transfer fees players have commanded over the years. You will no doubt have picked up on the news that the upward trend of ever increasing transfer fees has taken a giant leap with the sale of Neymar from Barcelona to Paris St Germain for £198m plus add ons. To put that into perspective, the previous record transfer was Paul Pogba back to Manchester United from Juventus for £89m. This record eclipsed the previous record set by Real Madrid with the purchase of Gareth Bale for £84m. You can see the general trajectory of transfer fees here. We have basically seen records set in increments of £4-5m, with only the occasional £10m or £20m leap. Neymar’s transfer leaves all such increments in its dust.

Naturally, the sale of Neymar for nearly £200m quid inflates the prices of everybody else. Everybody knows that Barcelona are now flush with £200m they don’t really need and thus can offer stupid money for any other players they wish to acquire. All teams know Barcelona have the money to pay exorbitant fees so demand more. For this reason, Barcelona have been sniffing around my team, Liverpool, for arguably their best player, Philippe Coutinho. They have already had an £80m offer rebuffed and, if the Sun are to be believed, are preparing to come back with a £127m bag of swag instead.

Thus far, Liverpool have remained resolute. Coutinho has just recently signed as five year contract and the team are not keen to lose their best player. In short, £127m wouldn’t readily make up for the loss (not least as everybody else’s transfer fee will be raised in proportion to the money they know Liverpool have received). In response, Coutinho has submitted a transfer request. In typical fashion – as I am sat here watching the Champions League qualifier between Hoffenheim and Liverpool – Coutinho is not on the pitch, claiming he has a ‘back problem’; a back problem seemingly brought on by the overwhelming burden of not immediately getting what he wants.

The pre-match commentary naturally picked up on all this. The question swirling around focused on whether it was better to keep a disgruntled player and force them to play out their contract or whether it was better to let them go. To keep them, you run the risk that their heart will simply not be in playing for your team. Worse, you run the risk that their performances drop (which is bad enough) and, with it, their previously exorbitant transfer fee. If you sell them, however, you are losing your best asset and thus chance of achieving something credible. Do you take the money and stop discontent spreading through the team, knowing that you are losing a real asset, or do you stand your ground and insist on the level of professionalism, knowing that you may not get it?

I was set to thinking about a similar problem in the church. What do you do when you have disgruntled church members? Do you encourage them to leave to where they will feel less impeded, knowing every loss is painful, or do you insist that the issue is not an essential one worthy of breaking fellowship (presuming that is the case) and encourage them not to go? On the one hand, you may be losing workers you sorely need; one the other, you may be cutting off the spread of unnecessary discontent to other members of the church family. It is a tough one to navigate.

For what it’s worth, I have always tended toward the view that if folk feel impeded in your congregation, it is best to let them leave. You may well want to point out (such that you believe this to be true) that the issue is not a vital one and encourage a level of gospel-heartedness that means things will not always be as we would have them in any given church. But if folk are adamant this is a problem that feels insurmountable to them, it strikes me as far better to let them go to wherever they will not feel so constrained in their worship. In so doing, you will stop any discontent spreading throughout the church over issues that never should have caused such consternation.

Just like losing your best players, one never wants to lose workers nor enjoys the prospect of broken fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ. A depletion in number inevitably affects the work somewhere. But it is also true that discontent in the heart often leads to malcontent people and such, left unchecked, are an absolute cancer in the church. Far better to let the discontent and disgruntled leave for pasture new than to make a play to keep them and find their influence spreading throughout the membership.

Perhaps Liverpool might want to consider cashing in on Coutinho after all?