Brace yourselves for a strong statement.
And be prepared to just accept it, because we're not gonna fight about it.
Baseball is the most beautiful sport ever to be invented, period!
Now, I know some of you out there think baseball is one of the most boring sports ever. I have heard some people even say that they would rather watch paint dry than watch a baseball game.
But even if you are in that spot, hang with me. Because just like baseball or any sport, skill or pursuit for that matter, becoming a better disciple of Jesus takes a lot of determination, persistence, and practice.
When I was a kid I remember watching and listening to baseball with great curiosity. I used to daydream about being in the big leagues, pitching in the World Series, putting my team on my shoulders and leading them to victory.
I wanted to pitch professionally; that was my dream. But as with all dreams there comes a great reality that we all have to face: a dream is really just a precursor to an awful lot of work. For musicians, athletes, professionals, students, whomever, you have to practice to be able to accomplish a dream you might have.
Now for those who know me, you are probably aware that I didn't make it as a professional baseball player. I've got awful eyesight, my reflexes are terrible, and I'm always looking up to others, literally. There was really no amount of practice that was going to overcome some of these physical limitations.
Once I considered this, I knew my dream was dead. But when I became a Christian years later, I realized baseball gave me such a wonderful understanding to what Christian discipleship should look like.
Yes, to the untrained eye baseball seems to be to simple. Boiled down to the simplest form, there is a ball that someone needs to hit and run around the bases to try and score before the defense tags you. But there is much more that goes into baseball than meets the eye.
There's a specific way to hit the ball based on where you want it to go.
To develop arm strength needed to throw that runner out at third, you have to throw a lot, since most people aren't born with that kind of strength.
You have to train focus, hand eye coordination, speed, decision making.
You can't do these things without constant practice. And you can't just practice when you feel like it. And you don't know what to practice if you don't know what skills to build or maintain. And you don't know what you need to work on without feedback.
Being a Christian is a lot like training to be a baseball player.
Except that we got drafted by no merit of our own. we did nothing to earn it.
We don't know home from second base. Our arms are weak, our eyesight is poor, and our decision-making needs some work, because we've been making those decisions toward a different goal than the one we were made for.
When Jesus died and rose to save you, and the Holy Spirit called you and changed your heart and mind and affections, and you got drafted, weak arm, bad eyesight, and poor decisions all.
So now, your job as a Christian, drafted to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18ff), is to train and develop the skills necessary to effectively lead people to Jesus.
This is why we do things like pray, knowing that we have not the strength on our own to accomplish the purpose set before us.
Or read our bibles, knowing that in them we can read about the love and wrath and mercy of God for people who did not and do not love God apart from Christ, ready to give an answer for the hope that we have in Christ.
Or participate in Christian community, serving alongside family, who can point out where we're strong or weak, and can encourage us in our walk with Jesus.
Getting In The Game
Whether or not you're training to make disciples, you already are, by your thoughts, your words, your actions.
It sounds kind of daunting. We may not even know where to start. We're afraid of the damage we'll do to others in our failing, or we're scared of starting in the wrong place, or just paralyzed by indecision, concerned about going in the wrong direction.
It's in these moments that we need to remember the conditions under which we were drafted to begin with.
Christ performed perfectly, died sacrificially, and rose victoriously.
By His grace we are saved. That's it.
So we can start trying, training, running, falling, getting back up and starting again.
We can set our alarm an hour early only with the intention of reading and praying and meditating only to unconsciously hit snooze for 45 minutes.
We can show up to hang out with a Gospel Community, in which we know no one, and feel really awkward the whole time and leave and say "well, that wasn't a good fit, let's try another next week."
We can take a step toward leadership, only to be confronted with the reality that we can't manage details worth beans. (How many beans? I don't know. I wasn't counting.)
Whatever it is, remember the team you're on and how you were drafted.
And don't be afraid to fail, because where we fail, Jesus has won.