Sometimes I think we have an ‘evolutionary’ approach to how we do church, just as we find it in so many other areas of life. But progress is not always progress. Here are three things I saw at the ballgame that we don’t see in today’s baseball, and is rare in today’s church… though they shouldn’t be:
1 – Engagement Of The Opponent – In 1863, the pitcher wanted the batter to hit the ball. He was actually apologetic when he threw a pitch that could not be hit. In a sense he was trying to help the other team, but this made the game more competitive. Today no baseball pitcher tries to throw a pitch the batter can easily hit. I think the church should be throwing pitches those on the opposing team can hit. Too many times the church makes it too difficult to become part of the church. We should never compromise holiness. But we should not live as though we are trying to keep others out of the game. When engaging non-believers, we should give them something they can hit. There will be plenty of opportunities for them to be turned off by the things of God that are offensive to the wicked. But the first thing they get from us should not be that offensive thing. We aren’t trying to strike them out. We are trying to help them get a hit. Sending them straight back to their dugout is not advisable.
2 – Standard Of Behavior – In 1863, players were not allowed to use curse words or spit during the game. This was a gentlemen’s game, and the behavior of the participants was to reflect that. If an official heard a player curse or saw them spit, they would issue a fine. Could you imagine if they levied fines for cursing and spitting today in major league baseball? I think the behavior of Christians should reflect Christian standards. This would involve where we go, what we listen to, what we watch, how we talk, what we wear, etc. The official ruling on such things is the Holy Spirit. But we should also be able to hold each other accountable. Not that we should be fining other believers. But we should be able to encourage and even challenge behavior based on whether or not it is in keeping with Christian standards… the standard of Christ.
3 – Recognition Of Camaraderie – At the end of the ballgame, both teams went to the middle of the field. They had both been trying to win. But only one came away with the victory. But at this point, you could tell that they, while not part of the same specific team, were part of the same league. They congratulated each other for their efforts. While we in the Church are in a battle with the enemy, we are not to be at war with other Christians. Some churches do better at certain ministries than others. Some have more attendees. Others have more actual disciples. But the only competition that should exist in the Church is trying to outdo one another in humility, love, and encouragement. We may be playing with a different set of players. But we are not only in the same game... we are in the same league. Do we as churches celebrate other churches as we should? I don’t think we do.
So, we should be positively engaging the world, giving them a chance to get in the game. We should be living according to standards that become a Christian, because we do represent Christ. And we should be each other’s greatest fans. We are after all aiming for the same goal.
I’ll leave you with the words of the apostle Paul to the early Christians, “According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the standard of one’s faith;
if service, in service; if teaching, in teaching; if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity; leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness. Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord.12 Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Be in agreement with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:6-18)
[Bible quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.]
Find more of David’s work at Heart Of Ministry.