I grew up playing and watching baseball. For my final message before retirement, I applied what I learned from Scripture and from baseball to recreate a lesson that would be experienced much like a game. Sounds crazy but the lessons are very real.
Good baseball players understand their strengths and weaknesses so when playing together as a team they know who plays first base, who bats cleanup and who pitches. The Apostle Paul teaches to honestly know our gifts and talents so we know what to do. Knowing your gifts allows you to contribute in an exceptional way to God’s team. “As God’s player, I give each of you this warning: Be honest in your estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much ability God has given you. Just as your team has many players and each player has a special function, so it is with Christ’s team. ” (Romans 12:3-4)
Rick Warren, author of, “Purpose Driven Life” and “Purpose Driven Church” uses a baseball diamond to demonstrate how a church is a catalyst for spiritual growth and discovering your role in God’s ministry.
The Batter’s Box symbolizes a newcomer beginning the process of attending a local church. Can you feel God’s presence during worship? Is the message Biblically based and challenging? Will you attend with an open attitude toward meeting new people? Are others offering you a warm welcome? Check the calendar of events for activities, mission projects and groups offering further opportunities for growth. In due course, you join and pledge to support the ministry with your prayers, presence, gifts and service. Congratulations, you’ve just hit the ball and reached first base.
First Base is getting to know Christ better. Many reach first and are satisfied to stay safe yet God wants you to stretch your comfort level. First base is exploring opportunities to love and be loved. Paul writes, “If I could speak in any language in heaven or on earth but didn’t love others, I would only be making meaningless noise like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Cor. 13:1) Loving others is paramount. You could start by joining a Sunday school class, sing in the choir or participate in a small group. Soon, you are running to second base.
Second Base is a desire to strengthen your relationship with Jesus. There are small group opportunities and special retreats such as “Walk to Emmaus.” For two years, I listened to Bible teaching in the car on the way to work. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me and I in them will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Through the church you nurture your relationship with the vine and produce fruit. Producing fruit leads you to third base.
Third Base is a commitment to use your distinctive gifts and talents to serve Christ through ministry. “God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well.” (Romans 12:6) Are you handy with tools? Volunteer to repair rundown houses. Do you enjoy driving? Drive an elderly person to the grocery store or to a doctor’s appointment. Are you good at managing money? Become a mentor for someone facing bankruptcy. Now you have the opportunity to come home.
Home Plate is the culmination of what you experienced on first base: Love. Add what you learned on second base: Growth. Apply what you learned on third base: Ministry. Now you are ready to accept the responsibility of becoming a spiritual leader for Christ. Peter wrote: “Care for the flock of God entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly — not for what you can get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God.” (1 Peter 5:2) Churches are crying out for spiritual leaders willing to guide others and stand for Christ. Will you accept the challenge?
But, something is not right. Something is missing. A critical ingredient is left out. Yes, we play as members of God’s team. Yes, we understand our God-given gifts. Yes, we run the bases of spiritual maturity as the church becomes a catalyst for growth but something of God is simply not there.
Next Week: The dramatic and surprising conclusion to “Faith and Baseball.”