1 December, 2022

Authentic Church: What Baseball Can Teach Us

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by | 1 March, 2022 | 1 comment

By Tony Burgarello

“Let’s play two”—it’s one of the greatest baseball quotes of all time. It came from Ernie Banks, a Baseball Hall of Famer and Chicago Cubs legend. For nonbaseball fans, Ernie played professionally from 1953 to 1971, served in the military, was an All-Star on the field, and set countless records. On top of all that, he was an ordained minister who made a tremendous impact in the community his entire life. He was a difference maker! He received nearly every award you could imagine for his achievements on and off the field. Ernie, who died in 2015, is still known as “Mr. Cub” and “Mr. Sunshine.”

Multiple stories surround this quote. Its origins are unclear. However, a close friend of mine who knew Ernie very well talked about this quote and the heart of the man behind it. He believed Ernie Banks’s impact was due to his outlook. Mr. Sunshine believed your life was not determined by the obstacles you encounter but by how you encounter the obstacles. Your perspective, not your problems, determines the outcome.

‘LET’S PLAY TWO’

This quote goes back to the 1960s, a time very different from today, though there were some similarities. People were tired, burdened, hurried, frustrated, and challenged by life. “Let’s play two” was a way of reminding everyone that things were still great. “The sun is shining, let’s make the most of this day and play two games.” Does any of this sound familiar?

After the past two years, what is your outlook on ministry in general and the church in particular? Is the sun shining or does life appear cloudy to you? As for me and my team, we have never been more excited and energized by the opportunity before us as church leaders. God has the church positioned to reach our communities for Jesus as never before. The local church is the hope of the world!

We should all be bullish about the future of the church, especially since Jesus said even the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. That being the case, a measly pandemic doesn’t stand a chance! So, “Let’s play two!” Check your heart and mindset right now. Are you prepared to play two games, go into extra innings, and make every day great for Jesus (Colossians 3:23)?

We all likely can agree that people today have gone through more change in their lives than ever before. For some, the mental and physical changes of the past two years have been a blessing. Most, however, have been negatively impacted. People are divided, confused, asking questions, and searching—probably more than ever before—to figure out where life is headed. It has impacted individuals, families, and communities. People are primed for good, positive change. If you build it, they will come. Are you ready for growth in 2022?

SCOUTING REPORT

Let’s get the current scouting report on your church and ministry out of the way. We’ll start with attendance. When I look at our church, I am thankful we are at 90 percent of 2020 pre-pandemic attendance. Many churches are seeing lower return rates. Don’t let that discourage you. After all, we should not focus on the number or the percentage. We need to focus on what matters. The people who have returned or who have discovered us online have something in common. They are seeking community just like other people in your area. If they are at your church, they are ready to engage! If you are short on volunteers—and we all are—then you have wider margin to invest in new people. We must all continue to ask people to connect with others and be challenged. They’re ready!

What are you doing each day to build the church? Even if everyone has returned for in-person worship, most people in your community still do not attend church and do not know Jesus. We need to give priority to reaching those people, and the church is in a healthy position right now to do so.

You don’t need to reinvent your entire ministry, though you probably do need an online presence as a window of opportunity. That said, people will only find long-lasting community by attending your church in-person. The word of Jesus is still unchanging, refreshing, energizing, saving, and all we need (Mark 2:21-22). People are ready. Are you?

PLAY BALL!

Imagine having lunch or coffee with someone new to your church in March 2020. That person likely would have asked several questions about life and commented on all the chaos in the news. Would they have appeared worried, frustrated, and anxious? It’s very likely. You no doubt would have recognized this as an opportunity to fully engage with them and to connect them to the local church.

Now, fast-forward to today. Your entire community is full of anxious people. They are your friends and neighbors. Therefore, the forecast for the local church today is full of sunshine. The question is, are you and your team ready to play two games?

Church leaders are facing the daunting challenge of “rebuilding, reinventing, and reigniting” church attendance. To accomplish this, they must get to the field early every day and prepare to play two games. Take advantage of your daily opportunities to get in the batter’s box and take some swings.

When you look at the market landscape, what do you see? A shortage of products and services; reduced hours and availability. The church is in position to do exactly the opposite. What if you added services or a small community event each month? When was your church’s last invitation challenge? Consider increasing your hours of operation or assigning more staff and volunteers to answer phones and meet the needs of the people.

The church is strong. It is always ready to grow and reach the lost. I have personally never seen an opportunity of this magnitude for the church. You may be energized to lead like never before, and you may have a great plan. If you do, that’s awesome. Help another pastor or church in your community to get going. If you need some help, raise your hand and ask for it.

CONNECT, CHALLENGE, CARE

Huddle-up your team and ask for ideas on how to better connect, challenge, and care for people in your community. (It takes a balance of all three.) This can be your focus. Keep your strategy simple and then execute.

  • With whom do I need to connect?
  • Which people should connect with one another?
  • Who should connect with Jesus?
  • Who should connect to the church?
  • Whom can I challenge to serve in the church and community?
  • Whom can I challenge to take a step in their faith journey?
  • Whom can I challenge to serve the church and others?
  • Care for people by visiting homes, businesses, community events, and youth activities.
  • Challenge your people to care for each other—come together during the week; be physically present as the church.
  • Challenge them to care for others by serving the church, community, and their family.
  • Challenge them to give generously to care for the lost.

We must leave the dugout and get out on the field.

I believe the local church is positioned to make the greatest impact in our lifetimes.

When you answered the call to ministry, I’m sure you were excited to serve the local church and had a burning desire to reach the lost. God led others who helped influence you in your decision. It’s time for you to continue to pay it forward.

Over the years God has used you, especially in changing lives, more than you could ever put into a book. All of this has prepared you for what is before you today.

The church is healthy and positioned to fill every row. Do you see it? Do you believe it? Chaos and confusion always bring opportunity. Our success is not determined by the obstacles we encounter but by how we overcome them.

The church does not need a new plan, a new website, a better preacher, or nicer buildings. No, the church is healthier than ever. And your community is hungrier than ever. Your people are ready to take some ground for Jesus. Your volunteers are ready to serve. Just ask them. Get back to the basics: connect, care, and challenge.

Tony Burgarello serves as executive pastor at Christ’s Church of the Valley, which has 12 locations in Greater Phoenix.

Christian Standard

Contact us at cs@christianstandardmedia.com

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