Baseball Ministry

baseball field

There are a lot of kids at the park I practice baseball at. Sometimes when I’m practicing by myself, kids will come and watch. Some of them will come out onto the field, and ask if they can play.

I have a little pitching machine where I load all of the balls at once, then the machine will pitch them to me. I then go and pick up the balls, reload them, then hit again.

One day these kids were watching as I did batting practice. There were about 7 or 8 of them, ranging in ages between 2-11. There was a good mix of both boys and girls. After watching me for a couple rounds, the oldest of the kids (a boy we’ll call “Andrew” – he was 11 years old) said to the other kids, “Let’s go help him pick up the balls.”

They weren’t the first kids to do this. For some reason, kids like helping me pick up the balls. I don’t know why. To me, it’s a chore. But I guess I can kind of see the fun in it. I painted the balls pink to help make them easier to find, so when they’re lying in the green grass, it’s sort of like an Easter egg hunt. Anyway, it was nice having them help me find all the balls. (I use these small, spongy balls. They don’t fly as far as normal baseballs, and they don’t hurt if you get hit by one. I like using these, since I don’t have to worry about accidentally hitting people, since there are plenty of people walking around the park.)

I started hitting another round, and the kids went out onto the field to catch them. They made a game of it. They competed to see who could get the balls first. They then rushed to load the balls before the machine ran out. Andrew stood by the pitching machine and acted as the leader, shouting to the other kids, “Hurry! We can’t let it run out! Throw it in!” It was intense, like some kind of war game. The kids ran frantically trying to collect all the balls. All the while, I continued my non-stop batting practice. It was a win-win situation: the kids were having fun, and I got my training in.

We did that for a while (until I was too tired to hit any more), and then I began the next phase of my practice session: the running and agility drills. I went through my normal routine – doing crossovers, running backwards, high-knees, ect. The kids lined up behind me. Andrew instructed them. “Get in line,” he told his companions. “No cutting. Watch him (referring to me) and do what he does.”

One by one they followed behind me, trying their best to do the drill exactly as I did. All of the kids – even the girls – were into it. (Who says girls don’t like baseball?)

The kids followed my every move. Whatever I did, they followed me. When I stretched, they stretched too, doing their best to follow the exact pose I was in. (Some of them fell over during the more difficult poses.) When I stopped for a water break, they also stopped.

“How often do you practice?” asked the kids.

“Almost every day,” I said.

“Are you going to come here tomorrow?” asked one of the boys.

“No,” I said.

“Yeah,” said Andrew. “Tomorrow’s Sunday. Church day.”

“That’s right,” I said.

We continued our practice. We had just finished doing a drill, when I stopped for a moment. I felt convicted to tell them something.

“The most important thing about playing baseball,” I told them, “is to play for God. Before I start any practice, I pray. I thank Jesus for allowing me to play baseball, and I ask him to give me strength, and to be here practicing with me. I play baseball only for Him. Whether I hit a home run, or strike out, I play only for him. And after a practice or a game, I thank him.”

We prayed, then continued our practice, playing for a while longer.

After practice was over, Andrew and I sat on the grass and started talking. Turns out he’s a strong Christian. We sat there talking about our faith, how we got saved, and our walks with God. Some of the others kids sat near us, listening in.

Andrew told me about how he tries to follow God, but sometimes it’s difficult, especially at school where there aren’t many Christians. I did my best to encourage him. We talked for a while longer about Jesus, the Bible, and about how great our God is. We talked about Paul, heaven, hell, God’s love, carrying our crosses, dying to ourselves, and other deep subjects. I was surprised that an eleven-year-old was knowledgeable and interested in these things. I was also surprised by his passion. A lot of adult Christians don’t even care to know much about these.

“Wow, you know a lot about the Bible,” he said. “You should be a pastor.”
“Actually, I want to be a missionary, like Paul” I replied.

“Oh, cool!” he said. “I want to be a football playing pastor.”

It was getting late, and his parents were calling him. “You should get going,” I said.

“Yeah…” he said. “Do you need help carrying your stuff to your car?”

“Oh, thanks, but I think I’m going to keep practicing more,” I said. “But would it be okay if I prayed with you before you have to go?”

We prayed together. When we were done, he thanked me over and over again.

“Wow! You’re the first Christian guy athlete I’ve ever met!” he said, as if it had just hit him. I told him I would continue to pray for him.

“Thanks!” he said. “I’ll pray for you too!”  He continued to thank me.

The blessings went both ways. It’s always a huge encouragement to me to meet people who are passionate about the Lord, especially someone as young as Andrew. I love having deep conversations about God.

Apologetics 101

I believe one of the reasons God has me living with my grandparents is so I can be a light to them, so that through me He can reach out to them.

Both my grandparents have been “Christians” for most of their lives. They both accepted Christ in their early 20’s, and have attended church since then. My grandpa served in many mission trips, doing carpentry work in third-world countries such as Fiji and Samoa. He was also a deacon at one point. My grandma long served as a children’s Sunday school teacher.

Despite all that, I’m convinced that they don’t truly know the Lord. My grandma goes to United Church of Christ, a liberal church that doesn’t believe in the authority of the Word. (They’re for gay marriage and abortion, and so is my grandma.) My grandpa, after having attended church for decades, decided about 5 years ago to stop attending. He  believes that Christ is just one of many ways to God.

Living with them provides plenty of good opportunities for me to practice apologetics. My grandpa is opinionated and outspoken (like me) so there are naturally many debates in the house.

Grandpa: “How can a God who’s supposed to be loving order the Israelites to go into Canaan and wipe out every man, woman, child, and animal living there? That’s cruel.”

Me: “Because the Canaanites worshiped false gods. If the Israelites had settled with them, they would have joined them and turned from God.”

Grandpa: “God ordered the Israelites to destroy innocent people. How could a loving god do that? Something is fishy about the Bible.”

Me: “Why do you assume they were innocent? They worshiped false gods, practiced human sacrifice, sexual immorality, and other sins. They were wicked. That’s why God ordered that they be destroyed.”

Grandpa: “I thought God was supposed to be loving? Destroying them doesn’t sound very loving. They didn’t have any Bibles to read. How were they supposed to know they should follow God? Only the Jews knew it, because they were God’s chosen people. That doesn’t sound very fair to me.”

Me: “They knew about God, and chose to reject him. Everyone has a chance to either accept God or reject him, Jew or Gentile alike. Look at the Roman centurion in the New Testament. He was a Roman – a Gentile – yet Jesus said there was no one in all of Israel with faith as great as him. Or King Cyrus, another Gentile. God used him to return the Jews to Israel. ”

Grandpa: “So only the smart, good people get saved? What about everyone else?”

Me: “Consider Rahab, the prostitute She wasn’t smart or “Godly.” She was a prostitute. Yet she chose to accept God, and was saved. God doesn’t want to destroy people. He wants to save them. That’s why God said that even if there were ten righteous people in Sodom, he would save the city. But there weren’t ten righteous people in the entire city. There was just Lot and his family. So God saved the only righteous people in the city, and destroyed everything else.”

That was the gist of today’s conversation. My grandpa just laughed and said, “There’s something fishy about the Bible.” That’s what he usually says. But I pray for him every day, and I think at some point he’ll come to accept Jesus.