Tuesday, January 15, 2008

For the love of the game

In our spare bedroom I keep a baseball in a display case. It isn’t a homerun ball from a MLB game. It isn’t even a foul ball from a MLB game. It is a homerun ball from a little league baseball game in the mid 80’s. I still remember the pitch (a failed attempt at a slider that hung just over the middle of the plate). As I swung at the pitch I dropped my left shoulder (even though I knew better) and popped the ball high into the air, but the hit was just long enough to clear the fence. I also remember where the ball went out of the park (just to the right of a big tree outside the fence in right field) and my dad retrieving the ball for safe keeping.

We spent many afternoons practicing baseball and learning the rules of the game. We learned how to throw and how to hit (even though I didn’t learn that part too well) and how catch. We learned strategies for winning, and we learned the correct way to play a game. Our coaches taught us how to be orthodox, American baseball players. And, somehow we never lost our love for the game.

I have been in church and around church most of my life. Many people have invested their lives in me in attempts to teach me correct doctrine and how church and life is supposed to be lived, and I am still learning. Through the years I have seen people learn the “correct” way to do church, but lose their love for the church in the process.

It is always sad to see a kid loose their love for a game because of lifeless recitation of rules. That’s the point where we say, “I just don’t want to play anymore.”

I must confess that there are days when I loose my love for the church. I can get so bogged down in doing church and maintaining correct doctrine that I forget what church is all about. I forget the joy of seeing God hit a homerun and letting me run the bases.

Doctrine (the rules of the game) is important. In fact it is essential to a healthy church. But, doctrine without passion is a meaningless existence.

But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Revelation 2:4

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Call me coach

At Oakland we have just started our winter basketball leagues. For many of our kids, it is their first attempt playing organized sports (okay semi-organized sports), and practice can be quite an adventure. The kids are usually high energy and willing to learn, but they are also easily distracted. Their great concern with who is first in line can rival even the most engaging practice drill that a coach can posit. I have learned that trying to settle their disputes is about as productive as telling Costello “Who’s on first.”

All joking aside the kids are great. But, why am I coaching? Well, I was asked.

Research by Thom Rainer of Lifeway suggests that a significant number of people who are not involved with our churches would get involved if we invited them. In particular when someone we respect invites us to get involved, many of us are willing to get in the game.

We had our first game this past Saturday. The kids were very excited, but one of the kids was fairly nervous and unwilling to leave the bench and play in her first game. I told her not to worry because we were just here to have fun. She reluctantly came off the bench and played most of the game. She had a blast.

I think the bench is warm enough.