The following piece appeared in the Washington Post this week:
WASHINGTON (AP) Nationals outfielder Michael Taylor said he's been focusing lately on making contact at the plate rather than crushing baseballs.
Lately, he's also been crushing baseballs.
Taylor hit a home run for the third straight game, rookie Joe Ross allowed one run in seven innings and the Nationals beat the Milwaukee Brewers 6-1 on Saturday night.
Taylor connected on a two-run shot for Washington, which had lost 8 of 10 and began play five games behind the Mets in the National League East.
''It's funny how it works, I guess,'' Taylor said of his recent approach and success.
''Just try to stay quiet and don't let things speed up. Go up there and have a good at-bat instead of trying to hunt for the results.''
Now to be sure a baseball player at bat wants to generate runs, and to be sure a follower of Jesus ought to want to bring others to know Jesus – but a baseball player usually can’t generate runs unless he makes contact with the ball (an exception is a “walk”), and a disciple of Jesus Christ usually can’t bring others to know Jesus unless he or she connects with people.
Paul learned about his audience in Athens (Acts 17); he also learned to identify with the people he served, “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some,” (1 Corinthians 9:22). Paul saw himself as a debtor to “Greeks and barbarians [non-Greek speakers], both to wise and unwise,” (Romans 1:14).
Connecting with people is a core trait of sharing the great news of Jesus Christ; and connecting means paying undivided attention to others (put the cell phone on mute and don’t answer it!), asking questions, observing, and…above all…listening with genuine interest. In baseball, a focus on contact with the baseball means success over a long season, and it eventually means runs – in life a focus on connecting with others means sharing the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
A baseball player needs to know what to do when the ball is put in play, he isn’t supposed to just stand at the plate and watch the ball go into the field. Imagine a ballplayer who consistently made contact with the ball but never ran to first base. Followers of Jesus need to know that making connections in and of themselves is fruitless unless they know what to do when the ball is put in play. Sometimes others throw us a relational pitch to hit, sometimes we throw the relationship pitch to others – either way, when the ball is put in play our purpose in life is to share the Great News of Jesus Christ – it isn’t just to stand and watch the ball, it isn’t to be bystanders on the field of life.
We’re called to play the game, except of course it’s much more than a game – while baseball isn’t life or death…coming to know Jesus Christ is. I wonder if we are so accustomed to sitting in pews on Sunday that Monday – Saturday we continue to sit…and sit…and sit…
In Proverbs 24:11 – 12 we read, “Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Surely we did not know this,’ Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?”
Jesus said, “Go.”