"The church is full of hypocrites!" OK - tell me something new! The media in America love to pick up on responses such as the opening line to attack American Christianity. And even the following statement is used by many today: "Christians get on my nerves." Lifeway Research has conducted several studies in regards to the issue of church relevance and perception among the people of America. The numbers are not good regardless of your perspective.
Ideas as to what Christians should be doing now are everywhere. An honest look at American Christianity finds little passion and motive. It is as if we are coasting unaware of how we are to finish the game of life. Do we know the rules? Are we done? Is it over for us on earth? So what do we do?
I think the game of baseball has a few answers for us as Christians living in this time.
Get Back to 1ST Base
Beyond anything else we are to bring glory to God! Yet few churches focus on this. The seeker movement of the 90's turned our attention to many other issues. We saw our outreach struggling. People were not coming to Christ! We knew we needed a fix. The fix we applied has not worked as a whole. No church can accomplish pleasing people. It is more than difficult for someone to surrender to Jesus while the attention is on their own "wants" being met. That is why we are to bring glory to God and seek to please Him alone! Evangelism flows from glorifying God. We see first hand His provision in sending Jesus to mankind. We begin to grasp the heartbeat of God in drawing people to Himself. We realize our role in sharing the Gospel. We see the fruit of lives changed once they surrender to Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Don't Get Picked off 1ST
Moving from 1ST base to 2ND is a must. But before we get to 2ND we must avoid getting picked off at 1ST. Distractions are everywhere. People, good and bad, bring multiple distractions into our lives. A simple thought expressed of something negative can start the ball rolling. A thought unchecked can do it as well. As eager as we are to move on, distractions will try to force our eyes off the goal. And don't think that this doesn't happen daily. And please understand, distractions come from those we would not think would want to distract us.
Touch the Bases as we Move Forward
Once we have the green light to move from 1ST Base we must not forget a simple rule - be sure to touch all the bases as you progress. What does this mean. In baseball, a base runner must actually touch each base or they are called out. As Christians, we love the idea of making it home and scoring runs. But we must touch each base. We must realize the importance found at each base. Getting ahead in our thoughts can cause us to miss important things. The distractions that come into our lives are actually designed to get us off track - miss each base. It is important to know our goal. It is important to reach our goal. But the rules say there is a specific way to do this. Be sure to touch each base. Stay with the progression instead of trying to take short cuts. Stay with with the Word of God, our rule book, and know that straying will bring consequences. As we bring Glory to God, lives will be added to the Kingdom at each base.
Tune Out the Fans
Everybody has an opinion. Opinions are dangerous. Lives are so influenced by those who are cheering for us and yet their advice is often misleading. Once you know your goals and the rules, block out the many opinions that are thrown your way from fans. They can create havoc in your life. They want you to score. They want you to win. But they may not understand completely what that means. Seek advice from grounded people - coaches. But know that too many coaches never works. Not many of our fans are really invested in us as individuals. They want a win more than anything. But they are in the stands and NOT on the field. Stick with the coaches on the field. And don't forget there are fans who do not want you to win! Ignore them! They are not cheering for your victory! Can you tell the difference?
Leave it All on the Field
In my office is a framed rendition of Vince Lombardi's "What it Takes to be #1". I also have a copy of a plaque that President Ronald Reagan kept on his desk that says "It Can Be Done". These two things remind me daily of the above. They remind me that I must commit to finishing strong. Only commitment will keep you focused. They also remind me that giving my all is required to actually score and reach home plate. Christians cannot hold back in this life on earth. We are to give our all to the One who paid for us and gives us life. We are to finish our course wiped out ready for our reward. Too many of us our coasting. We trot around the base path as if we are good to go. Jesus ran to the finish line for us with all He had. Will we run the bases of life to reach home with every ounce of strength we have? Will Jesus say of us "well done, good and faithful servant!"?
The true test for American Christianity is now upon us. Our days of easy believe-ism are long gone. The game of life on earth has reached the bottom of the ninth. We are up to bat. What will we do? It is now our time to bring this game to a successful victory. A victory that is assured. Only problem though is that there are lives in the balance as we complete the game. Our victory is other peoples salvation. We are to reach home with others with us.
And this we cannot afford to lose!
It's rally time!