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Empty the bleachers

I heard recently of a family who returned to the United States after an extended overseas business assignment. The father wanted to give his little girl an authentic American experience, so he brought her to a major league baseball game. It so happened that this particular day was “glove day,” when every child was given a small souvenir baseball glove. When the man and his daughter stepped through the turnstile one was handed to her. At first her face twisted into a look of confusion, and then she burst into tears. Her dad picked her up and asked, “Sweetie, what’s wrong?” His little girl answered, “Daddy, I don’t want to play; I just want to watch!”

Enter the arena of authentic spirituality and you’ll find that the only game God has going is one that requires your participation. There are no bleachers. There are many positions on the field (1 Corinthians 12:12) and they all require more than simply paying (“I’ll put something in the offering plate”) to watch  (“Give me something to cheer about, along with a few religious goods and souvenirs”) others (professional clergy performers) play. In fact, it was Jesus who paid so you can play—and play you must. Apparently some in the church didn’t notice, but God handed out gloves at the gate, and while the ball may not come to you every play, sooner or later the team needs you.

I’m talking about truly being a participant in the ever-growing Kingdom of Christ. The book of Acts opens with Jesus ascending to the presence of His Father after instructing His followers about the nature of His mission as they were now to carry it forward. They are left staring into an empty sky when apparently angels tell them, “Today is not a day for standing and watching!”  Instead, they were to embrace His mission!

Interestingly, the bible never accepts the role of a passive spectator. The call has always been to get in the game. I’ve met many self-professed “Christians” who seem not to have understood this fact. They’ve mastered the art of being little more than a fair-weather fan.

However, it can be more complicated than that. Many want to play, but only on their terms. For example, some think they’re playing when they show up with a black and white striped shirt and a whistle. They love to blow hot air through the little device that makes irritating high-pitched squeals to indicate fouls; or, in keeping with baseball, they like to call strikes, but they never really get into the game when given the opportunity. Still others indicate their unwillingness to play by not dealing honestly with their own heart issues and letting Jesus heal their brokenness, or owning up to the pain they have caused others in relationships. Some prefer the comfort of remaining superficial, using the same church play-book from 25 years ago, or just being an armchair quarterback who actually thinks they could do it better.

Maybe for you it’s like the relationship I witnessed at a recent Cubs game between the players in the outfield and fans in the right and left field bleachers. It is terribly easy to be distracted by the many things in life that shout for our attention. It takes focus, commitment, and determination to stay in the game.

Have you been standing and watching? Do you just call fouls or level criticisms? Perhaps the world has distracted you from the central mission of your life? Maybe you just want to play on your terms?  Perhaps you should ask a leader in your church to help you practice your position, and then play to win.

You’ve been handed a glove. Let’s empty the bleachers and play ball!

Chad Wight,
The Journey Church

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