Monday, April 23, 2007

Discipleship and Major League Baseball

The first time I ever watched major league baseball live was when I visited Phoenix, Arizona some years back. My friends Mike Gowans and Todd McIntyre took me to watch the Diamondbacks play.

Growing up in the Philippines I played softball in grade school and watched some local NCAA baseball but nowhere near the way Americans are enthralled by it.

The average price of tickets to the game we watched was about thirty dollars, the peanuts, hotdogs and beverages were overpriced and the yet the whole stadium was packed. Reminded me of the words: “To pay any price and do anything…..”

Even more interesting was with baseball you’ll never really know how long it will take, yet the people watched patiently. I watched as thousands of people sweat it out under the blazing Arizona sun. Talk about long suffering.

I really couldn’t understand why it was such a big deal. A bunch of men trying to hit a ball is a slow game that honestly was boring to me, but not to them. It was not till the 7th Inning Stretch that I had my epiphany. Thousands of people around me began to stand, stretch, buy more snacks and then sing in chorus “Take Me Out To The Ball Game”. I was amazed.

Then it hit me. What makes thousands of people spend good money to watch a game? What makes them pay for overpriced snacks and stay under the heat of the sun and suffer discomfort? Why were they willing to do all this and I wasn’t as thrilled as they were? The answer was, it was part of their culture. Why did I not enjoy and understand it they way they did?, it wasn’t part of mine.

Culture is formed over years of practice. Many times we don’t even know why we do what we do. The 7th Inning Stretch has become part of American culture but no one knows exactly how that started (they have several guesses). That’s how culture works, it becomes the norm, “the practice”, the way things are done.

Here is where discipleship connects. As church leaders it is our task to make discipleship a part of our church's culture.

But there is a dangerous side to culture. It is when people do things only because it is the norm and no longer for the right reasons. That’s when culture warps into “cults”. It was kinda’ like my experience that day at Chase Field – I stood up and stretched with everyone else without really knowing why. I am sure there were a hundred others too.

It demonstrated to me the power of culture and the danger that lurks with it. Like the 7th Inning Stretch, discipleship should be naturally and organically woven into our churches’ culture. But unlike it we need to be very clear why we make disciples. It is not so people can behave a certain way but to ensure 3 things:

First, that they have a thriving, growing and fruitful relationship with their God. Secondly, that they learn to walk in life long relationships with other members of the body of Christ. And thirdly that they reach out to others to have a relationship with their God.

In time because of the people who brought me there I was singing like everyone else. I didn’t know why I was doing it….but it was a start that eventually made me want to find out why. It was also not the last time I watched major league baseball.

See also my other post:
Prayer and the Elevator

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