I have been a Little League baseball coach for both of my sons’ teams for many years. And I’ve learned that baseball can teach us life lessons.
Just a few weeks ago, my 9-year-old’s team was down 5-0, and we had already lost our first two games. It didn’t look good. But all of a sudden, our bats came alive; all our practice and preparation suddenly showed itself. Best of all, our rally started in the bottom half of the order, with our weakest hitters. Two kids got on with walks, and our least experienced player came to the plate. With international parents, he had never played baseball before, and you could tell he didn’t have a clue. But somehow he hit the ball, and it went into the outfield. Our first two runs scored, and he ended up on second base. Being from a British Commonwealth culture, he began to walk over to the shortstop and second baseman and shake their hands! “Stefan,” I shouted. “You have to stay on the base!” “Oh,” he said. “I’ve never been here before.”
Inspired, other kids who had never got hits before also got them now. Then the best hitters started to hit, and we came back to win 11 to 6. In a long team meeting afterward, the kids couldn’t stop telling each other what they had learned. “We didn’t give up, and we came back!” “Our rally started with the bottom of the order.” “Sometimes you get what you need from unexpected places.” “We all just kept cheering for each other.” “Everybody helped us win today.” Finally, our star player said, “This just goes to show you: You can’t ever give up on hope. We always have to keep on hoping no matter what.”
This is central to our vocation in the churches: to offer unexpected hope, because our mission is to the kingdom of God—“thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” That is what we pray. And while the kingdom of God was the central message of Jesus and the New Testament, it has faded as ours. Finding salvation to heaven is part of the message, getting closer to God is part of the message, but the heart of the message of Jesus was a new order breaking into history—changing everything about the world, including us.