In recent days my favorite baseball team — the Cleveland Indians — signed several young players to long-term contracts. The trip to the playoffs last season (quite unexpected by many) was a wild ride culminating in one of the most excited and electrified crowds ever to cheer the Tribe in downtown Cleveland.
This season they come into town with the battle cry — “Unfinished Business”. Much like the great teams we cheered for in the 1990’s the organization is looking to this group of young players to “make it happen”.
Jason Kipnis, Yan Gomes, Michael Brantley, all now join Nick Swisher, Corey Kluber, and others. They plan to complete the business left undone last season.
I watched part of the news conference featuring Kipnis, Gomes, and Brantley. They all three said the same thing. They all could have waited for free agency and probably made more money. Instead they tied themselves to the Tribe. They love coming to work, they love playing together, they feel like the Indians organization is more family than employer. They have fun. Win or lose – they are friends and teammates.
Dr. Clark from undergraduate days at Johnson Bible College (now Johnson University) was famous for giving us little snippets of wisdom that never totally made sense in the moment, but came to be quite astounding. He often said, “When fishermen don’t fish — they fight”.
After some years in ministry I began to get the truth of his saying. Church members who are not actively engaged in discipleship — fight. Most churches I have encountered that are deeply engaged in fights have not had any growth or significant outreach in years.
And thus the fights start.
The young players for the Tribe noted in their interviews that they know the pain of losing, of struggle. But they also know that if they do what they should — perform the way they should — they win!
As teammates they hold themselves to account. Their manager noted in the press conference that he does little “policing” in the locker room. The players hold each other together. They encourage, admonish, and cheer for each other. They want to keep it all going.
Ultimately — the locker room is fun.
Church should be fun. I have a friend who is starting a church in South Carolina. Their tag line is Relationship not Religion.
Do we have relationships at church — or simply acquaintances who sit near us in church? Sadly — many do not have any true relationship. Too often they rarely see each other beyond the nods in the lobby as we enter and leave.
Is church fun? Are we enjoying the company of other fellow disciples and working with them to accomplish the goal of making new disciples?
Andy Stanley notes that churches have to start from the point of Defining the Win. In baseball the win is outscoring the other team. What is the win in church life? When we really honestly strip away all the fluff and trappings — the win is introducing the non-believer to Jesus.
Maybe the problem isn’t that churches know little about the win — they don’t really know Jesus. They have no relationship with Jesus. Jesus is just part of their religious experience. They don’t introduce others to Jesus because they don’t really know Him themselves.
Fisherman fish. When they catch fish they laugh and joke together. They look forward to the next trip. When fisherman catch fish — fishing is fun.
Are you a fisherman who fishes — or fights?