the bottomline

Lessons from T-Ball for Churches
Saturday, June 17, 2017 by Dan Allen

All three converged at the same time bumping heads and ending on the ground as they went for the ball which was trickling to a stop. One got up crying and scooted off the infield into the comfort of his mother’s lap and arms. The other trotted toward his dad who lifted his cap, rubbed his head and pushed him back on the field. No damage was done to the third.

It’s T-ball time and I spent less-than-a-stimulating hour watching my six-year-old grandson field balls, watch a few go under his glove, get some hits, round the bases, and draw in the sand of the infield. If one wants to watch real baseball—this is not the place to come. These guys are only a few lunar cycles removed from diapers and a moon-sized leap to becoming ball players. But it’s a good start. In fact, I tip my hat to the patience of the coaches as they attempt to teach these young’ins how to put their fingers into the glove, the position of their feet at home plate and how sitting on the bench in the batting order is better than wandering off picking dandelions.

Despite its lack of suspense and being frustratingly boring for adults, for preschoolers who have must-play-sports parents it’s actually a great step. Yes, they are learning some fundamentals of the game—very limited, but some. More importantly they are engaged in a team activity. It’s not all about them—they are a part of something larger. They need to share the spotlight with more than just siblings. A batting order is strictly adhered to. Each child is placed on the field of play where the coaches so determine . . . all in the infield (nothing really makes it to the outfield unless it has gone between the legs of several fielders). The “T” for batting, only comes out when it is obvious that no matter how many pitches are thrown by the coach, at that moment the batter could not hit an overinflated beach ball.

All of this is a fun way to learn discipline and responsibility in an organized sport and they get to wear a uniform with a number . . . not to mention baseball shoes, mitt, batting gloves, cap and whatever else they can squeeze out of their parents.

We should have a T-ball league for new born Christians. 

One of the fallacies of the church is that we neglect to start new believers at the bottom. We assume they either have all the knowledge they need to become mature Christians or will get it over the course of time. That’s not the way it should be. These babes-in-Christ are in desperate need of discipling as they start from ground zero and work their way toward maturity. They’ve just come from the dark-side of humanity, thus, everything is new—prayer, devotions, church, holiness, etc. All these things and much more need to be explained. Like in T-ball, it won’t always look pretty early-on as these newbies make mistakes and even fall back into old habits and sins. At that time we need to be like the T-ball coaches—lovingly, with patience, explain how the game is played and position them for success. Some of them might just need a hug and lap to sit on while they lick their wounds. Others will need to have their errors pointed out and pushed back into the field. That’s not wrong. Training may be slow, but should be consistent.

Churches could use an organized discipleship program that is done in a group, if there are a number of new followers or, better yet, it would be great if their Philips, those who brought them to Jesus, were to disciple them throughout their life. They already have the contact, so there is a natural connection.

Time for the next one to come to the plate. What are you going to do to help them?


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