This week of the Super Bowl, small ball, a baseball term, has emerged as the favored metaphor to describe the president’s State of the Union Address. From the left and right, Fox News and the Huffington Post, consensus is that the President’s State of the Union Address this past Tuesday evening will not be counted among his better speeches or a State of the Union Address to be remembered. I’ll let you do the Google search, but enter “small ball” and “State of the Union” and you’ll have thousands of result in less than a second.
So what is small ball? Check here for a thorough definition, but suffice it to say that small ball is a strategy for winning a baseball game that is more interested in stolen bases and bases on balls, bunts and sacrifice hits, than it is on doubles and triples and home runs.
The State of the Union Address wasn’t a grand slam.Whatever runs may have been scored were done so in an unspectacular way. The critics, left and right, want drama. They got none.
On Sunday we meet for our annual State of the Church meeting. We’ll receive reports, review budgets and elect officers. From the outside it will seem all small ball. Don’t expect a home run. To mix metaphors, don’t expect any Peyton Manning or Richard Sherman theatrics.
Buried in those annual reports and budget reports, though, is something better than a grand slam. Read carefully and you’ll discover God at work, the wind of the Spirit blowing – lives redeemed, good news shared; the hungry fed and the lonely befriended.
LPC is most definitely a small ball church. In covenant faith we baptize infants and somehow along the way, barely perceived in most cases, young men and women come to faith and learn to live life as followers of Jesus. Week by week men and women come to Bible study and in time they realize that God is speaking to them through those ancient words. Mission teams travel to far away places and mission dollars are sent to trusted partners, and after a while it becomes clear; whole communities become better places to live and children who were in kindergarten at HPCA in North Philadelphia or PLM school San Lucas Toliman are now living young adult lives that give witness to God’s amazing grace poured out in Christ. Visitors come looking for a place to “go to church” and in God’s time they discover a family into which they have been adopted. They find Lord’s Day worship has become the center of their week, in the light of which all the rest of the week makes sense.
But don’t be misled by life in a small ball church. Runs are being scored all the time. The Kingdom is growing, lives are being radically and forever changed; our world is a better place because of small ball LPC. Be alert, however; occasionally grand slams are hit. For instance, and amazingly, right in the middle of an annual meeting, we make the audacious, but truer than most truth, claim that God is calling men and women who we know really well to bear office in His church. People just like us saying “yes” to God’s claim not just on their time and talent, but on their whole lives. That’s long ball.
One of the reasons that I love serving a small ball church is that my relationship with Christ has been mostly small ball, though there has been an occasional grand slam. My journey of discipleship has been measured mile by mile, sometimes inch by inch, through this Bible study, that morning of prayer, what seemed at the time to be an insignificant conversation or an incidental act of service. My connection to the church has been in friendships that deepen slowly and age well.
The small ball metaphor is used to criticize the President’s speech. I’ll leave all that to the pundits. Leading a small ball life of discipleship in a wonderfully small ball church is an amazing blessing for me.