Friday, December 29, 2017

Baseball Observations with the Manager

Prior to Christmas I met for coffee with the manager and COO of the minor league baseball team I serve to discuss the past season and the season to come. I asked lots of questions, probed for answers to the team’s underachievement, and was very pleased that he trusts me enough to discuss so many matters of great importance to him. He is certainly not a believer in Christ, but he trusts me for such discussions. The 2018 season will be the seventh of my serving the club. Below are some of the observations we made and discussed.

There were a number of changes in the starting lineup from 2016 to 2017. There were even more changes to the bench and the pitching staff. That led to a loss of culture and a loss of team leadership, on the field and in the clubhouse.

There were changes in all the coaching staff roles, and their poor fit for the club also contributed to the loss of culture.

The manager wrongly assumed that the returning veteran players would step into team leadership roles and enculturate their teammates into the team’s way of doing baseball. As we talked, I mentioned that the introverted nature of these two veterans probably short-circuited their leadership potential. Whereas the manager expected these players to be the ones who would hang around the clubhouse after games to encourage, celebrate, console, or challenge, they were the first two out the door. I told the manager they had been at the ballpark for eight or more hours by that time and their relational tanks were probably empty. They wanted to get away to some solitude. He nodded his ascent and I could tell he was processing this leadership factor.

We also talked about the fact that all his players are now Millennials and the challenge that presents to managers and coaches of his (my) generation. I mentioned that I had observed the importance of having Millennials on the coaching staff and how that is working to great effect on college football staffs. We talked about the former player and team captain who is returning as hitting coach, as well as the two other offers he has out for the 2016 season’s bullpen coach, and the 2016 starting catcher to return as pitching coach. All are Millennials and may have a unique way of relating to Millennial players in ways that are more challenging to Baby Boomer leaders.

You may wonder, where is the ministry in this conversation? I would reply, it is everywhere. The manager has told me, very directly, about the hardness in his heart toward the Lord due to the death of both parents when he was quite young, growing up in an Italian Roman Catholic family. I have been building relationship with this man for six years and I am gaining his trust. I have given him good materials to read that both enhance his leadership of the club and inform his heart of the Lord’s truth, grace, and love. I have walked with him through his cancer scare and with his wife through hers. Ministry is woven into the fabric of each interaction I have with him, whether in person, via text message, email, or in the form of a book.

May I challenge you to look beyond the most traditional, pragmatic, and blunt ministry methods, to be more creative, more relational, and more deeply impactful by loving people extravagantly, and serving them selflessly.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christmas - It's About Jesus.

During these days approaching the Christmas holiday, I have been taking some time off and have been reflecting upon the central figure of Christmas. The popular culture being what it is, the central figure of Christmas is often lost among the clutter. Without trashing all of the holiday’s pop culture trappings, I would like to remind us of the central person in Christmas as revealed in the gospel of Luke. It’s Jesus Christ.

When the angel Gabriel visited Zacharias, John the Baptist’s father, it was about Jesus. When his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant at an advanced age, it was about Jesus.

When Gabriel spoke to Mary, Jesus’ mother, his message was about Jesus. When Mary responded in what we now call the Magnificat, her response was about Jesus. When Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit, it was Jesus.

When Zacharias’ tongue was loosed and he began to prophesy, his message was about Jesus.

When Caesar Augustus decreed the census, it was unwittingly about Jesus.

When an angel spoke to shepherds near Bethlehem, it was about Jesus. When they came and found the holy family, it was about Jesus. When all those who heard the story wondered and when Mary pondered in her heart, it was about Jesus.

When the Lord’s family came to the temple on the 8th day, it was about Jesus. When Simeon prophesied, it was about Jesus. When Anna gave thanks to God and spoke of the redemption of Jerusalem, it was about Jesus.

When the magi showed up, about two years later from Persia, their visit was about Jesus.

As we gather with the Lord’s Church this weekend to pray, to sing, to study, and to proclaim, it’s about Jesus.

As we gather with family and friends on Christmas eve, and or Christmas Day, it’s about Jesus.

When we send Christmas cards, when we tweet, post, or email greetings to family, friends, and colleagues, it’s about Jesus.

When we present gifts to those we love, it’s about Jesus.

When we experience the love, mercy, grace, and presence of God, it’s about Jesus.

I pray you experience the immeasurable love of God, through relationship with Jesus, during this Christmas season and beyond. The season, the year, the century, the millennium, the epoch, the eternity is about Jesus.