A couple of years ago, I had the chance to go to Atlanta for a couple of days of baseball to watch the Braves play the Royals. On Wednesday the game was a "businessman's special," which is a noon game that many people take off work to attend or use as a way to entertain clients. Even with the thrill of being at a Major League game, I was more taken by a conversation I eavesdropped on in front of me that I will never forget.
A lady brought a man with her to the game and sat in the row in front of us, right behind home plate. She was excited about the seats and said to the man, "Aren't these seats amazing?" He just sort of shrugged and said, "I guess." As the game went on he asked questions about what seemed to be . . . everything.
“Why did he just run?”
“Why are those people running off the field?”
“Why didn't he swing?”
“Why does the blue team get to hit and not the white team?”
“Why is that guy on the hill the person who gets to throw the ball?”
I'm sitting there thinking, "Even a fair-trade coffee drinking starving artist could answer these questions! Is this guy from another planet?" Well, come to find out, he wasn't from another planet—just another country. The man was from Israel and had never played or watched baseball in his entire life. Not once. He knew absolutely nothing. As far as he was concerned, we were the ones from a different planet. His friend patiently explained the game of baseball to him, and she did so
Inning by inning.
She taught, answered questions, and never made him feel like he should know the answers. Why should he? The man had heard of baseball, but had never experienced it. This lady saw it as her mission to teach him for nine whole innings.
I probably would have given him an overview of the game before it started and then asked, "Any questions?" With the overload of information I would have given, his head would hurt too much to even know where to begin in asking questions.
How often are we great at making an invitation or giving information, but unwilling to be in it for the long haul? How often do we simply expect people to know things they aren't supposed to know?
Have you ever considered that people are the same way towards the gospel and church that this man was toward baseball? We need to always make sure people understand. That requires not just an invitation to the game, but nine innings of investment.
Inning by inning with no assumptions. Inning by inning of not using "insider" language. Inning by inning with patience.
Why? Easy. We want people to understand. We want them to experience what we've experienced through Christ and in the Church.