Home run. Long ball. Dinger. Moonshot. Bomb. Going yard.
For baseball lovers, the home run is one of the most exciting feats in America’s pastime. My family loves baseball, and our hometown team is the Texas Rangers. Every time a Rangers player crushes a towering shot over the outfield wall, fireworks erupt above the scoreboard and speakers blare the theme from the classic baseball film The Natural.
Everyone loves the home run. It can give a team the added boost they need and turn the momentum of a game around completely.
Some teams live and die by the long ball, as they say. Their lineups are loaded with players who either hit it out of the ballpark or strike out. While this strategy certainly provides entertainment and a few of these teams have experienced periods of success, most clubs would prefer players who maintain a high batting average, consistently hitting singles and doubles, because this ultimately generates more runs in a game and more wins during the season.
There’s nothing really exciting about hitting singles. But a steady string of them can prove more powerful than a home run. In more recent years, teams have executed this style of play—called “small ball”—with great success. This was clearly seen with the last season’s Kansas City Royals.
We live in a culture that thrives on fireworks, huge changes, big plays and momentous occasions. We like to be entertained. Major League Baseball’s All-Star Weekend features a Home Run Derby, not a Batting Average Derby.
Often, I’ve heard people refer to sermons with baseball language. Church members remark that their pastor hit a “home run” on Sunday. Pastors languish over the fact that a sermon didn’t live up to their expectations, and they feel like they’ve struck out.
One of the best pieces of ministry advice I’ve received has been to focus on hitting singles and doubles rather than home runs. Just like baseball experts would say, if you try to hit a home run every time at the plate, you’ll usually strike out, but if you focus on putting the ball in play, you’ll actually increase your chances of hitting one over the wall. It’s more about patience than power.
Long-term, consistently biblical preaching will better produce healthier disciples and churches. In this way, fruitfulness becomes a byproduct of faithfulness, not flashiness.
This advice reduces the weekly stress of producing buzz-worthy sermons with tweetable lines and humorous illustrations. It encourages pastors to prioritize explaining and applying the text of Scripture. Pastors begin to realize it’s more important to feed the sheep than to wow them with your wit. Church members leave each week with a better understanding of God and what it looks like to follow him. These singles and doubles help “advance the runners” toward spiritual maturity.
This not only applies to preaching but also to a myriad of other avenues of the Christian life. In the church, do we judge the value of our worship services by whether the Lord “moved powerfully and visibly” or whether the gospel was faithfully preached and Christ was exalted and worshipped? Are we more excited about a great week of VBS or youth camp than we are at the consistent disciple-making of children and teenagers?
Certainly we pray for visible demonstrations of the Lord’s power, such as revival, but Jesus’ Parable of the Sower explains that it’s more desirable to have good soil that produces fruit with patience than rocky soil that generates quick growth with no root (Luke 8:4-15).
Consistency and faithfulness find value not only in the local church but also in our everyday lives, at work and home. It’s more important to demonstrate daily, sacrificial love toward your spouse than just springing for an expensive date or gift every once in a while. Likewise, epic family vacations have some value, but the week-in, week-out time spent talking with and discipling your children will bear more fruit in the long run.
In your own quiet times with the Lord, focus on a steady diet of the Word and prayer rather than being discouraged if you don’t have an epiphany every time you turn the page. Often times, this consistency tills the soil in our hearts that ultimately produces the greatest spiritual growth.
Life and faith truly are more about hitting singles and doubles. With this as our focus, we’ll strike out less and see more fruit over the long haul. And who knows, as we are faithful in the small things, we’ll likely experience a moonshot or two along the way.