Most estimates put the number at 30 million team participants in the United States. Any way you look at it that’s a lot of people. The sport? Softball.
Of those 30 million thousands compete with their church name emblazed across their chests. Church softball is as American as softball, hotdogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet.
Our church has a men’s team. Maybe yours does too. We used to have a women’s team back in the day, but after one season, the college players in the other dugout took the game a little more seriously than our ladies did. For the protection of families, we determined the safety of the playing moms in our dugout was a better decision for us.
Some of my pastor friends conclude church softball is way more trouble than it’s worth. There may be some truth in that. But when I look out on the diamond, I’m happy at what I see.
Among the former athletes and guys who never wore a high school uniform and near the men looking for something to do are fathers playing ball again with their sons, Christians from at least three generations, new believers, older believers, and a guy or two who has yet to profess faith. In the stands are wives and children, parents, girlfriends, and buddies. Most watch the game with some measure of interest. Nearly all are connecting with other people in our church. It’s a place to learn each other’s names, stories, hopes, dreams, gifts, temptations, failures, passions, and questions - conversations that rarely happen in the formal gathering of the church on Sundays but so necessary to growth as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
I’ve never like the sound bite, It's not whether you win or lose. It's how you play the game. The joke, of course, is the source for the quote is someone who lost the game. As long as I can remember, my thought has been If you’re going to play, you might as well win.
Still, if ever there was a venue for emphasizing the importance of how we play the game, church softball is near the top of the list.
Of course, I hope the guys win. We record outs and keep score for a reason. I love to hear their cheers after a clutch hit, a key defensive play, or a good base-running decision. I am happy for them when they experience the thrill of victory.
How we play is more important than the outcome because our mission as a church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Church softball can help us do that.
There is as much to be learned from winning as there is from losing. Winning and losing reveal character alike. Questionable calls by umpires, missed plays by teammates, and conflict among players provide opportunities for Christlike responses or in moments of weakness sinful reactions.
On the wall of my Christian high school gym were the words, “Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” That’s God’s will for us when behind the wheel, at the kitchen sink, at a workstation, in front of a game system, standing in the pulpit, or getting a good tan on a softball field.
As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.