The Tampa Bay Rays and the Church

Well the baseball playoffs are at hand. Now it is football season of course, but baseball, like most sports becomes more interesting during this time. My beloved Tampa Bay Rays finished the season yesterday with a dramatic 12 inning victory versus the Kansas City Royals giving them the best record in baseball. It is hard for me not to love the Rays because I’m a Tampa kid. But its also hard not to love the Rays for how they win. 
They don’t have a huge payroll like the Yankees and Red Sox, and are easily near the bottom of the league in that area. They tend to only play with character guys, even though some of the character issues they’ve had have performed well elsewhere. And several of the players like their All-Star LF Carl Crawford and closing pitcher Rafael Soriano will soon depart for teams willing to pay them big bucks (look for one of the two to be on the Yankees or Sox next year). As a result, next year, new unproven, and cheaper players, will have to step into place. Finally, I love the fact that their manager, Joe Maddon, puts players wherever he needs them.
Here are some parallels I see with the Church. But please by no means think that I think God likes the Rays over the Yankees; that would be creating a God in my own image and we don’t want to get that whole creation thing in reverse!
1.) Budgets do not determine the effectiveness of either the church or the team. Yes the Yankees have a huge budget and usually win, just like some churches have huge budgets and God blesses them. However, the size of the budget is far less important than the gospel centered character and mission of the church. God doesn’t need a large budget or a building to do His work. He is far more concerned with people loving the gospel and depending upon him. We’ll see far more success by relying on the gospel to motivate us to make a difference where we are.
2.) Turnover. Churches are always experiencing turnover, in the same way the Rays do. For the Yankees and Red Sox, they can simply replace departing players by throwing out the most money or trading for other already established prayers. They are less dependent (though I’m not saying they NEVER develop players) on developing talent from within than teams like the Rays-because the Rays have to do so. The church is no different. Instead of seeking replacements via trades (church transfers), we ought to seriously consider the need to actually spend the time it takes to develop new leadership. Churches must always be seeking ways to develop new leadership and never become complacent with existing leadership.
3.) Positions. The Rays regularly put their position players in different positions. Ben Zobrist, who happens to be a solid Christian, has played just about everything but catcher and pitcher. But this is normal when you’re on the Rays. If you play 2nd base, you may be used at 3rd or Shortstop, 1st base, or even right-field. People at Redeemer seem to have adopted this mindset as well; I’ve heard, “Just put me in where you need me.”

Anyhow, the Rays could end up losing to the Rangers in the first round of the play-offs. But still, the success they’ve had ought to at least cause us to examine what is really going on there. I think they can be a great encouragement to the church.

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