My entire family is eagerly watching the end of the regular season of baseball because our beloved Chicago Cubs will soon begin the race for their second World Series victory in a row!
We’re watching–and hoping for another World Championship–especially my son, Joseph who has hardly missed seeing one game! Baseball is his sport.
THE CASE FOR PROCESS
Joseph is a young man of few words. But when he does choose to speak, he either makes his family laugh with a wisecrack or gives us pause to listen with a meaningful gem. Like the time he and I were watching a game and he turned to me and asked, “Dad, you know what Joe Maddon (the Cubs’ Manager) says about baseball?”
“No, Jos, what does he say?” And I’m just thinking, Is this going to be a joke or a gem?
Maddon says in order to be successful in baseball, you can’t focus on the outcomes because you can’t control the outcomes. Instead, you have to focus on the process. That’s the stuff you can control.
So, say a guy hits a line shot into right field, and the right fielder makes an amazing diving catch. That wouldn’t be the hitter’s fault. Think about it. The hitter’s approach at the plate was good and it resulted in a hard hit ball. That one just happen to be caught. But if a guy does that over and over again, he’d probably get lots of hits.
Let’s say you’re a pitcher and you hurl the perfect pitch right where you want it, but a batter happens to golf it out of the park. You can’t focus on that outcome—you took the right approach and the outcome was out of your control. The guy just happened to hit a homer even though you made the right pitch. If you keep throwing the right pitch, you’ll get the guy out more often than the batter will get a hit.
Maddon says this is how he keeps the pressure off his players. He has them focus on only what they can control, not on what they can’t.
A GEM, INDEED
As I listened to my 16-year-old son share this gem of wisdom, I knew that the Holy Spirit was trying to get my attention.
And it had nothing to do with baseball.
In that moment it came to me: in my work with churches, coming alongside them in their efforts to form evangelistic small groups for seekers in the hopes that they would bring non-believers to Christ and increase the number of baptisms in their churches, we were focused on outcomes. Could it be that focusing on outcomes is what makes God’s work so difficult?
Could Joe Maddon’s principles about baseball also apply to making disciples who make disciples? Should the church focus on process, rather than outcomes, too? How can we be faithful to the work set before us and trust God for the outcomes?
TRUSTING THE PROCESS
Yes. Fans across the nation are keeping their fingers crossed as it looks like another post-season will begin again for the Cubs. But, we’ll admit it: we’re chewing our fingernails again because this season was nothing like last season. Sure, we’ve finished the regular season well, and that’s a good momentum builder for the playoffs, but can we forget that the entire first half of the season we played mediocre ball at best, hovered around the 500-mark, and were unable to string multiple victories together? Will the shoe drop again?
Manager Joe Maddon was asked about the Cubs’ rough start right before the mid-season All Star Game. Was he disappointed by the fact that none of his players were represented on the all-star roster, considering their lackluster perfomances?
His answer was consistent with his philosophy:
I’m not disappointed. These guys are in the process of finding their identities as Major League Baseball players. We will trust the process. The results won’t always work out in our favor, but we know that our process will eventually give us a great chance to be there in the end.
And isn’t it something? Here they are, in the end again, with another shot at the big title.
When it comes to fulfilling our role in the Great Commission and creating disciples who make disciples, what process will churches follow that will give it the greatest chance to, as Maddon puts it, “be there in the end”?
~Jeff Klein, life-long Cubs fan and follower of Jesus
Jeff Klein is also the National Church Partnership Director for Q Place, a ministry whose mission is to mobilize Christians to facilitate group discussions with spiritual seekers so they can find God as revealed in the Bible.