THE BACK STORY TO REAL FAITH!

7 02 2017

share-god

I have always tried to challenge Christians, when it comes to sharing their faith with others, to do as much listening as they do speaking. What is essentially Good News for Believers is not always understood and recognized as such by those who don’t trust in Jesus.  When Church Goers throw out terms like, “eternal life,” “salvation,” “by faith,” “only grace” and so forth and do so without providing a proper context; it just leaves the outside crowd lost in the dark rather than assist in the bringing of them into the light.   Let me share a personal story from when I was in Malaysia back in 1999 that I hope will serve as a parable to help illustrates the problem we have with sharing the Gospel properly and powerfully.  

 The “Grand Slam Single” is a reference to the clutch hit that ended Game 5 of the 1999 National League Championship Series between the New York Mets and one of their rivals, the Atlanta Braves. The game was played on Sunday October 17, 1999 at Shea Stadium. I watched it on the Internet on Monday October 18th while I was in Penang Malaysa at the Dalat Christian School.

 The game was tied 2–2, going into the top of the 15th inning until Mets pitcher Octavio Dotel gave up an RBI triple to Keith Lockhart giving the Braves a 3–2 lead. In the bottom of the 15th inning, the Mets loaded the bases against Braves relief pitcher Kevin McGlinchy. Mets catcher Todd Pratt playing in place of the injured Mike Piazza drew a timely walk that tied the score 3–3. The next batter was Mets third baseman Robin Ventura. Ventura crushed the 2–1 pitch over the wall in right-center for a grand slam home run winning the game for the Mets and driving both the Mets players and fans into a frenzied celebration.

 Ventura, however, never reached second base as Todd Pratt, the runner who was on first, picked up Ventura in celebration. Subsequently, Ventura was mobbed by his teammates, never finishing his trot around the bases. Because he failed to touch all four bases, the hit was officially scored only a single. Roger Cedeno, the runner on third at the time, was ruled the only runner to have crossed home plate before the on-field celebration began and the Mets were awarded a 4–3 victory. Thus, Ventura was only credited with a single one RBI. Who cares? What was important was that the Mets won and I was going bonkers for this was great news!

 I wanted to celebrate! Nobody in Malaysia did. If part of the definition of good news might be “something you want to shout across the street,” this certainly fell into that category. Christians often encourage one another to think positively, whatever the circumstances but I didn’t need any encouragement that morning. Something had happened that made all the difference. The trouble was who could I tell? Who wanted to hear this good news? It was Malaysia. I wanted to go to the desk and hug the Librarian and share with her that the Mets had just won! I wanted to hug and high five everyone around me! Ironically, the only person who was even a Baseball Fan at the School that day was a guy from Atlanta and he was a Braves Fan so this was not very good news for him!

If I acted too happy, he might have hit me!

 Because Baseball was not the sport of choice in Malaysia, what meant so much to me had no context for joy to those living half way across the world. What was a true moment of exhilaration for me didn’t even raise an eyebrow for all those around me.  Any chance of that environment changing could only begin by first me teaching the game to those living in Penang and then pointing out why the Mets were the team to root for among the other 30 clubs that make up the Major Leagues. It would take my personal investment into the lives of others so they could learn from me all I know about the grand old game. This was not going to be accomplished in a hurry. This feat would take a true commitment from me to do whatever it takes for as long as it would take to share my knowledge and relationship with the sport.

 When it comes to sharing Christianity, Disciples must approach evangelism in much the same way. I can’t expect others who have no ownership of their faith to be able to grasp my utter joy in only a few moments. I must be willing to go the distance so another may connect with the Lord and not just be coerced into buying into something that they don’t admit they desperately need. Church becomes boring for those who don’t love God much as baseball is torture for those who have never understood the wonderful nuances of the contest. Passion is not expressed for an affection not owned. Rather than just assume everybody knows the wonder of John 3:16; maybe we need to be ready to give everyone who asks the very specific reasons for the eternal hope that we now have.

Faith needs a back story if it is ever to graduate to the forefront. It takes lots of patience and genuine compassion to be willing to pass the depth of our love for God to others but if it is important enough to us, we will be willing for it to pass through us. Slow down and dig deep and see if you can’t reproduce your enthusiasm for God in the lives of others!          


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