Stack the Bench

Albert Pujols

“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning…” (Luke 12:35, NIV).

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending the St. Louis Cardinals opening home game with Tim and Kelli (she’s the greatest baseball fan in the world…wink, wink). It is often said when it comes to baseball openers that nobody does it like the Cardinals, a team with more World Series Championships (ten) than any other team in the National League and second only to the Yankees overall. The festive atmosphere featured the return of hall of fame ball players and championship team members from past Cardinal rosters including the legendary Stan Musial, the coaching staff, current team members, and the game starting lineup all entering the stadium standing in a fleet of pickup trucks (no chariots available I guess). The standing room only crowd enjoyed the baseball food fair, opening day giveaways, prancing majestic Clydesdales, a demonstration by a trained American Bald Eagle, and a fly over by two A-10 aircraft during the National Anthem. The family friendly atmosphere drew thousands of kids to the park with their parents. Two twin boys sitting in front of us held up a sign that read, “We’re Ten today – Go Cards!” They did their best to catch the attention of television cameras (they might have for all I know). It was a one of a kind day for a one of a kind baseball organization.

But the real draw to the park is of course the team and the game. The Cardinals have already taken a commanding lead in the National League Central Division and were poised to stomp (and did stomp) the last place Houston Astros (the only team in baseball without a win yet this year). The Cardinal pitching staff including Cy Young contenders Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright is strong. The batting lineup features six regular players any of which can ruin a pitchers day and wipe away any lead the opposing team might have at the time. One swing of the bat by arguably the greatest player of all time (and a great role model) Albert Pujols and the Cards will score usually several runs (like his three run shot during the game). Opposing teams will sometimes opt to pitch around Pujols or walk him intentionally. The problem with that decision is that the pitcher now has to face Matt Holliday, one of the greatest hitters in the game. If that were not enough of a threat, you can usually count on catcher Yadier Molina to hit and at times knock one over the fence. Scrappy young Cardinal outfielder Colby Rasmus will find a way to get on base and score some runs (not to mention make some amazing plays in centerfield). Leadoff man and second baseman Skip Schumaker (converted from the outfield) can rip a double or triple when you most need him to do so. Outfielder Ryan Ludwick is always a threat when he picks up the bat. If the team stays healthy (especially the pitching staff), the 2010 St. Louis Cardinals are going to be the team to beat.

What’s interesting to me from a spiritual standpoint (I hear you saying to yourself, “you mean you can actually draw something spiritual from baseball?” – yes I can) is the depth of the Cardinal bench. If a hitter is having a bad day someone else will come in and take up the slack. Where most teams may only have a clutch hitter or two in the lineup, the Cards have a half-dozen guys that can crank out a game turning or game winning hit. The church needs to deepen the bench when it comes to our ministry service for the Lord. Everyone needs to be in shape, trained, dressed for service, and prepared to step in and make the play or hit the ball. Too often, the entire weight of the ministry is upon a few staff members, lay leaders, or committed volunteers. The deeper the ministry service bench is, the more likely we will score some runs for the Kingdom.

In retrospect, if the Cards lose a game or even throw away the season it’s no big deal really (did I really just say that?), but if the church fails to produce eternal souls are on the line. The ability of the believer to walk in victory is on the line. The fulfillment of our destiny and purpose as believers is on the line. Pleasing our Lord and Savior who certainly put on the jersey, showed up to the game, and knocked it out of the park for our benefit is on the line. Let’s all get in shape, dress for the game, be ready, stay anointed, and snap to it when he calls our number for service. It’s time for everyone in the body of Christ to get in the game.