Cow Bells and Stingrays

If Busch Stadium, home of the St. Cardinals, is “baseball heaven” (and the faithful certainly believe that) then the indoor Tropicana Field, home of the surging Tampa Bay Rays and built in the shape of half of an orange, could be called baseball he**…never mind. Tampa Bay has come from near dissolution as a baseball franchise to contending with the Yankees and smacking the Red Sox all season long. Now as they head into the second half of the season they are poised to take their division or most certainly the wild card spot and a place in post season play. The point is that despite the great season they still lack a suitable stadium and overall cohesive marketing strategy.

In fact, to attend a Rays game (as Tim and I like to do when in the area) is to be bewildered by the competing and contradictory series of sounds and images that have become Ray baseball. For example, the expansion team was originally called the “Devil Rays” but after years of losing and a management shake up, the term, “devil” was dropped from the name (I could have helped them with that one). The facility, the uniforms, and the team were all given a facelift. Today the image of an exploding star with rays of light shooting everywhere seems to be the new image of the club. This apparent attempt to transition the team away from marine life is contradicted by the small pool of stingrays visible just to the right of center field. Further, throughout the game it is common for the crowd to suddenly break into a chorus of cow bells to support the pitcher as he tries to throw the third strike, or to support the hitter in a clutch situation, or to show appreciation for a good play, at bat, run scored, or home run.

So, let me bring it home for you. The Rays play in a stadium designed in the shape of a fruit and wear a star on the front of their uniforms while stingrays swim in the outfield and the fans play cow bells all night. Confused? It’s a good thing the Rays have some amazing pitchers, fielders, and hitters this year to counteract the effect of the ballpark atmosphere. In fact, the natives of the coast are just happy to be winning period.

It seems to me that the Church is a lot like the Rays ball club. Despite all the books, blogs, magazines, and media shows that constantly tell us all how bad the Church is and how everything we do is wrong, the Church worldwide continues to grow. People are born again, bodies are healed, families are restored, and hope is renewed. It’s amazing when you think about it. Our facilities may not be all that, our marketing may make 5th Avenue cringe, and we too may have some seemingly contradictory sounds and images, but yet we keep winning because we have God’s super added to our natural. We have been given grace clothes as a uniform. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we have the best players in the world.

Like the Rays, I think the Church should work on unifying and standardizing its message to be more effective. We too have our “cow bells” to contend with. While we strive for excellence, though, let’s pause to thank the Lord for what He is doing in us and through us. Let’s pause to make a list about what the Church is doing right while we address what can be improved.