02 June 2015

playing the whole game

As the pitcher came to a stop, rounding first base after confidently slugging the ball into center field, the broadcasters exchanged their delight on his recent success. One particular line caught my attention: He's having so much fun right now playing the whole game. This, of course, is a reference to the fact that here, in the National League, pitchers take their turn at the plate. This is not so in the so-called junior league, which employs the DH to keep their hurlers focused singularly on pitching. I also place this comment in direct contrast with the recent comments of a certain AL pitcher, as he lamented on taking his at-bats during interleague play, that he does not like hitting and should not be forced to do so.

It strikes me as odd that this individual, making multi-million dollars for playing a game, would so publicly complain about one aspect that he rarely endures, because he doesn't feel like it. I think this is a more modern problem because our culture more readily raises complaint instead of simply accepting circumstances and doing one's best. It is when we struggle through those areas which don't come easily to us that we grow and develop. Could it be that when pitchers take up the challenge of hitting that they could become better at pitching? It is hard to say for certain, but to love the game is to accept its challenges and perceived shortcomings.

The same might be said also of the work of pastoring. Simply stated, there are a number of pastors who decide that there are certain aspects of their work that they simply don't feel like doing. For example, a certain individual might be more naturally gifted as a speaker and communicator, but feels as though visiting the sick is something that simply gets in the way of his "church work." Therefore, he makes the simple decision to avoid this part of the pastoral vocation to only do what he would like to do. (Any aspect of congregational ministry could work in this example, and there seem to be many definitions of what is and is not "pastoral work.")

But to love the church is to accept its challenges and perceived shortcomings, knowing that the experience of the whole is necessary for truly appreciating it various parts. Simply stated, the work of pitching only makes sense in the context of being a baseball player – connected to the game. Likewise, our work of preaching is strengthened by placing it within the context of vocational pastoring – the two are not equated. And when the pastor engages these various aspects of the church, even when some of them are perpetually challenging to the individual, the fruit of ministry is more evident and pleasing.

Playing the whole game may come with difficulty and frustration, requiring the pastor to dig deeper in his or her efforts, but also to rely on the strength of the Spirit. And this brings about the joy of the pastoral vocation that comes from service to the church with all of one's heart, soul, mind and strength.

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