I can hear my wife Peggy saying, “Not another sports’ analogy!” Bear with me even if you’re tired of one more sports comparison to life and ministry.
Have you noticed that our compliments often include sports’ analogies? We evaluate a message or workshop by saying “That was a home run.” or “You hit it out of the park!” It would be embarrassing if someone said “You struck out!” Close to striking out is thinking that I only “hit a single.” Singles, in baseball and life, can seem inconsequential. However . . .
Any baseball strategist will tell you that singles hitters are invaluable to a team. The top singles leader of all time is Pete Rose (#1), then Ty Cobb (#2), with Derek Jeeter, and Ichiro Suzuki rounding out the top five. Who wouldn’t want one of these players on their team? Unfortunately, the singles hitter is over-shadowed by the home run hitter.
Home run hitters cast a large shadow because they stand for power. In one swing they can turn a game around. They’re the glamorous heroes. But there’s one problem, they strike out a lot.
Singles hitters are more likely to get on base and score. The smallest hit can end up being the winning run. Baseball strategists understand the need for both types of hitters. The church can learn from this practice.
Sometimes we only celebrate the “home runs” of the charismatic teacher, the best-selling author, or the dynamic evangelist. Let’s spotlight the singles hitter.
Paul addresses both the homerun hitter and the singles hitter in Romans 12:3-4:
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have same function. . . .
What is Paul exhorting us to do?
- Think with sober judgement. We’re not to think less of ourselves or more of ourselves. Thinking means having an honest assessment of our strengths. Most singles hitters never become home run hitters and vice versa.
- Think about my “assignment.” Whatever gifts I have are a result of “the measure of faith God has assigned.” The Lord has given me certain gifts and abilities and I need to accept them and use them.
- Think like a team. We’re part of a body, a team, with each member having a different function or role. A good baseball team is more than a collection of home run hitters. The church is like this team, we need the diversity of contribution whether large or small.
As you proceed down the chapter (12:6-8), you notice some of the descriptors about using the various gifts: “let us use them (:6),” with “generosity (:8),” with “zeal (:8),” and with “cheerfulness (:8).” No matter how prominent our gift – hitting a single or slamming a home run — we use it with generosity and zeal.
Who are the singles hitters in the body of Christ? They’re the small group leaders, the administrative support persons, the worship band accompanist, the one-on-one disciplemaker, or the faithful children’s worker. Without fanfare, title, or public notice they keep coming up to bat — doing the small and unnoticed things that enable churches to flourish.
Let’s bring the analogy closer to home. Whether we hit singles or home runs, each is important and each must serve with zeal, generosity, and cheerfulness. Several things happen when we embrace our God-given roles expressed through our spiritual gifts:
- We cease striving and competing but compliment and complete one another.
- We move from the glamour of the “home run” hitter to a team approach to ministry.
- We’re part of a team that values and maximizes our contribution rather than trying to change us into another role.
- We need managers (church or ministry leaders) who value our role and judge us by the success in our role rather than asking us to play a position for which we’re not designed.
- We choose to hustle “with all the strength and energy that God supplies” (1 Peter 4:11 NLT).
Jesus gives perspective about who is the greatest on His team: “But many who are the greatest now will be least important then [in eternity], and those who seem least important now will be the greatest of them” (Matthew 19:30 NLT). Hitting singles is important to our Lord.
We need singles hitters along with home run kings in the body of Christ. Singles hitters are the men and women who serve silently, behind the scenes, not making a big public splash but who faithfully contribute from the grace given to them. Let’s cheer on and applaud these men and women in our churches and ministries. In God’s kingdom, there’s always room for a singles hitter.