My 10-year-old son Will and I share a common love—baseball.
While he’s not naturally gifted at playing the game, Will loves to be part of the team, and as with most kids his age his skills have progressed each year through repetition and practice.
This past spring, Will graduated from coach-pitch to kid-pitch, which brought with it both excitement and anxiety. However, after only a few games I could see that anxiety largely overshadowed the excitement.
Will hit the ball well during practices and pre-game warm ups, but as soon as he stepped in the batter’s box, fear froze him in his tracks—so much so that he would not even move when an errant pitch came right at him.
In the very first game, he was hit in the arm by a pitch. The painful experience only served to make him more fearful of batting. I joked with him after the game, “I know it hurt, buddy, but at least you didn’t get hit in the face.” And, wouldn’t you know it, the very next game, a wild pitch hit him square in the face.
Added to this, he struck out several times because he never swung the bat. This only intensified his timidity. Soon, whenever his turn at bat approached, he complained of feeling nauseous.
Following one of his games, I asked, “Will, what goes through your mind when you’re up to bat?” Will replied, “I’m afraid I’m going to strike out or get hit by the ball.” He was so afraid of pain, failure and embarassment that he did not even want to try.
I then gave him some baseball advice that eventually became a mantra we would repeat before every game and every at-bat: “If you never swing the bat, you will never hit the ball.” I encouraged him to swing at every pitch, even if it was outside the strike zone.
Over the course of the season Will began to swing the bat more and more. Yes, he still struck out on occasion, but he also began to put the ball in play and advance his teammates around the base paths.
And then the big moment came—Will got a base hit. The look of excitement on his face was priceless. And, of course, this success strengthened his resolve to swing again during his next at-bat.
Our mantra—If you never swing the bat, you will never hit the ball—reminds me of a similar statement by Southwestern Seminary evangelism professor Matt Queen to those who fear the pain of failure, rejection or embarrassment when sharing their faith: “Not every time you share the gospel will someone profess Christ, but if you never share the gospel, you’ll never see anyone profess Christ.”
For many Christians, especially those of us who are not naturally gifted evangelists, the prospect of sharing our faith leaves us terrified and frozen in our tracks. Even the thought of it brings a nauseous feeling. Rather than risk “striking out” in a witnessing encounter, we sit idly by and refuse to say a word.
Maybe the remedy is simply to start swinging. Thankfully, God measures success in evangelism by obedience, not decisions. A rejection of the gospel is a rejection of Jesus, not of us. So, in a sense, we never strike out when we evangelize.
We must faithfully obey our Lord’s Great Commission and let the Holy Spirit do his work. Sometimes, we swing and miss. Other times, we plant or water gospel seeds, advancing a person’s understanding of his need for the Lord. Given enough swings, eventually we will experience the exhilarating joy of seeing someone come to faith in Christ. And with every swing we gain confidence for future opportunities.
Last week, the tables turned—Will became the teacher; I became the student. As the first day of school approached, Will said, “I can’t wait to start school so I can tell my friends about Jesus.”
He will likely never be a professional baseball player, but Will understands what it means to overcome his fears and swing for the fences when it comes to sharing his faith.
What if Christians took the Great Commission seriously and decided to risk failure, rejection and embarrassment to share the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ? What if we intentionally sought out opportunities to share the gospel with family, friends, co-workers or those we meet as we go about our daily lives?
This week, pray for opportunities to share your faith, pray for boldness to witness when God brings someone across your path (and he will), and pray that the gospel would show its power.
If the thought of this makes you nauseous, remember: If you never swing the bat, you will never hit the ball.