Important Lessons From a Minor League Baseball Team
In 2015, the Biloxi Shuckers, the AA minor league baseball team of the Milwaukee Brewers, were forced to participate in an unprecedented experience.
A beautiful new baseball stadium was under construction in their Mississippi city, but construction crews weren’t able to complete the project until late spring. As a result, the team was forced to participate in a 54-game road trip to start their season. To add a little perspective, many professional baseball players complain when they are in the midst of a grueling eight or nine-game road trip.
For two months, the Shuckers traveled 2,800 miles through the south, hitting just about every town except Biloxi. They slept in countless hotel rooms, schlepping their luggage from hotel to bus to stadium and back to bus. Teammates gave each other makeshift haircuts in the clubhouse. The bus made nightly pit stops at out-of-the-way gas stations for a bathroom break at 3 a.m. (The life of a minor league baseball player might not be as glamorous as we imagined.)
What does a minor league baseball team with an unprecedented extended road trip have to teach us about the state of the Church in North America?
What does a minor league baseball team with an unprecedented extended road trip have to teach us about the state of the Church in North America? Many church leaders feel that we’re in a new era: we, too, no longer enjoy the benefits of a home-field advantage. In this cultural moment, we are always the away team, no longer privy to the comforts and luxuries enjoyed by previous generations of Christians.
The implication of this reality is that we have a decision to make regarding our posture. We can either deny we’re the away team or complain about our new reality. Or admitting that while things won’t be the same as before, we can be creative and think like Shuckers. In other words, we can engage in the “resident alien” posture that Peter wrote about in one of his letters.
If we take this posture, it will require us to think like bilingual missionaries in our particular contexts – and to teach our people to do the same. We understand both the reality of the world and the invitation of the kingdom. Culture, of course, is what people do—the rhythms, values, patterns, symbols, taboos, priorities, and characteristics of the way a particular people group operates. Our missionary posture is to celebrate and affirm the good elements and speak into and call out the bad elements— and those bad elements always involve idols, which speak both to our hearts as individuals and to our cultural norms.
While we certainly are in a new era of Church like we’ve never experienced before in North America, we need space to grieve. But we also need to commit to a faith-filled, humble, courageous, and contextually intelligent posture of engagement. In some ways, we need to take on the posture of Daniel and his faithful friends who were living, leading, and serving in a foreign land.
The current reality is not a position or situation we would have chosen or preferred. But even still, there is an invitation to press into the purposes of God through creative mission, if we have the eyes to see it.