While driving to church recently I noted how the church has become specialized. We drove past a cowboy church, a family church, a church that promotes gospel singing, a traditional church, and probably a few others that I did not notice. I know that we also have contemporary churches, ethnic churches, postmodern churches, homeless churches, house churches, and a church for just about every group imaginable.
The thought struck me out of the clear blue, the sky was clear and blue this morning, that I need to create another specialized church – the Baseball Church. It seems like The Natural (my favorite baseball movie) thing to do. There are numerous baseball fans out there, many of them who need to hear the Gospel. It might not ever become a mega church, but I think it might be worth the effort.
Here is my idea. Instead of pews, we arrange the seating so the back rows are bleacher seats. As you get closer to the front we can use fold down box seats and for those who choose to sit on the front couple of rows, they get the luxury padded chairs. Instead of a pulpit the preacher will stand on a mound because preachers today don’t need a pulpit to hold their notes. The worship slides will be shown on a JumboTron hanging over the choir which is actually seated in the bullpen.
Of course, we must have an organ. It just does not feel like a ballpark if there is no organ to pump up the crowd. There will no shortage of songs to sing. Obviously, the standard, the “Amazing Grace” of our Baseball Church will be “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” However, we could also sing, “Catfish” by Bob Dylan, the always popular, “Talkin Baseball” about “Willie, Mickey and the Duke,” and others by John Fogerty, Alabama, and Bruce Springsteen.
Now you might be thinking that there is nothing spiritual about baseball. Well, I beg to differ. Have you never seen “Field of Dreams” (my second favorite baseball movie). We know for certain that they are playing baseball in heaven all the time. It wouldn’t surprise me if Bob Gibson is pitching to Babe Ruth in today’s game.
At this Baseball Church, the ushers will be more like vendors. Instead of passing a plate through the crowd, they will walk the isles during the service and when folks want to give, they simply raise their hand to get the usher’s attention and pass their money down the row. If we want to get real adventurous, we can have the usher toss a small bag of peanuts to the giver. Rather than donuts and coffee in the foyer, we can provide nachos and soft drinks, or for our more liberal friends, maybe even a light beer.
Sermon ideas for this church are limitless. How about a series of messages on “How to Get Home” or “How to Handle a Bad Call.” We could have a sermon on sacrifice, hitting a home run (a sermon on achieving success), the necessity of team work (a sermon on the church), overcoming errors (a sermon on forgiveness), or switch hitting (a sermon on homosexuality).
The seventh inning stretch is the time when we will stop down and greet one another while the organist plays “Cotton-Eyed Joe” or perhaps “YMCA.” We could even have a preacher who specializes at giving an invitation. He would be our “Closer” and take the mound to call everyone to commitment.
I’m getting excited about this – I think it might work. I can see folks wearing jerseys with the names of the Apostles on the back. If the sermon gets boring, the crowd might want to break out the wave or in the midst of a series on sex we might show the kiss cam on the JumboTron. The ideas for our Baseball Church are limitless.
You might be wondering what all of this has to do with the church. Does it really matter? Isn’t the goal to draw a crowd, to get people to come? If we get them there, they will wade through all the stuff and figure out the Gospel.