I like to think I was pretty lucky as a kid, particularly when it came to sports. My Dad seemed to be able to play every sport pretty well. As a matter of fact, he coached almost every baseball team I ever played on. There is this one thing that I’ll never forget that he said over and over to me and the rest of the team no matter whether on offense or defense, “Keep your eye on the ball.”
Now at first most of us kind of thought of that as a way of saying “stay focused,” and I guess in some ways it was, but the most important part of it was the directive to, “keep your eye on the ball.” Once I actually started watching the ball all the way until it hit the bat, went in the glove, whatever… my game play increased three-fold.
It is called baseball after all and it is amazing what kind of difference it made when I focused on…well, the baseball. It was what mattered. And when I focused on what matters, I was a better player.
The Church needs to learn a lesson from baseball. We took our collective eyes of the ball a long time ago, and we need to get back to letting what matters matter.
Over time, many churches have become places were what matters has become less about what God says matters and more about what people want to matter. In churches so many people busy themselves with the “work” of the church: Keeping the kitchen spotless, monitoring the clothes people wear, worrying about what someone is or isn’t doing, being bothered by the music, or the pulpit, or who is in it…
But the reality is, when you do that, when you get caught up in the busyness (some might say the busy-body-ness) of the church, all you are really doing is losing sight of what really matters. What’s worse is you are distracting others from what matters, following Jesus wherever he leads us (yes, and frequently it’s places we don’t want to go).
If you believe most of the same things you believed about God 20 years ago, you have taken your eye off the ball. If you think God would not ask you to do something or go somewhere that makes you uncomfortable..you have taken your eye off the ball. If you go to Sunday school, and spend some of your time complaining about the church instead of actually studying God’s word…you have taken your eye off the ball.
It is time to get to it – to get to letting what matters matter and to stop taking our eyes off the ball. It is time to stop tidying up the dugout and to step up to the plate. Those who take their eye off the ball and stop playing the game for what it can really be worth are likely to find their spirits growing thin, their anger growing more pronounced, their general sense of disgruntlement growing more restless.
When we take our eyes off of what matters, what really matters, we find ourselves growing away from the love, the hope, the peace that God offers us; we find that taking our eyes off of what matters allows space for thing that don’t really matter to become important to us…and… we find ourselves unhappy more than we used to be, we find it harder to love our neighbor (particularly certain neighbors), we find that discontent and disappointment become more and more pronounced in our lives. When we get caught up in the things that don’t matter, the thing that actually does matter gets displaced.
It is called Christianity after all and it is amazing what kind of difference it will make when we focus on…well, Christ. Christ is what matters. And when we focus on what matters, we will be better Christians and a better Church.