Rooted in Christ

Small Ball

Small ball captures the role of the typical pastor.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4:7, NKJV)

The baseball season is almost upon us. Despite the scandals that stick to the sport like grease spots, it carries with it the appeal of athletic competition, fandom, and the arrival of spring.

It also carries with it different philosophies of coaching. There are those managers who swear by analytics. Others are more laid back. You might call them players’ coaches, relatable and intuitive. Yet others are known for their expertise and for winning. To my eye, the Philadelphia Phillies have a manager who embodies the best of all three, Joe Girardi. Hopes run high.

But the manager I’d like to highlight belongs to yesteryear. Earl Weaver was at the helm of the Baltimore Orioles in the days of Frank Robinson and Jim Palmer. He used to sing the praises of “Dr. Longball.” The good doctor was not the team physician. But he did cure many ills and send spirits soaring when the ball left the hitter’s bat and sailed over the outfield wall.

In contrast to the flashiness of Dr. Longball was little noticed “small ball.” Small ball did not look for some great thing to do. He focused on the little things – patience at the plate, making contact with the ball, hustling to first base even if an out was inevitable, moving his feet to get in front of the ball heading toward the outfield, cheering loud from the dugout. Little things, to be sure, but things that made up the whole, like a gallon being made up of single drops.

Small ball captures the role of the typical pastor. Doing things that won’t make headlines even in the church newsletter but things that are the molecules of ministry.

Small ball is ordinary but it is basic. Regular time in prayer. Time and patience devoted to sermon preparation. Plotting and planning for ways to enfold the sheep in the work. Time spent with people, inside and outside the church family. The list is long and it isn’t flashy. But God uses it. By it the pastor does his job. It looks to the long haul, the daily grind of glory in service to God, in love of the sheep entrusted to him, and emboldened by his sense of call.

Sometime the long ball shows up. People notice, and maybe even cheer. But pastors cannot live for those moments or even desire them, for that matter. Their mantra must be: “content to fill a little space, if Thou be glorified.”

In the final chapter of his last letter, the apostle records an evaluation of his ministry. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7). That fight was one punch at a time. That race a series of strides. That faith one act of obedience after another.

Digging Deeper

  1. What do you think constitutes “success” in ministry?
  2. How important to you is it that others know your name?     

Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but to Your name be the glory, because of Your mercy, because of Your truth, in the gospel of Your Son. May He increase and I decrease. Amen. 

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Scripture quotations marked NKJV are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved. Those marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Stan Gale

Stanley D. Gale (MDiv Westminster, DMin Covenant) has pastored churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ and The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1975. They have four children and nine grandchildren. He lives in West Chester, Pa.
Books by Stan Gale