Thursday, October 23, 2008

The true test of professionalism

Baseball offers a wonderful lesson in discipline. Take the first baseman, for example. It might appear to the casual spectator that his job is easy - that he just stands there and guards the base. But in reality, a good first baseman is performing dozens of tiny, seemingly insignificant, acts of discipline. In his book Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball, George Will explains,

When Rod Carew moved from second to first he discovered that a first baseman, far from being immobile, must always be doing something. Watch an excellent first baseman such as Don Mattingly, hold runners on first base. The instant the pitcher is committed to deliver the ball to the plate, the first baseman should make a strenous move, one comparable to that made by a base runner when stealing or participating in a hit-and-run play. "It's like stealing a base," says Keith Hernandez. "Take two explosive steps at the last possible moment. The point is to get into position to cover the hole. You get hurt more in the hole than down the line. Nowadays there are so few dead-pull left-handed hitters...Still, you'll see so many first basemen sitting on the line. Because they're lazy. It get boring over the season to come off the bag. You're tired and don't feel like getting out there." That is a true test of professionalism, this ability to do the small and boring and cumulatively stressful and draining things that must be done during the half of the game when you are at your defensive position.
If discipline is important in the sport of baseball, how much more necessary is it in Christian ministry! Making that phone call, visiting that sick person, planning that event, reading that commentary, praying for that spiritual need - each of these tasks might seem rather insignificant in itself. You might even be tempted to let it slide. After all, who will know the difference? But doing the small things of ministry with excellence is the true test of professionalism.

As Paul told Timothy,

"Bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come...take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you"
(1 Tim. 4:8, 15-16)

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