Building Bridges and Proclaiming the Gospel

God has given to Christians the task of living and upholding the gospel of Jesus Christ.    It is essential that the message of Jesus Christ be proclaimed to a lost and dying world.   This is often a messy and unpopular job.   This often involves “one on one” or “hand to hand” combat.   It is easer to convert people to a particular sport or sports team than to Jesus Christ.  That is just a fact.  Everywhere I go I have found people eager to talk about sports, even complete strangers, but very few want to talk about religion.   For many sports are simply an entertainment and diversion from the hum-drum of everyday life.  It involves bringing enthusiasm to a high level -- rooting for someone or some team.  I get caught up in this myself as I root for my favorite teams.  For the actual participants it involves exercise, meaningful competition and even national or international recognition.  For some it involves a means of supporting themselves and their families.  But godliness (see 1 Tim. 4:8) affects not only our well being and happiness on earth, but involves eternity as well.  It falls upon Christians to do a better job of showing the importance and relevance of Jesus Christ.  Although these matters affect people’s lives the most, there are two subjects that potentially turn people off the quickest – religion and politics.  So we are challenged to do a better job of communicating and building bridges.   

Since my wife Nancy and I travel a lot and meet a lot of people, I am reminded daily of the responsibilities and challenges of bringing the gospel to others and building bridges toward this end.   I meet hundreds of fans up close and personal, who are immediately impressed with my professional baseball background, but my real interest is in their soul’s salvation.  I do not represent a particular baseball club or sell a particular product, but I do have a genuine interest and love for people of all ages and posses a strong need to be an example of Jesus Christ to others.   I must be careful in how I present myself, and yet I must be bold as well.   Building bridges to Christ is very important, but how we do this can either push people away or bring them closer to knowing about Jesus Christ.  It is an awesome challenge.

The Gospel and Sports

Christianity and sports do share some common ground or else the apostle Paul would not have used the basic principles for success in sports to illustrate our life in Jesus Christ (see especially 1 Cor. 9:24-27; Phil. 3:12-14).   I was especially reminded of this fact when I listened to a speech by Cal Ripkin, Jr. as he talked about 8 principles of successful living taken from his book, “Get In The Game .”    As he was speaking, I was thinking to myself that all of these principles were mentioned in the Bible, and especially Paul’s use of sports to illustrate life in Jesus Christ.   Having read his book, I found many good things in it about the basic values of hard work, honesty, integrity, perseverance, etc.,  but was disappointed that there was not one reference to God and/or Jesus Christ from whom all values flow.  

Cal Ripkin, Jr.’s Appearance

Cal’s appearance in Tampa, Florida, September 19, 2013, sponsored by Florida College, of which I am an alumni, was an uplifting occasion.  Cal Ripkin, Jr. was an excellent speaker and a good role model for the students.  Yet, just like in his book, he made no reference to God in any of his comments although this particular audience would have probably reacted favorably to such references.  In his public appearances and in his writing, he has remained silent about his religious life.  From this one cannot assume that he has no use for the teaching of Jesus Christ for this may be a deliberate strategy to avoid criticism.  I have observed over the years that many “celebrities” follow this advise and do not make comments on either religion or politics.  Those who do publically and openly profess faith in Jesus Christ are immediately subjected to strong criticism and even ridicule from some.   

I was secretly glad that Cal, along with many dignitaries in the audience, were being exposed to the students and friends of Florida College which were also on display.  Florida College is a private educational institution and stresses the development of the whole man – social, mental, physical and spiritual and does openly profess faith in Christ.   Nevertheless, I would have been pleased to have Cal as a teammate due to his mental preparation, dedication, hard work, being an asset to the organization, desire to win, ability to bring people together to accomplish common goals, having a strong sense of family, etc. 

He also impressed me by answering questions from the floor, even some hard questions regarding steroid use and other problems connected to the game.   With reference to steroids, he said that baseball, both owners and players, have to accept responsibility for this mess when they swept  it under the rug and pretended that there was no problem.  He is strongly against such enhancement use and in his opinion the penalties for violation ought to be much stronger if the problem is to be solved.   Players involved in this are thinking “short term” instead of “long-term” and ought to be barred for life from the game, he said.   He also stressed that players should work on “weaknesses” if they expect to improve their game.  Hmmm, maybe some good sermon outline material here.  I only regret is that I did not have the opportunity to have a “one on one” discussion with Mr. Ripkin to build some bridge to Christ.   I also understand that there are situations when all you can do is build a relationship, teach by example, and pray for God to open up future opportunities for actual teaching regarding Jesus Christ.

Building Bridges

The apostle Paul wrote:  “To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law;
 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.  To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it” 1 Cor. 9:20-23.  Paul here is not teaching that we should be willing to compromise the truth, but rather showing us how to build bridges and win others to Christ.   Could Paul’s statement have included winning people to Christ who are involved in sports?   I would think so.   You find common ground and build a bridge to higher ground.  It is interesting that Paul’s statement was immediately followed by a reference to the Grecian games.  Do you think those Corinthians who read his letter knew something about those games? 

Building bridges to Jesus Christ is very simple, but requires some boldness.  Everything that we share in common with the people we meet is a potential bridge.   We share in common all kinds of sorrows and joys, even things pertaining to everyday life.  Simply use those small or great things we have in common to open up another heart.   The more we understand and fill ourselves with God’s wisdom, the more the opportunities will open up to us.   Such opportunities are everywhere as we come into contact with the people of the world.

But some protest by saying, “Lindy, any discussion about God or Jesus Christ just turns a lot of people off.” 

I say, “Fine.  This is to be expected.  But do it anyway.  You never know what good can be accomplished unless you try.  The more we try, the better we will know what to say and how to say it.”    Just remember, we cannot share what we don’t possess.  So we first need to be full of the gospel and of Jesus Christ ourselves just like the early disciples, and it will just flow out in ordinary life and conversation.   

The world needs people who are not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Cal Ripkin, Jr. has passionate views on many subjects, especially baseball, and he expressed those views boldly and without apology.    He is a good ambassador of baseball in his straight talking,  common sense approach.  He stresses the importance of preparation and leadership.   Likewise, Christians need to be passionate about their faith in Jesus Christ and learn how to get their message across to others.  We need more than ever bold, articulate men who can confront the skeptics and clearly define the principles of the gospel.  As Christians, we need to be role models for Jesus Christ in word and in deed.   This is not popular and it is often times messy, but is needful in a wicked and lost society.  Just some things to think about.      
 --- Lindy McDaniel, September, 2013

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The photo at the beginning of this article taken at the Cal Ripkin, Jr. Banquet in Tampa, Florida.  From left to right is myself, Nancy, Cal Ripkin, Jr., Bob and Janelle Owen.  Bob is a cousin to my wife Nancy and is a former president of Florida College.

If you know of others who would like to receive advanced copies of Pitching For The Master attached to E-mail, please write to me at:  1095 Meadow Hill Drive, Lavon, Texas 75166.  Or contact me at my E-mail address:   


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