When I was a youngster, my favorite baseball team was the Los Angeles Dodgers. I loved the Dodgers, and one of my favorite players was shortstop Maury Wills. In 1962, he become famous for setting a new baseball record when he stole 104 bases.
Wills had another accomplishment, but this one is rarely mentioned by baseball buffs. In 1965, he set a record for the most times caught stealing bases in a single season: 31. Each time the catcher threw him out, Wills just dusted himself off and walked back to the dugout, even more determined to get back on base and steal again.
Proverbs 24:16 speaks of people like Maury Wills: “For the righteous person falls seven times and rises again.” Winston Churchill also said, “A fanatic is someone who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” Likewise, we need leaders in the pulpit and pews who won’t give up on winning people to Christ, but who will stay focused on this biblical mandate. We need pastors who won’t be discouraged when, Sunday after Sunday, not one person accepts their invitations to Christian discipleship. We need people who will dust themselves off and try the following Sunday with invitations that are even more passionate than the week before.
How do you do this? I am reminded of an episode in the “Peanuts” comic strip by Charles Schultz. Charlie Brown is sitting in the dugout, bemoaning his lack of success on the pitching mound, ready to give up and quit. Lucy says, to him, “Charlie Brown, you can do this.” Charlie Brown responds, “I don’t think I can. I just don’t know what to do.” Lucy just looks at him and says, “Well, the first thing you have to do is walk out onto the field without tripping over the chalked line.”
In other words, every great accomplishment can only begin after we take the first step. Pastors must remind themselves that when they give an invitation, the Holy Spirit has already been working on that person for many hours, days, weeks, months, and years. At the same time, many laypersons need to be reminded that people who don’t go to church often say they would be willing if someone would only invite them.
Let’s stay clear about the real goal of the church. The fellowship doesn’t exist just for us, but to strengthen and encourage us to invite new people into a relationship with Jesus. My sisters and brothers, if we don’t live that way as the corporate church and as individuals, we fail both God and ourselves.
I wish we would ask ourselves this question at every church meeting: “Have we been faithful in our mandate to win people to Christ?” If the answer is no, we must dust ourselves off and try again. We must never stop trying