Monday, February 28, 2005

Contrarian View From the Pew: The Closer

Between August 28th, 2002 and July 5th, 2004, Eric Gagne of the Los Angeles Dodgers was chosen by his manager Jim Tracy to close 84 baseball games. [The technical definition of as save can be found here.] In 84 consecutive save opportunities, Eric Gagne recorded the save. The Los Angeles Dodgers had other players on the team, including Kevin Brown and Kaz Iishi, both all star pitchers in 2002, who Manager Tracy could have asked to pitch the last inning. However, every time the Dodgers were leading in the final inning, Tracy called on his specialist, Eric Gagne, to close the game.

Last week I asked my readers to imagine what would happen if a football coach told every player on his team to pass the ball or what would happen if a baseball manager made every player on his team defend the mound. Now, imagine today what would happen if Joe Torre and the New York Yankees didn’t have Mariano Rivera to pitch the final inning of so many games between 1996 and 2000 when the Yankees won four World Series Championships. Also, imagine how successful the 1985 Chicago Bears would have been without Jim McMahon at quarterback.

Mariano Rivera was so special as a closer, it is doubtful the Yankees would have won four championships without him closing the important games. The Chicago Bears, on the other hand, probably would have still won the Super Bowl with any number of other quarterbacks in the NFL, but at least they had a quarterback running the plays and making the passes. Coach Ditka didn’t throw the passes and neither did the Hall of Fame players Mike Singletary or Dan Hampton.

What happens in our Churches and in the lives of our families and friends when it comes time to make a decision for Christ? I’ve never visited a Church or even been in a Church where I was introduced to the Evangelist. I’ve never read a Sunday Bulletin where a staff member was identified as an Evangelist. Quite frankly, I’ve never even met an Evangelist. I know they exist, I just haven’t met one.

Shouldn’t we be praying for more Christians to receive the Spiritual gift of Evangelism? Shouldn’t our Churches be recruiting Christians who are gifted in evangelism? Shouldn’t we have a paid staff position of Evangelist in our Churches? Shouldn’t we start training, encouraging, supporting and helping those who have been given this special Spiritual gift?

If winning baseball games is important enough to have a closer on the team and if winning football games is important enough to have a quarterback on the team, isn’t winning souls important enough to have an Evangelist in our Church and on our team?


Jennifer said...

I think we have ALL been given the gift, and the mandate, of evangelism via the Great Commission. If you have accepted Christ as Savior, you have everything you need to be an evangelist.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Jennifer,

I think we have all been given a position on the team. Evangelism doesn't work in Churches where everyone is trying to be an Evangelist. The Body of Christ is much more like a baseball or football team than it is like a multi-level marketing organization. We can't just sell and then move on, we have to service what we sell and we need specialists in many areas. I still have more to say in future posts. Thanks for participating. It is much more challenging and fun writing for people who disagree.

Thanks again!

Teresa said...

OK you guys, David knows where I'm at on this. And I think that Jennifer is learning where I'm at from my writing. Yes, the team is important. I think that the solution here is to define the difference between evangelism and witnessing. Evangelism is the purposeful sharing of the gospel, witnessing is sharing Christ in life. Yes, I think sometimes, evangelism is done to the exclusion of discipleship...but each of us plays our own part in the process. The discussion continues...