Have you seen some of these little league teams?

I remember playing little league. We paid $20 (maybe only $10, this was over 30 years ago.) We got a t-shirt with a sponsor name on it. I don’t remember ever getting pants. We might have gotten some sort of ‘trucker’ type hat. Each team was given equipment: catcher’s gear, a handful of bats, helmets and balls. We did just fine. I mean, some of us went on to become all-conference, all- area high school player; a few went on to play in college. Everything was simple.

Have you been to a game lately? First, at a very, early age if you are ‘good’ or want to be ‘good’, you are on a travel team (and you have to pay accordingly.) Second, you better have a fancy ball bag. If you are on a travel team, more than likely you all have matching ball bags. Of course, we are way past the point of t-shirts as uniforms. Kids have personalized helmets, $80 Oakley sunglasses, batting gloves and $200+ bats. Cold gear, warm gear, sliding shorts … What the what? Does any of that actually make you a better player? (These teams look semi-professional!) They look snazzy – multiple jerseys, warm up jackets, blah, blah, blah. Not simple. The fancier, the more expensive, the better.

I went to a tournament this last weekend. There was one team that didn’t quite have all of that ‘stuff.’ They didn’t have matching bags, the wore unmatched sleeves and sweatshirts. (Oh, yeah, everyone needs a ‘sleeve’ for the pitching arms. Hmm…. I faced some incredible pitchers in my day, and none wore a ‘sleeve.’) One kid actually wore sneakers and not cleats. Guess what? They were good. Actually, they were really good. Believe it or not, they beat teams that were fancier. I know, shocking right?

I feel like we have done the same thing in the ‘christian’ world. We have to glamourize the Gospel. For some reason we think that Folgers isn’t good enough coffee anymore, and we need serve free-trade coffee and have miniature café’s in our fellowship areas. We need flat screen TV’s. We need our worship areas to have flashy lights and production equipment. How dare we give a message that doesn’t show a video or have some sort of power point presentation to go with it?!? I go to a lot of Christian conferences and concerts….did you know there is a certain look now? Usually with bands, a lot of the members wear black; lots of skinny jeans (of course rips in those jeans); some sort of jacket is popular; lots of man buns. A couple years back, a certain kind of black, flat brimmed hat (they somewhat looked like Amish hats) were everywhere. There are ‘hipster’ speakers that will change with the times. Are we any ‘better’ of Christians because our church is more ‘with the time’, fancier, and we wear the latest fad clothing? Are we practicing our faith any better? Are we growing more in our spiritual walk than say, what Christians were 30 years ago?

Our God is the same today as He was yesterday and He will be the same tomorrow. The Bible is still the Bible – no matter how fancy or eye appealing we make the cover. The Gospel of Jesus is still the just the simple Gospel. I don’t believe, and a lot of research would agree, that people (millennials and younger which we seem to be decreasing in our churches) are not necessarily looking or attracted by the glitz. They – we – are looking for authenticity, truth and a relationship. We are desperate for Jesus! Do we really think that if we put up an LED, flashing sign that more people will come through our church doors? Does Jesus need be hipster?

I read an article last week comparing baseball to Christianity. I see a lot of similarities; and the ones I see are not good. I want simple. Simple is good. Jesus, the Gospel, doesn’t need to be decorated up. The best baseball team, better ball players aren’t necessarily ‘fancier’ with all the state of the art gear. Dare I say all the ‘get up’ could actually be covering up flaws? I watched a young man struggling to hit the ball. He thought if he changed bats (his wasn’t the latest or greatest) that he would do better. I straight up told him it was about the mechanics of hitting, not the bat.

I am going to stick to my old ball glove, Plyley’s Candy Kid little league shirt, and use whatever bat and helmet is there. I loved little league. It was true. It was genuine. It was about relationships. It was simple.