Ready to Play, Not Sit

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The softball game between Pastors and Youth is a tradition at Greater New York Conference Hispanic Campmeeting. I was the new Youth Ministries Director and I love baseball, so I was ready to play! I remember I wore my jersey, the one my wife had given to me, with my last name, CORTES, on the back and a big #1, remember it was a gift from my wife. I am glad she thinks I am #1. I had forgotten my glove and bat at home in Long Island, so the night before, after all the programming at the Youth and Young Adult tent was over, I drove home, from Wingdale to Long Island and back, to get my baseball equipment. Now, I was ready to play.

As I got to the field I made my way towards the Youth Team, after all I was the Youth Director. Soon I heard the voice of my Conference President, “Jose, you are a Pastor, you need to be on our team…” When the Conference President calls, you tend to pay attention, so I did, and slowly walked to the other side of the field, where the pastors were gathering and strategically working on the line-up, it was almost like a science, they had to win this game! As I got there, my Conference President asked: 

  • “Jose, what position do you play?” 
  • “Center field…” I replied.
  • “That’s taken, Pastor Mejia plays center field.”
  • “Well, I can do third base.”
  • “No, Angel Rodriguez has third.”
  • “How about second base.”
  • “Plinio Cruz plays second, it’s taken.”
  • “First?”
  • “No, Hernandez got that.”
  • “Shortstop?”
  • “No, I am the shortstop.” I backed away from that one quickly, you don’t want to play the same position as your president.

After going through all the positions and realizing that each one was taken, my Conference President said to me, “Hey, play catcher…” Ever since I was a kid, my dad always told me that was the one position to never play.. I hate catching! 

As I walked to assume my position as catcher behind home plate, feeling kind of humiliated, he added, “Jose, we are missing a glove here in the infield, this is slow pitch softball, you are the catcher, you really don’t need a glove, please give us your glove…” I gave up my glove and got behind home plate, really fearful of a foul tip to my face or elsewhere. In a very discreet way I tried to cover with my hands the most fragile parts of my body, but right before the first pitch, pastor Perez showed up. Sure enough, I heard the voice, “Jose, our catcher is here, can you sit on the bench for a bit?”

I sat quietly, waiting for one of the pastors to get hurt, or die, or something, I had really wanted to play, but by now all my enthusiasm was kind of gone. Then I heard the voice of Esteban, the captain of the Youth Team, 

  • “Time Out…Pastor Jose what are you doing?” 
  • “I am sitting…” I replied, “what does it look that I am doing…”
  • “We need you here!”

I made my way back to the Youth Team and was asked to play center field and hit fourth, yeah clean up hitter!

Now, guess which team I played with for the rest of my eight and a half years in Greater New York? Yup, you got it right, the Youth Team! You know why? Because we were not created by God to sit on a bench. 

We were not created to sit on a pew in church, look at the back of somebody else’s head, and be fed information that we can get online anyway. God created us, human beings of all ages, languages, and colors to glorify His name, to serve Him, to love others, and to be engaged with Him in the salvation of many. 

Sitting does not cut it and is not a great indicator of spiritual health in our churches. Dear pastor and church leader, the fact that you have hundreds of people siting on your church’s pews does not mean you have a healthy church. Your sending capacity (the people active in missional ministry in your church) are a much better indicator of the health of your congregation, than your sitting capacity (the people who simply attend church on a weekly basis).   

Evangelism Outcome #1 - Engagement of ALL members in Evangelism (Mission)

During the last three years (2015-2018), we surveyed and discussed with thousands of pastors, members, and church leaders, Five Outcomes that could revolutionize mission and evangelism across North America. I will share one by one them through this newsletter. Here is the first one:

1. Engagement of ALL members in Evangelism (Mission): 86 percent scored this outcome 7 or higher in a 1-10 scale. It is important that we, as pastors, and our church members understand  that engagement in the mission of the church is not only expected of each one, but that it is a matter of spiritual life or death. The fact that someone is not able to preach or teach does not mean she/he cannot reach someone. 

Each Adventist member in North America must have access to finding his spiritual gifts and given an opportunity to serve in some capacity. The counterproductive tradition that many of us grew up with, which only allowed for veterans in the church to hold ministry posts needs to be laid to rest for good. I would even suggest that we put people to work in our churches prior to baptism and membership. You would be surprised to see what people are capable of when they realize they belong in your church family; believing and behaving will surely follow.

The Compassion 10 Million initiative, among others which we will mention in time, is a great way of involving people in mission by calling them to simply love others in practical ways, like Jesus did. People of all ages can do this, without needing any super special training or complex qualifications. Our communities are filled with people, poor and affluent, who need love expressed to them in practical ways. Compassion is a very powerful buzz word among Millennials and Generation Z, engaging them through meaningful and sustained projects on behalf of others is not difficult. Helping to transforms individuals and making communities better are very high on their list of priorities. Also, keep in mind that people who are engaged in mission may be most likely to stay, including younger generations!

My appeal today: Let’s give our church members of all ages, languages, and colors across North America, an opportunity to play! 

Please discuss this outcome with your church and how to make it a reality in your setting. 

 

 1 See www.compassionmovement.org

 

Pastor Jose Cortes Jr., is an Associate Director of the Ministerial Association and leads Evangelism, Church Planting, and Adventist/Global Mission for the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists.