"One Ball and Four Bases!"

Kickball at the Keppler's is nearly a daily experience this fall! Our two energetic grandsons, Danny and Charlie, gather on their "field of dreams," (actually, the front yard of our house) each day after school. It is their downtime to "blow off some steam!" Their daddy, Dan, made kickball famous with them during summer kids' club at church. They have loved it ever since they first joined in that simple activity of "one ball and four bases!"

I've observed how the boys are like a "relational magnet" drawing other kids into the game! We have watched the numbers grow from two or three to regularly six to eight and some days more that a dozen neighborhood boys and sometimes, a couple of girls. Moms and dads have joined the crowd occasionally. When I say, "joined," I mean that literally. They are out there playing with the kids too! They are remarking to us, "Thank you so much for letting our kids play with yours!" Another observed, "Your yard is perfect for kickball!" 
A kickball formula..."One ball and four bases!"

I was reminded of the importance of building community recently in a study at a pastors' retreat in which our Bible teacher, Dr. Robert Bergen, led us into a deeper study of the book of Jeremiah. In chapter two, God grieves over the spiritual adultery of his Covenant People, Israel and declares through His prophet,  “Thus says the Lord, 'I remember the devotion (hesed, faithful love, commitment) of your youth, your love as a bride... (and yet you) went out far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless' ” (Jeremiah 2:2, 5; ESV). It has been true throughout history that God gives us His Name, Yahweh, “the Lord” because He wants to make a connection with us and establish a family, a people! “My People, The Bride!”

In America, there is a pioneer spirit where individualism and a yearning to stand apart from the whole is valued. But in the economy of God, we are still “one bride to God!” With all the diversity we have in this country, I think it would surprise some to discover that God thinks of His Covenant People as one! This may be the challenge of the 21st century with our penchant for such lifestyle amenities like online shopping and drive-up grocery delivery. We are splintering American community. And some of us have suspected for sometime now that  while Facebook helps us interact virtually, there is a potential and resulting fracture of real-time community interactions . We should be asking ourselves what will happen to a culture when these things define it? Will we be able to coordinate our efforts to accomplish anything?

One of the things that challenges how we relate as church leaders with our teams and committees is that we think we don’t have time to meet with others and you’ll hear, “Can’t we do this by phone or email?” To another extreme, some churches are so invested in building-centered activities that these have become a substitute for building closer relationships with our neighbors. We are keeping ourselves so busy with what happens within our buildings that we have little time left to walk the neighborhood, chat with those who live next door, help a neighbor with a project, or plan and attend a seasonal block party. 

How many unchurched neighbors need meaningful contact with a Christ-following neighbor? What can be gained from such face-to-face interaction? Building social skills like conversation, listening and empathizing or identifying a ministry opportunity using hospitality or service to share a word of Christian witness? In short, we must take time for others if we are to connect them to Christ! Some could argue further that we are developing a society of people afraid of interacting with other people. Like those afflicted by agoraphobia (the fear of spaces or situations that cause panic), we have become dysfunctional in our thinking that we don’t need anyone. But the opposite is true! We may think we are autonomous, but we are actually needing to depend on one another more than ever! 

As The Lord did with Israel, He wants to affirm and say to His Covenant People of all the ages, “you loved me,” and “you followed me.” Faithfully loving and following Him is what hesed people do! However, our mission is not only to be fully devoted and committed followers of Christ, our Lord. It is also to tell others about him within the community we live. We do this best by both our life witness as well as our verbal sharing of Christ's transforming work in our lives! In short, we share and we show! This begs the question, "Are you building a sense of Christ-community in your neighborhood?" Allow me to give you some advice, "Let the kids lead the way!"  Try by following this simple formula and build your community among your neighbors "one ball and four bases" at a time! 

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,
active churchman and
doting grandparent.
Contact: drmjkeppler@gmail.com


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