July 4, 2020

Pastoral Nuggets: Getting Close

Years ago, Marianne and I attended the final game of the Upward Basketball season sponsored by First Baptist Church in LaGrange.

Our then 7-year-old granddaughter, Kaitlyn Walker, was a cheerleader for one of the teams.

Quite naturally, she was the best one on the cheerleading squad!

As the buzzer sounded ending the final game, Ed Batchelor, a member of First Baptist Church, who was running the time clock and seemed to be in control of the activities, addressed the parents for about three to four minutes.

He said something to the effect of, “We have tried to teach your children that in the game of basketball, the team who scores the most baskets wins.  We also teach them that in order score a basket they must put the ball through the hoop and this takes effort and teamwork.

It is not good enough to intend to put the ball through the hoop, to get close to the hoop, to hit the backboard, to hit the rim, or to have the ball roll around the rim and drop out without going through the hoop. To score a basket the ball must go through the hoop.”

He continued, “We then try to teach them that the game of life is the same. It is not good enough to intend to do something, try to do something, or to get close to doing something. To score a basket in life you must put the ball, metaphorically speaking, through the hoop.”

As a pastor, when I preached “children’s sermons,” the adults in the congregation usually got more out of them than they did the “grown folk’s sermons.” Saturday, I realized how they felt.

My granddaughter probably didn’t even hear what Brother Ed said. However, it resonated with me. I began to think, “Ed’s right! There are times in life when nothing else will do except to put the proverbial ball through the hoop.”

However, being the “deep thinker” that I am, I also began to think about another game we play – Horseshoes! Now, in this game, being close does count! If fact, you can win the game and never even get a ringer! Then, being the genius I am, I surmised that, just like basketball, there must be a life application that can be taught from just getting close in life.

I swelled up with pride as I became convinced that I had discovered one of the hidden mysteries of life. I thought: To be successful in any endeavor in life, according to the endeavor, we must either put the ball through the hoop or just get close. The secret is in knowing which will suffice for which situation.

I then began to try to think of illustrations to give you to prove my point. I’m still searching for one! Aside from Horseshoes and hand grenades, I couldn’t come up with any that really held water.

I came to the realization that our acceptance and embrace of “The Doctrine of Getting Close” is most likely what is corrupting America today.

Our society and our churches have been devastated by this doctrine. Every Sunday congregations meet corporately in America, across all denominational lines, and they get close to being the church Jesus intended. These churches are filled with individual attendees, church members, who have gotten close to a personal relationship with Jesus. America is filled with couples, heterosexual and homosexual, living in adulterous relationships.  They got close to marriage.

Children all across America are being born into dysfunctional families that at one time got close to being a traditional family. Far too many people, good people, have set noble and honorable goals for themselves, only to get close and settle for a settled for life. And on and on I could go.

Ed Batchelor was right! Whether it is our society, church experience, or our personal lives, only one thing is acceptable. Only one thing counts.  Only one thing scores: Put the ball through the hoop.

When will we as Christians and American’s once again start demanding excellence in all walks of our lives and stop settling for, “getting close?”

Brother Aaron  

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