What is This?
The 115th World Series, often referred to as the Fall Classic, has begun. The modern series as we know it began in 1903 as a friendly competition between the rival American and National leagues, which at that time were separate entities. Today, the two leagues compose Major League Baseball, and there is much more at stake for the winner than simple “bragging rights.”
This guide offers you a sampler lens through which to view the biggest stage of America’s pastime, and to stimulate and guide a prayer path as you watch.
What’s Unique About Baseball?
The World Series champion is determined in a best-of-seven series, which makes the matchup extremely intriguing. As each team’s starting pitcher takes the mound, who will win the duel? Can an ace pitcher who dominated Game 1 return on short rest to win Game 4? What strategic moves will the manager make in order to give his team a chance to win? One of the greatest World Series moments (and there have been many) happened when Tommy Lasorda made a gutsy move to pinch hit an injured Kirk Gibson, who hit a walk off home run.
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Each game could have a different hero. A player might not have had any hits in Game 1 and then have three the next night. The losing team of Games 1 and 2 hopes that it will come back to win Games 3 and 4. What makes the World Series so exciting is the drama that can’t be made up or predicted.
World Series drama is a microcosm of the drama shown on the stage of life. Seasons come and go, each with wins and losses, all played with the hope of reaching an ultimate goal. While life goals are good and many are worth pursuing, how do they compare with knowing and following Jesus? And how can a personal or professional goal overlap with a spiritual goal? Is that even possible?
Whether you love baseball, or you think of it as a boring, slow-paced game, the following is a guide that will help you see the World Series as something God can use to draw people to Himself.
Houston, Texas and Washington, DC. An interesting fact: Although Texas is in the Bible Belt region, the number of Texans who identify as “religious” has declined in recent decades. Even among Houston’s megachurches, religious service attendance is declining. This trend is occurring not just in Houston, but across the United States.
“Houston… is a perfect place to ‘get a little taste of heaven,’” says Chris Seay, pastor of Ecclesia Church. “In heaven, it tells us that people of all colors and all races and all ethnicities [come together].”
DC is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the United States, and 15% of its residents speak a language other than English. Local churches, such as District Church, are taking opportunities to reach young professionals and ethnically diverse neighbors. “It fits into the DNA of District Church to embody as much diversity as we can,” says Pastor Matthew Watson of District Church.
Historically, neither Houston nor DC have been known as baseball cities, except in recent years. The Astros franchise was developed in the 1960s, and this year is just its third World Series appearance. DC, which didn’t have a baseball team from 1971-2005, hasn’t had a baseball champion since 1924. 2012 was the first time in 79 years that a DC club had even made the playoffs.
Baseball fans in each city, both the diehard and fair-weather, are jazzed to see their teams play in the series. When their teams finally make it to the top, an awakened interest brings the city to life.
Action Point: When Fox cuts to a shot of the cityscape, pray for the cities and their residents. Pray for local churches to spread the gospel. Pray for churches to pursue Oneness.
During the World Series, reporters and analysts will broadcast from Houston and Washington. Several thousand additional people will descend on the cities, bringing with them millions of dollars to spend. Local businesses will benefit from the influx of fans visiting the city.
Washington’s Destination DC estimates $6.5 million in revenue in two home games. “We’re excited to showcase Washington, DC, as a premier sports city and ensure that fan engagement opportunities at local hotels, restaurants and other businesses are promoted on washington.org/world-series throughout the postseason. Let’s go, Nats!” says Elliot L. Ferguson II, president and CEO of Destination DC.
Action Point: As you see fans parade in the streets and cheer in local establishments, pray for the business owners to know Jesus. Pray for the city’s economy to thrive.
Baseball Chapel is an international ministry that has assigned a chaplain to all 210 teams in the major and minor leagues. Its mission is “to bring encouragement to people in the world of professional baseball through the gospel so that some become discipled followers of Jesus Christ.”
Action Point: Pray for the Baseball Chapel ministry, for chaplains to be filled with the Holy Spirit and sensitive to the players’ needs. Pray for the players who are Christ-followers to understand how to worship God in the game. Pray for the players’ ability to demonstrate their faith with their platform.
The Houston Astros, who set a Major League record for wins in a single season, are playing for their second World Series title in three years. Meanwhile, the wild card Washington Nationals are playing in the Series for the first time in their history. Most bets are on the Astros, but the Nationals have won more games in the past seven seasons than any other team.
Unfortunately, you will not have an impact on who wins or loses the World Series. You can, however, have an impact on the players' lives through prayer.
Action Point: Click on the team roster and choose a few guys to pray for. Pray for the ten countries represented on both rosters (United States, Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Canada, Australia).
The Officiating Crew
Six umpires will be on the field for each game of the World Series. That’s one for each base, plus another along the left and right field foul lines. MLB adds the two foul line umps for the postseason, just to make sure they get the calls right. On top of that, additional replay officials will determine any calls that are challenged.
Do you know how many rules an MLB umpire needs to know? Check out the 188-page rulebook.
On top of knowing all of that, they also have to make decisions every single play on what call to make. And they do all of this on the field with over 100 million people watching! As Christians, we need to consciously give them grace, in spite of the emotions that come with watching.
Days ago, MLB veteran umpire Eric Cooper died at age 52. His memory will be honored during the World Series.
Action Point: When the umpire inevitably makes a bad call, relax. Your friends notice your actions when things don’t go your way. Be a model of grace for those around you and cut the umpires some slack. Pray for the family of Eric Cooper as they grieve his death.
Jesus says in Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Jesus commands us to do good works, but also when we see good works, to glorify God. As a fan, your biblical mandate when you see someone act admirably on the field is to give glory to God! Let’s make this really practical.
One attribute that is so prevalent in sports culture is pride. Pride is essentially self-worship. It’s putting “me” above everyone else, including God. And it’s downplaying the gifts that God has given us, that we didn’t deserve.
“What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). We give God the glory because He alone deserves it.
The opposite of pride is humility, which is often misunderstood. Humility can be lived out by simply agreeing and acting as if God is the center of the universe- not us.
Action Point: Whenever you see someone display an act of humility, give glory to God. Here are some actions to look for:
- Helping an opponent get up from the ground
- Giving credit to a teammate after a successful play
- Not arguing after a questionable call
- Not “bat flipping” after a dramatic home run
- Not retaliating from being hit by a pitch
- Rallying around a teammate after he makes a mistake
Situations like those listed above should trigger your heart to give glory to God.
- “God, thank you that the world just saw that act of humility.”
- “God, your ways are better than the world’s.”
- “God, thank you that Jesus was the ultimate example of humility.”
If your team wins, be happy for them. But don’t be a jerk to fans of the other team.
Fox will televise the World Series for the 20th consecutive year, while ESPN will call the game on the radio. As Joe Buck, John Smotlz, Ken Rosenthal, Tom Verducci, Dan Shulman, and Chris Singleton describe the unfolding events, millions of people will watch or listen.
Take a Timeout: Pray that God uses the series to reveal a glimpse of Himself through each game and its theatrics. For instance, if there is an unusual act of sportsmanship that causes you to think, “Why would they have done that?” some of those millions of people will be asking the same question.
In that moment and others like it, pray that curious people would have an opportunity to meet a Christ-follower who can clearly explain God’s transforming grace. Pray for a longing in people for something more substantive — for an answer to the question, “Is that all there is?”
World Series Runner Up
Getting to play in the World Series is a huge accomplishment, but no team goes in wanting to finish in defeat. Coming up short will definitely hurt and haunt players for a while. We’ll see a range of emotions after the final inning when the crowd roars its loudest. Some players will immediately head for their lockers, furiously motivated for next spring. Others will water the field with tears of disappointed disbelief. How players deal with defeat is just as important as how they deal with success.
In a culture that doesn’t accept finishing second, Christian players have the chance to be countercultural and explain why true contentment doesn’t come from the result of the games. True contentment stems from knowing the source of true worth and value, which comes from the Lord.
Action Point: Pray for the losing team. Pray that God would be glorified even in their defeat. Pray that players — especially the ones who claim to know Christ — would put the loss in the larger perspective of life and show how their faith informs their response to adversity.
World Series Champions
Society sees the championship as the finish line. Heroics of past champions replay nearly every commercial break, as if the pinnacle of a man’s life is summed up by a game-winning home run or diving catch.
Victory tastes sweet, but there’s more to life than winning a sports championship. Just ask Super Bowl Champion Tom Brady, who said in 2005 to 60 Minutes, “Why do I have three Super Bowl rings, and still think there's something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, ‘Hey man, this is what it is. I reached my goal, my dream, my life.’ Me, I think: God, it's gotta be more than this.”
2010 World Series champion Aubrey Huff had a similar experience.
“The next morning I woke up next to my wife after we won the World Series, and I looked her dead in the eye and I go, 'Huh. Now what?' It was a feeling...of worthlessness and emptiness because I worked my whole life to win a World Series, but I felt so empty and so ashamed.”
When the series is over, know that the excitement the players feel won’t last forever. At some point they will ask, like Huff, “Now what?”
Action Point: Pray for the winners of the World Series. After the champagne celebration, the city parade, White House visit, and salary bonuses, the excitement from the win will fade. Some will wonder why they feel such discontentment and will search for deeper, sustained satisfaction.
Pray that their search would lead them to find out who Christ is and what it means to know Him personally. Pray that God would reveal Himself as the One who ultimately satisfies and is able to supply all their needs.
Winning is great. But enjoying the abundant life that Jesus promises, and claiming victory beyond competition, is greater.
After the World Series, several players will become free agents and will negotiate new contracts. In the process, they will leverage their performance to determine their “worth.”
God says that talent and fame don’t determine our value. Instead, our worth is determined by what God says is true about us.
Action Point: Pray that the players understand that their identity is not found in their performance, but rather what God says is true about them.
As you take in this year’s World Series, enjoy the historic drama as it unfolds. Enjoy the game for what it is: hitting, running, catching, and throwing. And enjoy it as something beautiful that God is using to reconcile people into His family.