Yogi Berra was correct about baseball when he said “90 percent of the game is half mental.” You can tell quite a bit about how a pitcher is going to pitch on that day by his body posture on the mound. If he has a ton of confidence in his “stuff” then he is likely going to have a solid outing. But pitching without conviction will get your pitches knocked all around the ball park. You could say the same thing about batting. In order to be successful you have to be confident in your “stuff.”
Does this extend to missions and ministry? In order to preach well, to engage the lost and to minister to church folks well, do I need to have confidence in my “stuff”?
The way we go about answering this question will determine how we train people for ministry. I will argue today that ministry is both similar and dissimilar to baseball in regards to “having stuff.”
On one hand, preaching without conviction isn’t really preaching. It is similar to baseball in this way. Doing ministry without conviction will not get you very far. I think Gardiner Spring was correct when he said, “No preacher can sustain the attention of a people unless he feels his subject; nor can he long sustain it, unless he feels deeply” (quoted from Montoya, 51).
To preach without conviction is a poor representation of the powerful words we proclaim. We must have confidence in our “stuff” if we are going to be faithful ministers of the gospel. You cannot do ministry well without confidence in the message you are proclaiming.
Did you notice the subtle switch I made in that last sentence? That is where the baseball pitcher is different than the minister of the gospel. The pitcher has to have confidence in how well he’s throwing his curve. The minister must have confidence in the unchanging Word of an omnipotent God. This impacts the way we train people to have confidence and conviction.
Consider Isaiah the prophet.
Here you’ve got a guy who is going to engage in a very difficult ministry. Nobody is going to listen to him. And he has to keep on preaching and preaching. Rather than leading to revival, his preaching is going to lead to rejection. That’s not a very easy gig. So how do you prepare a guy for tough ministry like this? It’s a ministry where he doesn’t get to open up the mouth of the lion but instead he’s going to get chomped to bits. How do you encourage someone to step out into that?
We often take the Stuart Smalley approach. We train folks to have confidence in their “stuff.” Our idea of equipping them is to give them all the tools we can and then boost their self-esteem. “You’re good enough, you’re smart enough and doggone it people like you.” You can make it because you’ve got what it takes!
But contrast this with how the Lord prepared Isaiah for his ministry. Rather than building him up, God broke him down. He took away every ounce of self-confidence that Isaiah could muster. He left Isaiah having absolutely zero confidence in his “stuff.” He rescued Isaiah from self-focus by overwhelming Him with His glory and grace. That’s how he prepared the prophet to engage in such a difficult task. Brokenness was the means.
So if we are training ourselves and others for the work of ministry, it’ll need to come through a similar path. A path that realizes that we have absolutely no competence on our own. One that has no conviction in its own stuff, but instead a conviction that comes through being overtaken by the Glorious One. It’s a hungry resolve to do all things for His glory because we know that this mission cannot be stopped.
So, yeah, if you want to do ministry well it has to be with conviction and confidence. You could maybe say it like this:
4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:4-6)
This article originally appeared here.