July 15, 1986, Roger Clemens went to bat in his first all-star game. Roger was the sizzling right-hander for the Boston Red Sox who had been named starting pitcher for the American League All-Star team. In the second inning, it was his turn to bat. But batting was something Roger Clemens was not used to doing. He never batted, because in his league, the American League, they had the designated-hitter rule—someone else batted in place of the pitcher. Roger Clemens never batted; he just pitched.
But the All-Star games between the American League and the National League alternated each year between the rules of the two leagues, and this year it was the National League’s rule—pitchers would bat for themselves. So Roger Clemens found himself coming to bat for the first time.
He took a few uncertain practice swings in the on-deck circle, and then he stepped into the batter’s box. On the mound was Dwight Gooden, the best pitcher in the National League. The year before, Dwight had won the Cy Young Award for being the best pitcher in all of baseball. So a pitcher who never batted was facing the best pitcher in all of baseball.
Dwight Gooden wound up and threw a white-hot, streaking fastball that blew by Roger Clemens. Roger stepped out of the box and blinked his eyes a few times. Then he turned to the catcher behind him, Gary Carter.
“Gary, is that what my pitches look like?”
“You bet it is!” Gary said.
Roger Clemens stepped back into the box and quickly struck out. But when he went back on the pitcher’s mound to pitch for his team, he threw three perfect innings—nobody on the other team got a hit. He was voted the game’s Most Valuable Player. And he told people that from that day on, he had a greater confidence in his own pitching. When he saw how powerful his own fastball was and when he saw how it was working, he then pitched with all the confidence in the world.
What could give a church that same confidence—that God was powerfully working in it? What streaking “fastball” could we see that would tell us that God was making our church a place of joy and spiritual growth?