Baseball is my favorite sport, hands down. If you think about it, it involves the highest level of strategy of any sport. Most often, each pitch is different than the prior pitch. Once a batter gets on base, the strategy shifts—not only from the pitcher’s perspective, but also from the batter’s perspective. Pitchers have to face left- and right-handed batters. Batters have to face pitchers from both sides of the mound as well. The goal of the batter is to place the ball in an area of the field that will further the lead runner’s position. And sometimes, if a runner is on third with less than two outs, batters will intentionally hit a fly ball to score the runner, while sacrificing getting on base themselves.
Rookies, even though they have likely played the sport for most of their life, still have a lot to learn during their first year. That’s where veterans come in. Vets usually take rookies who play their same position under their wing, teach them the ropes, train them, and prepare for those rookies to take their place. In essence, they are helping to produce a new crop of seasoned players who will reproduce other seasoned players several years down the road. They not only lead the rookies, but they also serve the rookies.
Discipleship and servant leadership are much like baseball. There are two elements of discipleship and servant leadership that we must understand if we are going to be a people who make disciples and act as servant leaders. Both are relational and both are replicable. But make no mistake about it. If you are not intentional, replication will not happen.
There were many people who were intentional in shaping my faith and molding me as a disciple. These included my parents and my pastor at the time, George Barnett. They pointed 7-year-old me to Jesus’ grace. But my journey didn’t end there. Over the course of the next several years, I’d enter high school where Wes Cantrell, my student pastor, continued to point me to Jesus. I chose to attend a Southern Baptist university, one where professors and university leaders pointed me to Jesus. Ultimately, those events and people shaped my faith to the point where I was called to ministry in 2006. Just as Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, I was transformed into the image of the Lord from glory to glory.
Just like baseball, disciples and servant leaders need guidance from other disciples. As believers, and especially as group leaders, we have the privilege of playing powerful roles in the journey of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We see this need that we have for each other all over the Bible. And one place we see that is in Acts 8, when Philip met the Ethiopian eunuch. Philip was one of the apostles scattered out after the early church in Acts fell under persecution. He traveled along a deserted road from Jerusalem to Gaza, and he saw a chariot on the side of the road. In the chariot was an Ethiopian eunuch, the queen’s money man, reading the prophet Isaiah. Scripture tells us Philip was prompted by the Holy Spirit to go up to the man. So Philip ran up to him and asked if he understood what he was reading, and the Ethiopian eunuch asked, “How can I unless someone guides me?”
If we learn anything from the Ethiopian eunuch, it’s that disciples need guidance from other disciples. And that’s exactly what Philip did. He guided the Ethiopian eunuch to grow into the image of Christ. Later in Acts 8, Philip baptized the Ethiopian. Philip not only led the Ethiopian eunuch, but he also served him.
Much like a veteran baseball player who takes a rookie under his wing—teaching him, guiding him, helping him mature as a ball player—disciples are meant to do the same thing. We are meant to guide new disciples. We are meant to serve them. We are meant to help them mature and grow into the image of Christ.
Who are you actively leading to Jesus? Who are you actively discipling? Are you living out servant leadership in a way that edifies Jesus and His gospel? The goal is to help the lead runner, the person you are discipling, advance their position so that they may replicate what they have learned from you and do the exact same thing to serve the next generation of disciples.
Matt Morris is a Brand Manager at Lifeway Christian Resources in Nashville, Tennessee. He has served in ministry for over 11 years. Matt is married to Carmen and they have twins, Hudson and Harper. Matt and his family are members of First Baptist Church Mount Juliet, where he serves as a deacon.