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The other day I was talking to Caleb (my 8 year old) about his baseball game that evening. I was asking him if he wanted to get better? He told me yes. Now, you may be thinking what prompted me to ask him, “Caleb, do you want to get better?” And it was the fact that he missed various balls hit at him and thrown at him. He also tends to swing at bad pitches and hit weak grounders to second base. He tends to pay more attention kicking at dirt than watching the ball. This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t make good plays, catch the ball, or get on base. He does. In fact, he is very athletic. [Now before you make judgments that I am “one of those dads,” hold off just for a moment.] I know how competitive Caleb is, because after every inning he goes up to the mom keeping the score and asks, “Whose winning?” My simple question was really a heart question directed at Caleb and how he views baseball. Does he want to get better? Does he want to excel? And so when he said, “he did,” I responded and said, “Great, I want to practice with you!”

Just like I want Caleb to excel in baseball or whatever he wants to do, Jesus wants us to excel—in what he has called us to do. Jesus desires for his children to get better and to flourish. And one area that I think that the church fails to realize that Jesus wants us to excel, to flourish in is in advancing the gospel and being a vibrant, growing, and reproducing church. Just like I don’t want Caleb to be a lethargic, dirt-kicking, ball-fumbling, strike-out king baseball player, Jesus doesn’t want us to be a lethargic, absent-minded, gospel-fumbling, and missing the mission kind of church.

When it comes to the church, Jesus wants us to be a gospel-centered, mission-oriented, holy-living church that passionately and boldly advances the gospel (individually and corporately) in a way that the gates of hell will not, cannot, prevail. He wants us to excel in love for him and each other to the point “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20-21). Jesus doesn’t want us to become an idol-factory that makes church about everything but him and his mission, but a disciple-making, fed-ex sending, church that “turns the world upside down.”

Here’s my prayer: that the church today (all over the world), especially in North America, would own up to the fact that they need to get better, a lot better. They need to own up to the fact they miss more than they catch, that they hit weak little grounders and not-powerful line-drives, and that they kick dirt when they should be paying attention. After having owned up to their need, they need to turn to the Father and say, “We want to be better. We want to live as you have intended for us to live and for us to do what you have intended for us to do. Will you please make us better through the power of the Holy Spirit?”

Just like we want our kids to excel in who they are and what they do, Jesus wants his kids (his church) to excel in who they are and what they have been called to do. Is your church excelling? Flourishing? Reproducing? Improving? If not, turn to the Father and tell him you want to get better. Then submit yourself to practicing, to disciplining yourself to improve by relying on the power of the Holy Spirit to empower and live through you.