The Seventh Inning Stretch

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It's seventh inning stretch time. Well, depending on where you are in your council year it could be. This is the time of the year when the initial gusto of the start has waned, and now, you may find yourself in a bit of a rut. I always hope not, but the reality is that it happens. We get tired. Tired of meetings. Tired of offering announcements. Tired of weighing the needs and causes. Just plain tired.

The seventh inning stretch in baseball is the time when tired fans, who have been sitting for a few hours, stand up and stretch out. There is actually a whole celebration planned around the middle of the seventh inning, dancing happens, music happens, movement happens - we stretch out, and we become invigorated again, ready to settle down for the last couple innings.

Does your team need a seventh inning stretch? Perhaps you have folks who are almost done their term, and they are slowing down. Or maybe some of the new folks are feeling a bit stretched - having thrown all their best forward in the first months of service and now are feeling a bit empty. Or maybe you're part of a team where people aren't getting along perfectly, where decisions aren't being made - or the wrong ones are (in your opinion), where things feel stagnant, and maybe even lifeless. The tiredness is felt around the table.

If you are discovering that you're longing for summer to be here when the church matters "slow down", or just putting in your time until your responsibilities are over, or if you "need a change", it may be time to stand up, shake yourself up with a little liveliness, and get ready to continue well. It's not over yet - and if you start acting and living like it is - your team will suffer. You will suffer.

I want to encourage you today - to keep persevering. We read about that a lot in the Bible. To remain faithful, steadfast, to persevere. God models it, and as people of God who reflect him, we should too.  It's not easy, but we can choose to be present, be positive, and to continue to look for the ways God is moving in and around us, and how we can join in his mission. You were called into this role - God has equipped you and entrusted you with the care of his people. Turn to Him for support, wisdom and strength. He truly is faithful!  

We need to remember that this is a spiritual battle.  As leaders in our congregations we must be aware of the fact that the devil will be trying to uproot and undo God's kingdom work - and when we are actively bringing heaven to earth, we better believe that we're going to be facing a spiritual attack. This apathy, this lack of desire, this tiredness, this frustration - it can all be indicative of the simple way the devil deceives us - making us believe that our service is amounting to nothing, that there is no hope of change or growth, that we might as well throw in the towel.  This is not the truth!!  Be strong in the Lord - take heart - know that you are an intricate part of a team, and that the opportunities to live out God's love exist every moment.

I want to dare you to be bold. I want to invite you to literally stir up your spirits around the deacon table. At your next meeting - stand up and walk around the room reading scripture - out loud. All of you, reading the same thing, walking in a circle. Don't whisper it - shout it out - proclaim God's word. Choose a passage that speaks of what God is doing or will do, one that voices his attributes, praises Him. Awaken your hearts, your minds and your bodies to the power of the spoken Word. You may read this and think - oh, that's awkward - we could never do that... that's why it's a dare and an invitation. I know if you do it - you will notice a renewed aliveness. It's a spiritual seventh inning stretch. If you're really scared, but intrigued - try it at home... alone if you must - but be loud, be bold, and be sure that God's word does not return void.

What are you waiting for? What's the worst that could happen? 

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While I appreciate your attention to perseverance, and the need for it for elders and deacons during their terms , I would suggest that the analogy of the seventh inning would be better used to apply to the life of office bearers when they have finished their terms, and they feel they can relax, have a beer, and sit back and let someone else do the work.  The real game is not that of bearing "office" for a limited term, but the real game is life itself, given by God, of which a term in office is just one part.  The seventh inning probably applies more appropriately to the time when elders become older and think they can retire and relax and let someone else do it.   That is the time when the game can be lost, if not for themselves, then for their children and grandchildren and for their neighbors.  That is the seventh inning that has probably most impacted the lack of growth in the church, and the lack of spiritual maturity in many of those whom they have potential influcence on and witness to.   My thoughts.