Stepping Up to the Plate

PCA Church Uses Baseball and Hot Dogs to Attract People to Its New Season

Lilburn, GA (August 23, 1998)-"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Parkview Stadium. It's a beautiful day for baseball." The stentorian voice boomed over a loud speaker to the crowd which had gathered for public worship at Parkview Church, a PCA congregation in suburban Atlanta.

Today was a special day at Parkview, which was using a baseball theme to launch its new season of activities. The sign outside advertised that a former Atlanta Braves ball player would be present; and that baseball and hot dogs would be featured along with music, drama, and message. The recorded message on the church's answering machine advised potential church-goers to "dress cool and casual [and] wear your favorite baseball jersey." The focus was on "winning." The secretary on the tape continued: "Be sure to be here, you don't want to miss this."

At the door, men, dressed in shorts and baseball caps and sporting baseball-shaped name tags which identified them as "Stadium Ushers," greeted the people. Inside, two large posters of baseball players adorned the front of the auditorium. In the middle of the front wall was a huge home plate, with a quotation on it from John 2:5-"Whatever He says to do, DO IT!" Below that sign was a long string of cardboard baseballs.

Public worship began with a band playing loudly and worship leaders singing a song which employed a baseball theme to make a spiritual point. The congregation enthusiastically responded with applause.

The lights over the congregation were turned down, and light was focused at the front for the singing of the "Star Spangled Banner," followed by more applause. Leading the American national anthem was Kim Anderson. A noted vocalist in PCA circles, Miss Anderson performed at the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC) meeting last November in Atlanta.

A music video, featuring scenes from a baseball game, was shown in order to encourage teamwork. "Hey, punk, what you goin' to do?" snarled the pitcher at the batter. The video repeated the refrain: "Keep your eye on the ball!"

After the video, an emcee declared: "Good morning-welcome to opening day! . . . We have an exciting line-up-coaches, players, managers. . . . See how you fit together on this team." The emcee announced Pastor Jon Adams as the "coach"; and added: "I guess we have to recognize the General Manager of Parkview Church, who's the Holy Spirit."

Mr. Adams wore shorts and a T-shirt with the words "Step Up to The Plate" emblazoned on the front within a pattern shaped like home plate. He spoke of the "great morning of celebration." The pastor called a congregational meeting to order in the midst of the service and led in prayer. The congregation marked ballots to elect a ruling elder, a stated clerk, and three deacons. Prayer was again offered, though with no formal adjournment of the congregational meeting. The ballots were later placed in the offering plates, and the results (though not the specific votes) were announced at the close of the service.

Pastor Adams recognized two people who had contributed much to the life of the church, and the congregation gave standing ovations. Several leaders in the church introduced themselves and their respective ministries, while a keyboardist played "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

Two drama skits were presented. The first utilized the acronym, W.I.N., which, the actors enunciated, stood for "Welcome seekers into your life", "Include them into the community of faith", and "Nurture them to full maturity." The second vignette attempted to interest people in the various programs of the church.

The pastor's wife introduced their young daughter, who has cerebral palsy. Mrs. Adams explained that Melissa had had a great desire in her swim meets to finish in other than last place. "She prayed and prayed and prayed that she would beat somebody. . . . I thought about offering $50 [to someone]." At long last, Melissa finished next-to-last. The mother further explained that Melissa wanted desperately to come in first. Melissa then went to the platform, and said to the congregation that after she had "prayed and prayed", all the other swimmers got disqualified, "so I got first place." The congregation thunderously applauded. Little Miss Adams exhorted: "God cares about everything, even blue ribbons."

There was no Scripture reading during the service. Pastor Adams' message was "Step Up to the Plate." He began by noting: "As you know, we're dressed a little differently this morning." He stated that he had narrowed down to two the number of baseball caps which he might wear, and would leave the choice to the congregation. Although there was a sizable number of Los Angeles Dodgers fans, the Atlanta Braves fans clearly outshouted the L. A. supporters.

Speaking of "Our Vision," Mr. Adams said: "It's His [God's] work. If we try to do things in a manmade way, we'll fail." Further, the work is "for His glory. . . . If it's not a God-honoring vision, it's not a vision that we want."

Claiming that "God gives us vision," Mr. Adams stated that "we look at Scripture" to determine what that vision is. "God has given us a great vision. . . . That vision that He has called us to, to equip you to mature and to win others to Christ."

The minister made brief references to two or three Scripture verses, including I Corinthians 10:31 and John 2:5. For much of the message, he referred to a booklet on Parkview Church, which detailed the acronym, W.I.N., and which set forth a strategy for implementing it. "First Base" was Mobilized Prayer; "Second Base" was Equipped Church; "Third Base" was Neighborhood Congregations; and "Home Plate" was Reproducing Church.

After the service, the stadium ushers donned trays, placing straps around their necks. Instead of popcorn and peanuts, those trays were used to help distribute key chains with miniature bats and baseballs.

As advertised, the Sabbath afternoon featured a picnic of hot dogs, and baseball games.

Parkview Church was planted by Perimeter Church, whose ministry style is often held up for emulation in the PCA. Parkview is one of eleven churches constituting PMI, or Perimeter Ministries International, which seeks to organize like-minded churches. Plans for Parkview to plant a daughter church in 1999 in an outlying area were mentioned during the minister's message.

Parkview Church

4875 Lilburn-Stone Mountain Road

Lilburn, GA 30047