Pastor Blake Williams
Missions & Outreach Pastor, Shiloh Community Church
A couple months ago I was able to take Brittany to Louisville, KY where I spent my years as an undergraduate playing baseball, studying finance, but most importantly trying to lead people to Jesus. When I began my college search I had a relatively narrow search criteria, I wanted to be out of Colorado. I wasn’t initially planning on playing baseball in college because, well, I wasn’t really that good. However, I wanted to submit my future plans to the Lord. I distinctly remember praying one day while doing laundry during my senior year and asking God something that I’ve asked many times since, “Lord open up one door, give me the courage to walk through it, and the faithfulness to do whatever lies on the other side.”
Two weeks after praying that prayer for the very first time, I got a phone call from the pitching coach at the University of Louisville and he wanted to set up a recruiting visit for me to come out and look at the school. We coordinated the details and I was set to take off for Louisville right after pitching the first game of my senior season. I hadn’t lost a game I had pitched in for almost a year at this point. I had won 22 straight games, thrown a perfect game, 2 no hitters, and had spent the last 4 months preparing for this game. It didn’t turn out how I’d hoped. In fact, I had the worst outing of my life. As I boarded the plane in Denver and began my journey to Louisville I kept thinking what a poor use of money this was for the University to bring a scrub like me out. What I didn’t know was that God had entirely different plans for me at UL.
During my meeting with the head coach we talked very little about baseball. He told me that the campus leader for Fellowship of Christian Athletes was graduating and that he wanted a good character guy on his team to lead that group in addition to doing Bible studies for the team. I’ve never claimed to be the smartest man in the world, but I certainly felt like God made that plain enough for even me to understand.
Fast forward to my first week in Louisville. I meet with the Brian Kizer, the FCA staffer at UL and we go to the dorms where a lot of the athletes reside and talk to people about Jesus. Not a lot of interest. I start up Bible studies on my team and invite all 35 guys on the team. Of the 10-12 guys that would come, all would profess that they knew Jesus; but aside from my best friend I would see all those same guys making decisions that didn’t align with a heart set after Jesus. We would do weekly meetings for FCA and typically have between 6- 12 people. To say that this wasn’t what I expected would be an understatement.
For 3 years I stayed the course and kept trusting that God was up to something with my teammates and on UL’s campus. My senior year we got a new FCA director, Chris Morgan and he was committed to changing the campus for Jesus. Our new head coach Dan McDonnel let him lead chapels for our baseball team, the following year he would get an in with the football team, and over the last 10 years he has built relationships with every varsity sport on campus.
This past week while we were in town celebrating the 10 year anniversary of my teams run to the College World Series, I was able to talk to my old teammates and see what the Lord had done in their lives. Almost all the guys that were in my class have now begun relationships with Jesus and some of them have begun discipleship relationships with younger guys. Louisville’s FCA is the largest in the country with over 300 athletes participating on a weekly basis. Chris has Bible studies with the coaches and almost all of the teams on campus. They are making the name of Jesus famous in the city of Louisville.
It’s hard to put into words the joy that it brings to my heart to see what is happening on UL’s campus. There is also a broken part of my heart that is sad that my experience was so different from that. I wanted so badly for my teammates to follow Jesus, to have deep meaningful conversations about what He was doing in my life, and to serve alongside fellow athletes to make the name of Jesus famous. But I’m constantly reminded that some plant seeds, some water, and some get the chance to reap the harvest. Ultimately all that matters is that people are coming to know Jesus, and God was gracious enough to give me a part in planting seeds in people that are taking ground for the kingdom.
A few years ago author James Davison Hunter coined the idea of “faithful presence.” This might be where you find yourself right now. You’ve been sharing the gospel with someone and they seem resistant or you feel that your friends, family, or co-workers will never come around. Continue to be a faithful presence in their lives and trust that God is allowing you to plant seeds or water; and at some point, someone will reap that harvest.