Swing for the Fences
Spring Training is here and as our favorite teams get ready for the season, it reminds us that we are all in training. We loved sitting down with New York Yankee legend, Bobby Richardson. In addition to being a phenomenal athlete, he is also known for the impact that he had on many of the players’ lives including Roger Maris, Yogi Berra, and Mickey Mantle. From sharing his faith one-on-one to leading chapel, officiating funerals and even sharing his testimony at Billy Graham crusades, Bobby has used his athletic career as a platform for sharing Christ. During his career, Bobby won five Gold Gloves Awards, went to the All-Star game eight times and won four World Series rings. He is the only World Series MVP ever to be selected from a losing team. We talked to him about how he shared Christ with Mickey Mantle.
It started when Roger Maris had a battle with cancer at 51 years of age. His wife called and asked if I would represent the Yankees and speak at his funeral…I was able to lead him to the Lord before he died, and his wife and son. Mickey sat down by me after the funeral. He was a pallbearer and had been drinking a bit and he said, ‘I want you to have my funeral.’ He wasn’t going to church at the time…’Mickey we’re going to church tomorrow, would you like to come with us?’ He said, ‘I sure would.’…Mickey hear the Gospel a lot, from different people. God was working in different ways. But every time after Roger’s funeral when I saw Mickey he said, ‘Don’t forget you are to have my funeral.’
Mickey was having a liver transplant and was really feeling horrible and they [doctors] had checked him for cancer, but it was [appeared as only] a little dot and they didn’t catch it. So when they gave him the medication to keep his body from rejecting the liver it wasn’t good…Mickey said, ‘Betsy, I’m really hurting. I want Bobby to pray for me.’
We did and I used the verse, Philippians 4:5-7, ‘Delight yourself in God, yes, find your joy in him at all times. Have a reputation for gentleness, and never forget the nearness of your Lord. Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.’
One more time I wanted to be bold in my witness, because I wanted him to spend eternity with me…he had a smile on his face and…he said, ‘I can’t wait to tell you this, I want you to know I’m a Christian. I’ve accepted Christ as my Savior.’
I remember crying a little bit and saying, ‘Mickey let me go over it with you just to make sure you understand it.’ I went over God’s plan of salvation: that He loves us, sent His Son the Lord Jesus to shed His precious blood and promised in His Word that if we would repent and receive Him as Savior, we might have everlasting life. He said, ‘That’s just what I’ve done.’
“The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’ His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ Matthew 25:20-21
Bobby Richardson’s boldness is an encouragement to us to not only share our faith, but to share it with people regardless of their fame, position or background. Remember tomorrow is not promised. Someone once challenged me with the thought, “Would you rather have an uncomfortable 15-minute conversation because you are talking about faith, or have that person spend eternity in hell?” It was a sobering thought, but it has since challenged me to take advantage of every opportunity to share Christ. You don’t have to be perfect at sharing your faith, just like an athlete, it takes training. Successful evangelism is taking the initiative to share the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God. You may not hit a “homerun” every time, but know that God is working on that person’s heart. God will guide and direct you to the people that He wants you to talk to and give you the words to say as you submit your life to Him.
Invite a friend, family member, co-worker or neighbor to church or an outreach event. You never know what God is doing in their heart. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to soften their heart to be open to an invitation and to the message. Pray for boldness to invite them. Remember that it usually takes someone at least seven exposures to the Gospel before they accept Christ. If you are a part of an athletic team or club, you can reach out to your local Fellowship of Christian Athletes or youth pastor to do an outreach with your team.
Take an evangelism class. Learn how to share your faith. From telling your testimony to asking spiritual questions that lead to sharing the Gospel, it is always helpful to learn from others and brush up our skills. There are also lots of great resources out there to help you share from books to tracts, check out your local Christian bookstore.
What platform has God given you? Whether it is athletic abilities, business knowledge, or a special talent, God has given each of us talents and abilities to not only glorify Him, but use as an opportunity to share Christ. Take time to pray and ask God how he wants you to communicate his love to others through the gifts He has given you.
To read our entire interview with New York Yankee Bobby Richardson click here.