Luke Sawyer

From the Orioles to the sandlot and all levels in between!

Mulling over the past few weeks, it’s interesting to see the similarities and differences between doing ministry within the game of baseball. I had the opportunity to spend a few weeks in Rochester, NY with the Rochester Ridgemen, one of the Athletes in Action teams in the New York Collegiate Baseball League. During those two weeks I walked through scripture with the team, teaching on theology, Spiritual life, work of the Holy Spirit, life of Christ, etc. while trying to lead the guys through seeing spiritual life through the lens of the game. Articulating spiritual truths in a way that baseball players understand and connect with, illustrating the depths of Scripture with the game of baseball.

Now we are back in the DR. Wednesday spending a few hours in the Orioles academy, with 17-23 year old professional players, connecting the game of baseball with the power of the Gospel and this morning being spent on a sandlot field in Boca Chica with kids ranging from 4-12 trying once again to articulate spiritual truths by illustrating with the game of baseball. Sure, the language (Spanish and English) changes, the context changes (beautiful turf fields to trash filled cow pasture), but the game and the Gospel remain the same. There are still four bases and a mound and Jesus is still the redeemer of souls and the giver of life. The Gospel has power on the sandlot, the Orioles academy and in the NYCBL. Jesus is God in all, and can use a trivial game to bring Himself glory.

Dear Younger Me Series - "Say Thank You" by Luke Sawyer

 

This week's "Dear Younger Me" letter comes courtesy of the Dominican Republic via Luke Sawyer. After concluding his baseball career (Anderson University/Southern Wesleyan University) in 2012 with a degree in Sports Ministry, Luke and his wife, Abbie, moved to Denver, Colorado to pursue a Masters in Justice and Mission from Denver Seminary, and serve with both Complete Game Ministries and later FCA. They left Colorado in 2015 after completing the degree and moved to the Dominican Republic to continue serving with Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Luke is now the Assistant Director for FCA Dominican Republic, and lives with Abbie and their two sons, Isaiah Rawlings (4) and Elijah Fraser (1), in San Pedro de Macoris.

Dear Younger Luke,

Thinking about the amount of time you spent perfecting what you did on a baseball field, I wish you could step back and look at where this game is going to take you. You spent hours in batting cages, indoor facilities, watching film, and watching games, yet you have no idea right now why you are doing it. I wish you could see that your dreams of big league fame and fortune would give way to the reason why your even playing this game in the first place.

Remember that conversation you had with mom, about why you decided not to study Latin, but study Spanish instead so you could talk to your pitchers when your catching in the big leagues, I really wish you would have actually paid attention in that class, it will come in handy.

I wish you would thank mom for making you go out of state for college. You really thought you wanted to play in state and stay close to home. I wish you could see how that decision would play out for you, the things that would happen in your life, that were solely a result of  mom and dad’s wisdom.

It is incredible to think that you have no idea how those decisions you are making right now are affecting your future. Its incredible to think that right now South Carolina seems like the furthest thing from your mind, that Denver, CO would ever be anything more than mom’s hometown, and I doubt you’ve ever even heard of the Dominican Republic.

Go thank mom and dad. Who gave you ever opportunity to succeed but never overstepped their bounds. Thank them for never speaking with your college coach, you will see the other side of that equation. Thank them for traveling to watch you play, and encouraging you even when you finish a game with the hat trick. Thank them for pushing you to go, to get out, to see the world and figure out life for yourself.

Go thank them for showing you how to love kids. Thank them for showing you how to parent. They didn’t do it perfect, neither will you, but they gave you a model. Thank them for staying married, for battling through challenges.

I know as I sit here writing this you could never imagine where baseball will take you. I know you couldn’t imagine where you are living right now. I know you couldn’t imagine doing life in Spanish full time (yeah you will barely pass that Spanish class). I know you couldn’t imagine that baseball will take you around the world, I don’t even think you have a passport.

Luke, thanks for listening to Nick. Thanks for going to Anderson University. Thanks for choosing to follow Jesus at 18, I know you couldn’t imagine the adventure that He will put you on. Listen to coach Rutland, go ahead and take that trip to Nicaragua, you’ll never imagine where it will lead.

Love,
Luke

The Shaping of Manhood: Challenges

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Ubaldo Jimenez threw a horrible pitch to Edwin Encarnacion to end the American League Wild Card game. As I was watching the game I saw the ball come out of his hand and knew that the game was over. Whether or not Encarnacion hit it as hard and far as he did, I think most people saw the result coming. As we look at the picture above the world tells us that Encarnacion, winning a game in such dramatic fashion, hitting a baseball as far as he did, is a mark of true manhood. However, I believe walking off that mound, as Jimenez did last night, is a critical moment in the life of a man.  You see, baseball teaches us a lot about failure. Failure is part of the process of growth for a man to reach his true identity as a man. To walk off the mound, in front of 50,000 people going crazy because of your failure is a defining moment.

While most of us will not get to experience this moment. All men will go through something in life that will challenge them, and cultivate them into the man they are molded to be.

When we look at the life of Jesus, the mark of true masculinity, we can see this moment come through multiple times. Specifically, I want to draw us to look at Christ’s moment in the Garden of Gethsemane as a defining moment in Christ’s life.

Matthew 26:36-46 says, “Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.  Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”  And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”  And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?  Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”  And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.  So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.  Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

Jesus experience here shows us that true masculinity, a masculinity that is devoted and fully committed to the King of the Universe is a masculinity that is tried through hard things. A masculinity that is honoring to God is one that takes on challenges, that takes on failures, that brings us to the end of ourselves, is a masculinity that God is calling us into. How can baseball help us shape that masculine heart? As we deal with strikeouts in key situations, giving up walk off hits, errors on routine plays, we can stand encouraged that however small these things are, they are challenges that are shaping our heart into the masculine heart that God desires.

I learned that already…

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At times we need to be reminded of things. There were so many times throughout my career where I would learn something, do it over a period of time, and then forget it and have to relearn it. At times I felt like my whole career was learning the same things time and time again. I remember the fall of my freshman year of college. I had just come into the school and was vying for a starting spot (as was everyone else) and wanted to show out well that first fall. I cant remember if it was specifically my first at bat, or at least one of the early ones, where I got a middle in fastball and hit it off the wall in left center. I felt great as I pulled into second, felt as if I was starting hot and would stay that way for forever: until my next at bat. My teammates on the bump quickly learned that to get me out all they had to do was bury a slider off the outer edge. I consistently failed, although repeatedly learning it, to keep my weight back. In the end of my freshman fall I believe I ended with around a .150 average and a huge lack of confidence.

This week I was again pulled back into reality with the passage I was prepping for our weekly chapel message. The passage says:

What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.

All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.” 

“Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.” 

“The poison of vipers is on their lips.” 

“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” 

“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
  ruin and misery mark their ways,
and the way of peace they do not know.” 

“There is no fear of God before their eyes.” 

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,  through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

(Romans 3:9-26)

While I know this is a long passage. Ultimately it reminds us of one point. We cant do it. We are not good enough. We are dead in our sins, and no matter our good works, we can do nothing that will justify us in front of a Perfect, Almighty God. But Jesus. He did it for us, this is the Gospel, this is what we need reminding of. Not us, but Him. Its always been about him and will always be about Him!

Thank you Jesus for coming to rescue a sinner like me! Thank you for your Word that leads us back to the truth!

Putting Us in Our Place

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So much of what we do as athletes is compare ourselves to others. We walk out on the field and immediately size up our competition. We look at how hard they throw, how they run, and how their BP looks, and we make assumptions based on their performance in comparison to ours. The other day I was watching two pitchers warm up in the bullpen. They were throwing side by side, and you could see their own pride swell up as they compared how hard they were throwing to the guy beside them. This is natural, and as athletes we are bred to think in this manner. We are constantly evaluating the performance of others, and our own performance, and hoping that our performance outweighs the performance of our competition.

While the baseball world teaches us this, the Gospel teaches us the opposite. In a spiritual sense, our works, actions, deeds, and “fruit” are ultimately worthless as we compare them to the righteousness of God and His perfection. As we place ourselves next to a holy God we are constantly reminded of how far we fall short.

Last night I was sharing with a team, talking through the Gospel and what Jesus did. I was reminded as I was reminding them, about how far I fall short, how worthless I am, how great Jesus is, and how beautiful is His perfection!

If we believe the Bible, we must believe we are “dead” (Ephesians 2:1) and ultimately are only made alive by the grace and mercy of Christ (Ephesians 2:8). As dead people compare themselves to all the other dead people around them we realize we are all dead. Death compared to death is still death. What a beautiful Savior we have that took dead things and made them alive!

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:4-9

Luke Sawyer

FCA Dominican Republic

Assistant Director of Ministry

(829) 966-0289

www.fcadr.org

Join our Support Team

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Stay Alert

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I remember my senior year of college baseball. I had made the transition from catching to pitching, and was throwing in a relief role typically towards the end of games. My junior year I had thrown around twenty innings and had a lot of success. I made the transition to the mound toward the end of the year my junior year and wound up with a 1.something ERA and pitched well. Going into my senior year this gave me a lot of confidence, I felt like I could get people out, attack hitters, and rely heavily on my fastball (since I had subpar off speed stuff). Over the course of my senior year, my arm got hurt, my velocity dropped, yet I still relied on my fastball and believed I could pitch the same way I previously had. I wound up my senior year with a 5.plus ERA, and had two grand slams hit of my in late inning situations. My previous success gave me unrealistic confidence, and a naive mentality about my own ability. My own success was my downfall. My false confidence set me up for failure, because I failed to be smart. I believe at times the Enemy can do the same thing. John 10:10 says, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." At times we can be naive and feel that our own "success" sets us up to continue in that pattern. Yesterday Abbie and I did some relational counseling, we met with a couple to talk about relationships and talk about what we have learned. I believe Abbie and I have a good marriage and we love to connect with people on a relational level. However, after yesterday spending time talking about marriage, we proceeded to have a blow out fight at night.

I believe this is the way the enemy works, he catches us at a point of relaxation and proceeds to creep into to attempt to destroy. If we do not keep our guard up, we allow this to happen, we allow our own comfort and success to encourage us towards complacency. Similarly, if in our last at bat we hit someones fastball over the left field fence, our next at bat we do not look for that same pitch and at times can get beat by it and look stupid. Keep your guard up.

"But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."- Luke 21:36 Luke Sawyer FCA Dominican Republic Assistant Director of Ministry (829) 966-0289 www.fcadr.org Join our Support Team

Thankful for Days Like This!

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Recently life has been a blur and I have not had to time sit down and write. I briefly got this on paper today and I hope reading this encourages you!For the last week and a half we have had my friend David Jones, who I played with at Southern Wesleyan, here with us. It has been a blessing to have him here, allow him to experience the ministry, see things he has not seen before, be able to engage with our staff here, and use his gifting as a former player and current coach to serve the ministry here in the Dominican. Recently, David de la Cruz, our leader of ministry in Santo Domingo, Ariel Eusebio Benitez (Boca Chica Staff), myself, and David traveled to Centro Olimpico to be with David de la Cruz, support what he is doing there, and serve in whatever capacity he needed us. After the first practice, David (Dominican) asked David (American) if he would be interested in sharing his testimony with the players and coaches. (While also throwing me under the bus as the translator!) This was a great experience across the board, and my first experiencing translating in front of a group. I have translated one-on-one or in small group settings, and spoke many times in front of groups, but have never had the opportunity to translate officially in front of a group. David talked about his experience as a player, the shift in his identity from David the ballplayer, to David the Christ-follower. After his testimony David de la Cruz reiterated some points and then led into a very clear presentation of the Gospel. That day seven players moved from death to life, accepted Christ as their Savior. One of the points that encouraged me the most was seeing Ortiz, the coach of the program, and someone David has been discipling for a period of time, leading the players through a prayer of repentance. As we were walking away, I started briefly reflecting on the experiences of the day. It almost seemed to me as if this is the way FCA DR is set up, supposed to be, and we saw it work almost seamlessly that day. One thing we have been pushing for a while now is the intentionality of discipleship specifically with coaches. We believe that the staff role is discipleship primarily, evangelism, preaching, and chaplaincy type rolls falling behind. Days like that solidify our thinking, that if we can disciple coaches, they can do things far beyond what we can do, because of the amount of hours they spend with the same groups of kids. As those seven accepted life, we can see Ortiz begin to take the reigns of discipleship, David by extension is still speaking into the lives of the players, still serving in a chaplaincy roll, but through his discipleship of Ortiz, those players are being led well, by a Godly man, who is seeking to use his platform as a coach to advance the Kingdom.

Victory

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Have you ever been a part of winning a championship? Most of us who have played or coaches for any extended period of time have found ourselves on a winning team at some point, whether it was little league, high school, college, professionally, coaching, or taking the crown at the wiffle-ball all-nighter. To win a championship takes work, but in the moment of victory, all other things fade away, the grind of the season, the sweat, pain, aches, and bruises seem to dissipate. Now that I am out of the coaching/playing world, I am around victory (baseball victory that is) on a much less frequent level. In fact it has been three years since I was a part of a championship run (coaching at Denver Christian High School), however this past week we had our FCA Team Camp here in the Dominican Republic. Where we had teams from Santo Domingo, San Pedro, La Romana, and Sosua playing to win a tournament championship. After the championship game, when Santo Domingo won it all, I was on the field with the team, talking with coaches, and watching the players interact as Isaiah ran the bases 57 times, and I started thinking about the idea of victory. This morning I revisited that idea in my devotional time as I was reading in 1 Corinthians. First Corinthians 15:57 says, “But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Now Paul is writing to an extremely screwed up church, a community that is trying to move towards Christ with the lingering effects of paganism, idol worship, prostitution, sexual debauchery, injustices and more hanging around in the lives of some of the members of this community. Throughout the letter Paul has strong words for many of the things that are happening inside of the church. But towards the end of the letter Paul leaves this screwed up community with these words, “But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” What victory did the Corinthian church win in Christ? A victory far beyond any victory we can comprehend on a baseball field. A victory that took the disgustingness of their sin and made it white as snow (Isaiah 1:18), a victory that made beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3), a victory that says the same power that rose Jesus from the dead lives in them (Romans 8:11), a victory that conquered death (Revelation 1:18). The power of Jesus work on the cross took their sin and faded into distant memory. This is the same victory that we have in Christ. Celebrate, rejoice, dogpile on the mound, because you have won the victory, death and sin have no power over you, Jesus won the victory for us! Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Relational Leadership

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If you have played baseball for any amount of time you have run across your fair share of good coaches and bad coaches. But can you specifically identify why some coaches are good and some coaches are bad? Is it in the x’s and o’s, teaching ability, game management, poor people skills, or is it a combination of many of the above. I am not sure how many coaches are out there reading this, but I hope that you have thought critically about coaching and how you do what you do.

In my 25 years I do not have a huge amount of coaching experience, I coached at Colorado Christian University for a short time, Denver Christian High School, and Hitstreak Academy all in Colorado during my time there, none of which give me the insight to speak on a great level to you coaches who have much more experience than I do. However in my few years of work experience I have been put in many leadership positions, and since moving here to the Dominican Republic and being put in a cross-cultural leadership position, I have reflected often on what I do, how I do it, why I do it, and how it bears fruit in leading people, which I feel speaks into both the leadership and coaching world.

Currently there are a myriad of great resources out there that speak to the world of leadership. Many of these resources say a great deal, and many of them seem to contradict each other in strategy to get the most out of the people you are leading. However, I believe if we truly look at great leadership, we cant go further than looking at the person of Jesus, how He did what He did, and how He sparked a movement with twelve men that has continued and strengthened over the past 2000 years.

What was Jesus’ primary mode of leadership? Looking back at the Gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the first four books of the New Testament), we can see that Jesus did a lot of things. Jesus healed the sick, preached to the masses, cleared the temple, stood up to the Pharisees, ate with tax collectors and sinners, walked on water, ultimately died for the sins of the world and took our punishment on the cross. However, in looking at Jesus’ life and ministry, His development of the twelve disciples far exceeded anything else. How did Jesus train His disciples; “time”.

We have a resource with FCA called 3Dimensional Coaching, and the premise behind this program is that coaches typically speak to the 1st dimension of the athletes, the fundamentals, x’s and o’s of how to play the game, but in order to be a better coach we must move beyond the 1st dimension to the 2nd and 3rd which are the mind and the heart of the athlete. What must we do to lead the mind and the heart of the athlete? We must “know” our athletes and there is no way to know them without investing the time to understand them. I would call this “relational leadership”.

We have been working through a book “Master Plan of Evangelism” here with our staff for the past few months, and recently we looked at the amount of hours Jesus most likely spent with his disciples, lets say 8 hours a day, by 350 days a year (lets say they got 2 weeks vacation), by 3 years and you get an estimate 8,400 hours that Jesus spent with His disciples. Ultimately, in those 8,400 hours we can guess that Jesus taught, laughed, ate, hung out, prayed, etc. all of which created and instilled in them the necessary tools to continue the movement that He started, ultimately leading to us talking about this today.

Like I said earlier, I don’t know how many coaches are reading this, but if you are I want to encourage you, your athletes are more than x’s and o’s, your athletes are hearts and minds that are being strengthened and equipped to take the world by storm. Coaches, you have an incredible amount of influence, you can speak life into your players! Model Christ, spend time, and use your platform to encourage a generation to take the world by storm, and try to win some ball games along the way!

Coaches I want to hear from you, if you are reading this, if we can encourage each other, please reach out to me at lsawyer@fca.org.

In Christ!