“I want all the first-year Panther players to stand up and remain standing. Gentlemen, tonight is primarily about you. You are now members of the Panther Baseball Family. Welcome. I know you’ve all played baseball before but you’ve never played the game of baseball like you will as a PAC Panther.
You see, as a Christian organization, we don’t do business the way the world does business so we don’t play the game of baseball the way the world does. It won’t be done like it was in rec league. It won’t be done like the majors or college. We don’t even do it the way other high schools do it and you will find that out pretty quick – and you will be a big part of that difference beginning tonight.
Young men, be ready to stretch way outside your comfort zone – physically, mentally, emotionally and especially spiritually. Be ready to be challenged. Be ready to be disciplined. Be ready to be accountable. In short, be ready to man up. Your coaches, your chaplains, your teammates will require this of you and tonight we’re going to explain why.
Everyone raise their hands if they would like to know God’s will for their life. If you want to know God’s will for your life, then the best way to start is find out what God’s will for his own life was, then align your efforts according to that. In John 6:40, Jesus said, “My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I [Jesus] will raise them up at the last day.” Peter tells us later in 2 Peter 3:9b that God’s will is that none should perish but that all should come to repentance. In case you were wondering what the big picture is, that’s it. A perfect God wants to spend eternity with imperfect men – amazing!
How many of you have seen some of the recent war movies? American Sniper? Zero Dark Thirty? Unbroken? Fury? Lone Survivor? These movies do an excellent job of portraying the harsh realities of war.
Boys – whether you realize it now or not – whether you accept it or not – we too are at war. The stakes are however far higher than just having your face shot off. The stakes are the condition and eternal value, indeed the final destination of the human soul. You see, sooner or later the lights are going to go out for the very last time. Christ will come back; justice will be served; and His will will be done on earth, even as it is in Heaven. This day will come at a time when most people don’t expect and will likely look a lot different than most people expect but that day will come.
Young men, your generation will live closer to this Moment in history than anyone who has ever gone before you. Did you catch that? Do you understand how important this is? Do you understand what’s at stake? Because I can tell you someone who does understand it and that is the enemy. He knows the sand is running out of the hour glass. He too knows this Day is coming and the only truth he can cling to is this: “Misery loves company.”
So in these last generations, the enemy has been working overtime. He’s working overtime to prevent as many people as possible from entering the Kingdom of God. And as that day gets closer, he will only turn up the heat – not down. It will only get more difficult to be a Christian – not less. He’s going to want to lie about, steal and destroy your education, your career, your family, your personality and, hopefully for him, your very future. And for those of us who are Christians he can never steal our souls but, if we’re not careful, maybe he can at least steal our effectiveness for the Kingdom.
Someone else who understands this reality is your Panther baseball leadership team – coaches and chaplains. That’s why for several months now we have been meeting and discussing how we might better train up the next generation of Christian men to boldly stand for the cause of Christ when others won’t because, in times of testing, others won’t.
Now during the off-season, your coaches and chaplains were struggling spiritually. We were struggling because, deep down, we knew that, as successful as Panther baseball had become in just over five seasons, the program’s future was perhaps in jeopardy. Three sober observations led us to this conclusion.
Sober observation #1. We have already turned 15 young men loose in the world who have graduated from the program. If all we gave them was an opportunity to play competitive baseball, what happens when they find themselves with an identity crisis because all they’ve ever really known or cared about was baseball?
Sober observation #2. As the success of the program grows, along with the popularity of homeschooling in general, we can no longer assume everyone within the sound of our voices tonight, during practices or during games are truly Christians. We can no longer assume that everyone involved in homeschooling is Christian. We can no longer assume that Christian homeschooling – and its associated athletic programs like PAC – will never be challenged.
Sober observation #3. None of us on the current leadership team are of course getting any younger. What legacy will we leave? What will the Panther baseball program look like ten years from now if we don’t establish a strategic vision for the program today?
After some careful soul-searching, Coach Jim Blevins shared this thoughtful conclusion:
“Our program should ultimately be judged on how well we assist our parents in transforming their boys to young men.”
And so, from this epiphany, the entire leadership team jumped aboard as we now realize our new team vision:
“Transforming Young Men for Eternity”
With this vision as our destination – the end result of our program – our pathway (mission) then is to teach Godly manhood through character training within the framework of competitive baseball. We still want to play excellent baseball and win games but we’re doing it now for a Greater purpose than ever.
Finally, our guardrails on the road to this destination are our core values: Respect – Unity – Leadership – Excellence and Diligence. Panther baseball will be “RULED” by its core values. All of our teachable moments will be traced back to one or more of these core values. In fact, everything we do, on or off the field, will be reflective in one way or another of our new vision, mission and values.
We aim to help parents develop Godly men of respect – of unity – of leadership – of excellence – and of diligence. Men full of integrity who fear God more than most (Nehemiah 7:2).
Now, lest you think we’ll excuse sloppy play & performance, Panther baseball is about excellent baseball but excellent baseball is nothing more than the tool we use to assist parents in transforming their boys to young men. We know most of you future men have only 4-5 years or maybe only 4-5 months left of playing organized baseball. But we also know that most of you – God willing – do have 40-50 years left of effective service for the Kingdom.
At the end of the day. At the end of the game. At the end of the season, we want to have done everything in our power to help you “no longer conform to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that – like Jesus – you too may prove what the will of God is…that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
Future men, young men are you ready to begin Panther Baseball for 2015?”