You may have heard of the "dead ball" era in baseball. That was the time period when power numbers were way down. People were not hitting homeruns the way they do today. Baseball historians and those close to the game blame it on the way the balls were manufactured back then. They were not as lively as those in use today. There are a certain group of people in the know who contend that it was not the ball but rather the way that the game was being played then. Runs were scored by concentrating on getting on and moving the runners up.

Today that's referred to as "small ball." The Brooklyn and, later, Los Angeles Dodgers won National League pennants and World Series Championships with small ball. Actually, small ball relies on more than just timely hitting and astute baserunning. You have to have an excellent pitching staff as well. The Dodgers under Leo Durocher had solid hitting (Tommy Davis, NL batting champ), great baserunning (Maury Wills stole bases all season long every season) and possibly the best pitching staff ever amassed (Don Drysdale, Johnny Podres and Sandy Koufax are Hall of Famers).

With the "dead ball" era and "small ball" we now have the "lively ball" era where dingers, taters, round trippers and moon shots abound. Did you know there was almost a "yellow ball" era? Sixty-eight years ago yesterday the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Cardinals used yellow balls in the first game of a twin bill at Ebbets Field. The Dodgers won 6-2 with Freddie Fitsimmons pitching a complete game eight hitter against the Redbirds. If anyone ever asks who hit the only homerun using a yellow ball you can tell them St. Louis' Johnny Mize did on 8/2/38.

Oddly, both the players and the fans really liked the yellow baseballs, but the experiment was stopped with that one game. I wonder if anyone retrieved the ball that Mize hit onto Bedford Avenue. Now that would be one valuable baseball given the brevity of the "yellow ball" era. Today we are in an era of sorts. Many have dubbed our time as the "church growth" era. Never have there been as many books focusing on how to grow churches as there are right now. Probably because there have never been as many mega-churches as there are right now.

Amid all the talk of "celebratory worship" and "target groups" has anyone asked why such an era exists? It's not because of the large churches that are now in existence. It's because we as Christians have failed to do the one thing we were commissioned to do by the One who died for us to do it. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations." Matthew 28:19 If we were doing what Jesus has instructed us to do there would never have been a "church growth" era. The hope of the future church is right where Jesus wanted it; in the hearts of His people, not in programming. The big question is, "How are our hearts?"