"Stick to the plan" -- what baseball, business, and Jesus have in common

Last night I had the luxury of watching the entire game 5 between the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates. In one moment after the game, I made some connections between the Cardinals, the spiritual life, and good leadership.

I am a fourth generation
Cardinal fan, and I have been following the Cards closely this season. It has been a year full of intrigue. Due to injuries to key veterans, the Cardinals have used no fewer than 20 rookies in their lineup this year. In game 4 against the Pirates, rookie pitcher Michael Wacha pitched 7-1/3 innings of one-hit ball. He was relieved by rookie Carlos Martinez, who finished the eighth inning. Then rookie Trevor Rosenthal closed out the ninth inning. Rosenthal looked like he was hyperventilating when he took the mound, but he got the job done.

There is a system in St. Louis called "the Cardinal Way." The team has produced manuals and materials that outline in detail how the team goes about things. There is a saying in the clubhouse: "Stick to the plan." When times are tough, don't panic. Stick to the plan. Obviously the plan works. This year is the 8th time since 2000 that the Cardinals have gotten to the NLCS or better.

As the analysts were talking about the Cardinal Way last night, my thoughts went to Jim Collins' book Good to Great. It's a classic in the business world. Collins' main point is this. In order for a company (or organization) to go from good to great, they must have disciplined people exercising disciplined thought and taking disciplined action -- not looking for a magic moment of transformation but working on a gradual buildup toward ultimate breakthrough. The job of management is to keep "pushing the flywheel" in incremental actions that are in tune with a vision for the future. In other words, "stick to the plan."

Jesus laid out a way to be a disciple. Love God with all you are. Love people sacrificially. Make a difference in the world by doing works of justice and compassion. Make no mistake, times will get tough. But even then he instructed them to "stick to the plan." Later James would write, "As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered" (James 5:11).

Where are you tempted to quit or slack off? Where do you need to stick to the plan?

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