I once overheard some young men discussing their baseball little league careers. One of the group had been a catcher, another had played second, etc. One was asked, “What did you play?” “Well, I was a designated sitter”, was the terse reply. Not a designated hitter, but a designated sitter.
Now, you will have to admit that was a clever way to avoid saying, “I was a bench warmer.” Sounds more important too.
Upon reflection, I have concluded that his position was really more important than it sounded. Any good sports coach will tell you that to have a really good team that you need a “strong bench” – that battery of “designated sitters” who avidly support the “starters” and are ever willing to step in and do the job whenever needed. They are essential to the team and are often the real heroes of the game.
In the church, there are certain positions that are more visible than others. Everyone cannot play the same position. (Read 1 Corinthians 12). The strength of the church is too often measured by the perceived strength of the more visible members – the preacher, the elders, the song leaders, class teachers, etc. Oh, these are important positions. They should be filled by those qualified to do the work. As important as they are, the real strength of the church may not be in those who regularly perform these functions. It often lies with the “designated sitters” – those who hold up the hands of the “regulars” and are willing to step in whenever needed to do the best they can in whatever role the occasion calls for. As in a play, the success of the production often depends as much on the supporting cast, working behind the scenes, as it does on those who are seen on stage.
For several years following World War II, there was a flurry of “missionary” activity around the world. A number of brethren were announcing plans to go to this or that country. They were rightly receiving notoriety as their plans were announced in the various papers published by brethren. I heard one preacher, who was justly proud that two of his sons were among those willing to leave the comforts of home and go into the foreign work, make an appeal for brethren to support all those men who, like his sons, were willing to go. Then someone asked the brother, why he, too, was not planning to join his sons in going, if it were so important. He answered, “Because someone needs to stay at home to help provide and encourage support for those who are going?” I think he was right.
While we must have those who are “on the field” or “at bat”, we also need the strong support of “designated sitters.” Men like Onesiphorus (2 Tim. 1:16), who may not be as visible or as well-known as others, but are always there lending whatever service and support they can to the team effort. When good men are publicly doing their best to promote and uphold truth and carry on the Lord’s work in general, they need words of comfort rather than criticism. When one has to take the lead in teaching and defending the gospel it is comforting, knowing that those “on the bench” are willing to stand up beside them in a show of solidarity.
Thank God for every good “designated sitter.”