San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner has made history. Not just by leading his team to victory in the World Series and being named Most Valuable Player. Not just by pitching 36 innings in the Series while giving up only one run, a fact that makes him statistically the greatest pitcher in Series history. But also by pitching five innings in relief Thursday night after winning two starts. No one has done that in a century.
His earned run average is lower than any pitcher with at least three starts in the Series. Experts such as Curt Shilling are calling his work the “best post season performance ever.” But he wants you to know that baseball is only part of his story.
Madison’s family is from Hickory, North Carolina, where more than 100 Bumgarners live. There were once so many of them that the community was nicknamed “Bumtown.”
He was a baseball prodigy from childhood. In fact, his first word was “ball.” He began playing in a league for 5-to-8 year-olds when he was only four. Scouts began tracking his progress when he was 11. He pitches left-handed, though he plays every other sport right-handed. He is as unpretentious as his hometown, marrying his high school sweetheart and wearing jeans and a pocket knife to the ceremony.
And he has continued in the faith his mother taught him from childhood.
Madison grew up in church and became a Christian when he was 16 years old. When asked about his faith, he says: “My faith’s been a big part of my career and my life. . . . It’s helped me along the way so much. I don’t think there’s any way I’d be where I’m at today if it wasn’t for my faith.”
What does he want people to know about him? “The biggest thing I want people to know about me is that I’m a believer, that I’m a Christian, not just that I’m a baseball player. . . . I’ll always kneel down and pray before the game. I try to lead that lifestyle and make it where people can recognize that.” When asked what Jesus means to him, Bumgarner replies, “Everything. He’s my Savior. I live for him. . . . I don’t want to live for myself—I want to live for him.”
Sociologist James Davison Hunter has demonstrated that culture changes when people achieve their highest level of influence and live there faithfully. He calls this “manifesting faithful presence.” If we are willing to exalt Jesus, he will use our witness for his eternal glory. If we see our platform as our ministry, it will become so.
Growing up in Hickory, Madison Bumgarner could not have known that his faith would one day be on display before millions, but it is. In the same way, your obedience to Jesus is touching more people than you can know.
We cannot measure the eternal significance of present faithfulness.