It was Jeremy Beck’s ninth year coaching his son’s baseball team, and he felt like he was falling short.
“A lot of the kids in his class were starting to make some bad choices, and I was getting concerned as a dad,” he said.
He felt like he could have been more intentional with the time he’d spent with the boys on his Eagles team. So Beck, who also is pastor of Grant Street Baptist Church in Bessemer, “got a burden.”
“We always prayed after our games, and I always mentioned the gospel when I could,” Beck said. “But being intentional is where I’d fallen short.”
So in January, he started walking the group of 12-year-old boys through a devotional book after every workout.
“We did that for six or seven weeks and really planted some seeds, and then in March, it just felt like it was time to present the gospel,” Beck said.
He had them close their eyes — just so they didn’t do anything because the other boys were doing it — and asked if any of them would like to start a relationship with Jesus. All but the two on the team who were already believers — his son and his assistant coach’s son — raised their hand.
Just the beginning
“I thought, ‘Well, maybe they didn’t understand me,’ so I asked them again,” Beck said.
The same thing happened.
“I got overwhelmed and emotional,” he said. “I walked through what that meant with all of them, and I said, ‘If you mean it, I want you to go home and tell your parents what you’ve done.’ By the next day, they had told their parents and reached out to me to baptize them.”
Soon he would see that was just the beginning.
A couple of nights later, one of the moms showed up at the team’s workout with the younger sister of one of the boys. She had been hearing her brother talk about Jesus and wanted to know how she could follow Him too.
So Beck sat down with her and led her to Christ right there.
He began planning a big team baptism in April at Grant Street, which would include the little sister.
But there was still more.
The night before the service, Beck got a call from the father of one of the boys.
“He wanted to talk about the baptism. He said, ‘I don’t know what this decision is, but I’ve seen so much change in these boys I want that in my life,’” Beck recalled.
Beck led him to the Lord, and the next day he gathered the boys in the conference room at the church, and the dad told them what had happened and that he was going to be baptized with his son.
“It was very emotional,” Beck said.
That day at the baptismal service was standing room only. And once again — there was still more to come.
“After the service, one of the granddads came up to me with tears in his eyes and told me,
‘I’ll see you Sunday,’” Beck said. “I found out later he hadn’t set foot in a church in 35 years but had come that day because he’d do anything for his grandson.”
As Beck headed back to his office, a grandmother stopped him and said her grandson had sat through the service and wanted to make a decision too.
Beck explained to him what it meant to follow Jesus — that it wasn’t just about being a cool baseball player, it was about living for the Lord — and the boy said he understood and wanted to follow through.
After Beck finished praying with the boy, he looked up and the grandmother had tears in her eyes.
‘I need Jesus’
“She looked at me and said, ‘Pastor, I’m lost, and I need Jesus too,’” he remembered. “She prayed to receive Christ too.”
From there, the work of God in the community continued to snowball, and Beck was astounded. He got a text from the granddad who had said he’d be back the following Sunday asking Beck to meet with him before that. When they did, he told Beck he had tried a variety of churches when he was younger but none of them had stuck. Eventually, he had stopped going.
That day he had something he had to get answered.
“He said, ‘Pastor, I’ve got a question for you — when you stepped in the baptismal water, who was the man in the water with you?’ He told me that another man had stepped in with me, looked straight at him and held out his hands,” Beck said.
“I told him, ‘All I know is Jesus is trying to get your attention.’”
That day, the man started a relationship with Jesus, as did another of his grandsons he had brought with him.
And another grandson approached Beck one day in the church parking lot, saying he couldn’t shake an overwhelming feeling of conviction. When Beck led him to Christ, his mother was standing nearby. She said she hadn’t been a believer but had decided to follow Jesus now too.
“She said, ‘I’ve seen so much change in my family, I want to follow Jesus as well,’” Beck said.
And it hasn’t stopped there.
One of the dads apologized to his sons in front of the Eagles baseball team recently, saying he had blown off his sons’ spiritual questions in the past and now wanted to lead them in following Jesus.
“He’s been coming to church ever since,” Beck said.
And others have approached Beck to ask him questions. It’s clear God is working in their lives, he said. “This story is to be continued.”
Now at the end of practices, the Eagles baseball team circles up and walks through Scripture together.
“Even their parents circle up and join us, and we all have prayer time together afterward,” Beck said.
After all the boys decided to follow Jesus, they started asking the opposing teams — on their own — if they would like to join the Eagles on the mound for prayer, and they led it.
“We just stand back in tears watching God use them,” he said.
And they’ve gotten to see that a lot — recently the team went all the way to win the Dizzy Dean Freshman World Series.
Beck said he had simply prayed that their story would “make much of Christ.”
Beck said it’s been a “crazy, beautiful story.”
“As a dad, there’s this huge freedom in knowing that I was concerned about them making poor choices, and now they get to walk beside each other on this journey of faith,” he said.
David Hobson, director of missions for Mud Creek Baptist Association, said it’s been amazing to see the change at Grant Street Baptist since Beck came as pastor.
“The church has an excitement, and they have become a shining example that God can use a small church in incredible ways,” he said.