Baseball, Acts, and a Special Friend

~Eric Pickett, a Leader at South City Church in Little Rock and a growing number of leaders training in the Central Arkansas Initiative, shares his experience.

I haven’t done any type of school work in a long time and to say the ACTS Leadership Course  was at first a little overwhelming to me may be a bit of an understatement. That is okay because something happened in the midst of all of the reading and writing.

When I was 7 I started playing baseball. I loved baseball before then but back in the mid to late 80’s you couldn’t start playing organized baseball until you were 7.  For the next 8 years or so my life was mostly consumed by baseball. I played mostly shortstop or second base and was a decent player. I thought I knew the game. I thought I knew about what to do in every situation. I thought I knew baseball.

Fast forward to my sophomore year of high school. My brother had just graduated from the same school and over his time there had improved as a baseball player greatly. He barely made the team and over his 3 years turned in to a good player. That ended up being very good for me. The coach, Mike Johnson, told me that the only reason I made the team was because my brother improved so much and hopefully I would too. Things didn’t start well. I couldn’t keep up. How could this happen? I knew everything about baseball. Coach Johnson became frustrated with my lack of ability and lack of improvement so he asked me a question that literally changed my life: “Have you ever played catcher before?”  I hadn’t and he told me that starting tomorrow I was a catcher. Yikes!

Playing catcher changed the way I saw baseball.  A game I thought I knew so well was turned completely around…literally.  As a middle infielder, and every other position, I faced the batter but now I faced the field, I faced my teammates. If you change positions on the baseball field your view of the batter changes but you are still looking at the batter just from a different angle. For me, changing to catcher gave me a completely different outlook of the game of baseball.  It was crazy.  A whole new way to see the game was opened up to me.  I started noticing so many things I had never noticed before about the game I thought I knew so well.  Positioning was something I hadn’t thought much about before. At 2B I was only concerned with my positioning but not really that concerned about the outfielders because my back was to them. But now, as a catcher, I can see everyone. I can see how Coach Johnson positioned every player specifically. I can see all of these new things. It didn’t stop there. Then he showed me the book.

Coach Johnson had a folder with papers in them. I am sure now this would all be done on an iPad or something but we had a manila folder with pieces of paper in it.  On these pieces of paper were pitch charts for every game in the last year or two. We called this folder the “chart book.”  A pitch chart is not like a score book, it is a record of every pitch thrown to the other team and what happened on that pitch. What type of pitch was it? Where was the pitch located? Were there runners on base? What did the hitter do to that pitch? Everything you need to know to devise the best plan to get the hitters on the other team out. I went from a middle infielder who knew what to do if it pertained to me to a catcher who was integral in the positioning of all of my teammates and in the devising of the plan to get every hitter out. What a difference. Baseball had changed.

The ACTS class has had a similar effect. I thought I was doing well as a Christ follower. I knew what to do as it pertained to me. I knew how to handle situations or conversations if they were brought my way.  Sure, I had read Acts multiple times but it was different now.  After the second or third week in the class, much like baseball did, the book of Acts completely opened up to me. It became clear that Acts was the pitch chart book. It gives me all of the information that I need for positioning myself and my teammates to put us in the best place for achieving the goal of the team. That goal here is not getting the other team out, it is advancing the gospel. I used to think that the planning and positioning was up to the coach or the pastor but I now know that the responsibility is on me.  There is no reason that, just because I don’t have a Bible degree or a fancy calf skin leather preaching Bible, I can’t be integral in the positioning of all of my teammates and in the devising of the plan to get the gospel to the ends of the Earth.

I said earlier that when Coach Johnson asked me if I had ever caught before changed my life. I went on to catch in college at Central Baptist College in Conway.  There I made a friend who invited me to her wedding.  At her wedding in 2007 I met the woman who would be my wife and by her love and example she showed me what a true follower of Christ was like.  In doing so it proved to me that I was not a true follower and in 2008 I committed my life to following Jesus and was saved from my sin.

I am thankful for the leadership at our church and how they are challenging us and showing us that the work is there for all of us. For most we probably aren’t being called to leave our own country with a plan to “get the other team out” but I can promise we are being called to leave our own front yards.


Leader Prayer Groups

We share a common vision to see every heart transformed by the love of God in Central Arkansas. Every great move of God is preceded by united prayer. We want to encourage pastors and ministry leaders to participate in a regional prayer movement.

The CityChurch Network is calling 100 local pastors and ministry leaders to participate in monthly Leader Prayer Groups and semi-annual One Voice events in Central Arkansas. Leader Prayer Groups connect church leaders through relational, regional and revival focused prayer. Our semi-annual One Voice events gather every church in the city to unite in prayer.
We are inviting leaders like you to participate in and help facilitate a Leader Prayer Group with 3-4 other pastors once a month. Leader Prayer Groups receive fresh, supportive content every month to encourage you in prayer. Help us spark a movement of united prayer among 100 church leaders in Central Arkansas!

Getting Started

1. Identify 3-4 pastors or ministry leaders of other churches to join your group.
2. Determine the ideal time and location for the members of your group.
3. Enlist your group to receive the monthly Regional Prayer Guide.
4. Attend One Voice with ten members from your church.

It’s that simple! We also want to honor all preexisting pastor’s prayer groups in Central Arkansas. Please contact Logan Bloom at to join or launch a Leader Prayer Group near you! A list of current Leader Prayer Groups can soon be found at

Melia Mason: Oneness

Race Under Grace: Opportunities for Oneness

by: Melia Lewis Mason

Recently, an interesting video caught my attention on social media.  Filmed in a popular restaurant chain, it was bustling with business—every table was taken. At one of the tables, where only men were seated, each one began to randomly sing the harmonies of a well-known gospel song. Though it looked like it was only their performance, people–one by one–all over the dining area—stood up and joined the worship. The place had been ‘flash mobbed!’ While I knew the song well, and I’m accustomed to seeing Facebook flash-mob attempts in lots of different contexts; there was one thing that truly stood out. There were all different races of people participating in this gospel-genre of praise! I was immediately reminded that this is how heaven will be. I shared the video, my thought, and Revelations 7:9 which tells us that every tribe of every nation will praise and honor God on high. There is ethnicity in heaven.

It is no coincidence that this clip has now been viewed 13.5 million times. That’s right—to say it went viral, would be an understatement.  Understanding that it’s captivated others, like me, gives a great illustration of the purpose of the CityChurch Network initiative, Race Under Grace. It is very simple. When people, especially those who live in America, see fellow believers uninhibited by the traditional boundaries of race; doing ‘life’ naturally and authentically, and with kingdom purpose; well people just seem to lean in!   As Jesus stated in John 17:23, ‘Then the world is able to know that God sent His Son, and He has loved those in this world, as He loves His Son.’

Since beginning in fall of 2016, the sessions of Race Under Grace were created to help churches, around the state, to understand our responsibility to the prayer that Jesus so fervently prayed on the eve of His death. To date, over 100 individuals have participated in Race Under Grace from churches and Christian-based businesses in Little Rock, North Little Rock, Maumelle, Conway, and northwest Arkansas. A Race Under Grace experience includes scriptural application; personally presented testimonies; informative videos—both historical and contemporary; and most importantly, dedicated space for organic, topical conversations. The attendees share these experiences in purposely diverse groups—all while the leaders of Race Under Grace rely on the Holy Spirit to establish the oneness of the gospel.

With only momentum in mind, the CityChurch leadership team desires that other churches and Christian entities will host Race Under Grace forums for their members and staff around our state, and nationally, as well. The Race Under Grace team is willing to meet with a team leader from each organization to coordinate the best itinerary of sessions. This can look different each time, depending on timeframes and the number of participants. Race Under Grace is best hosted with diversity in mind. In many instances, division persists because there is no mutuality or acceptable places for people of different ethnicities to discuss issues of race. Race Under Grace challenges this norm by establishing a safe place where the participants can freely express themselves, respectfully. The Race Under Grace team can lead these sessions and supply table leaders or train a potential church or business staff to lead their own sessions. There is a written work booklet given to each participant, as well. With only a few weeks’ notice, a Race Under Grace event can be planned, hosted, and follow-up strategies can be established.

It has been often noted that Martin Luther King made the observation that it was appalling that ‘the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on a Sunday morning.’ That was in April of 1960, as Dr. King eloquently spoke on an episode of Meet the Press. Though many things have improved since that Friday evening when Dr. King was interviewed, we know that, unfortunately, many churches exist in the same context that they did on that very day.

It is only ironic that in April of this year—some sixty years later, many of those who are part of the CityChurch Network, and those who’ve been leaders of Race Under Grace, traveled to Memphis, TN for MLK 50, the national commemoration and conference honoring the life of Dr. King on the anniversary of his untimely death. Sitting in the convention hall over the two days I was able to attend the conference, I found myself so welled up with emotion, at times, it felt as if I might detonate with gratitude for being blessed enough to be present at this intersection of remembrance and expectation. You see, I’d written my first play in the spring of 1985. I was an eleven year old, so stunned that Dr. King was stabbed and had lived, that I wrote about it. I didn’t know that the play would later be performed in two presentations–one for the school and another, later that evening, for parents. This is how long I’ve felt indebted to Dr. King.

One of the greatest observations that I can make is how profoundly diversity had made its way into that place. Though Dr. King’s Meet the Press moment still rings true, for just a moment over those two days, had he lived, he might have been able to understand the gravity of whom he had dared to be in this world. There were young and old, married and single, women and men, preachers and teachers, in all shapes and sizes—and most of all—a kaleidoscope of every kind of people who were here for King and kingdom purpose. I can remember being completely impacted that I might not live to see the next, but somehow, I had been blessed to witness this moment in history.

And so, in some figurative capacity in my head, I bottled this precious essence of MLK50, and I allowed it to bestow upon me the affirmation that is priceless in the work of oneness. For as long as I can remember the issues of difference have been with me. I know the anger and the righteous indignation borne out of a hostile look. I understand how my life standards will never be enough to make me fully accepted, in some places. But, these moments remind me of my Savior who went to the cross and took on all the iniquity of the world—including race—that I might know, instead, an eternal acceptance. I hold fast to the redemptive opportunities that are given to me as I participate in leading Race Under Grace and working with the CityChurch Network. And, though the world suffers much weight of hard afflictions, my steps are ordered and made lighter because I’m sure that, like Dr. King, I know that what I’m doing for Christ? It will last.


Melia Lewis Mason, a former English major and Little Rock native, is a writer and on staff of Fellowship North Church, where she coordinates Adult Ministry on the team of Pastor Harold Nash, and her husband is one of the worship leaders.  A former publications editor, Melia now is also a Communications and Content Coordinator for Race Under Grace, and she serves on the Citychurch Network of Arkansas Leadership Team. She resides in Maumelle, AR with her husband, Russell, and three children, Joshua, 17, Aijilán, 14, and Jonathan, 10. They recently celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary.

One Voice May 2018

Regional Night of Prayer and Worship

Thursday – May 3rd, 7:00 PM
Immanuel Baptist Church
501 N. Shackleford Road, Little Rock, AR 72211

The convergence of our upcoming One Voice regional night of prayer and the National Day of Prayer is a significant opportunity to unite Central Arkansas in the name of Jesus. As we prepare for this special event, we are asking you to partner with us in prayer. The Lord has raised up Arkansas Pastor Ronnie Floyd as the President of the National Day of Prayer, and he is calling the nation to pray for the theme of UNITY from Ephesians 4:3,

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” We hope to unite an unprecedented number of churches and leaders on this special occasion in a visible demonstration of united prayer for America.

Please mark your calendar and join our team by mobilizing your church and inviting churches in your network to attend.

Contact to add your church to our list of participants. Further details including promotional material will be available soon.