There is no greater sports fan than I am. I played baseball growing up, and loved to watch basketball and football. My original plans coming out of high school had me entertaining the idea of being a baseball coach, before the Lord intervened. Half of my children have played sports most all of their life. My oldest daughter played fastpitch softball, and basketball as a young girl, and my son has excelled at almost whatever ball was in his hand. They both have made respective “All-Star” teams etc . . . When my son was 8 years old, he played in the Happ Dumont 8 and under World Series with one of the best travelling teams he has ever been on. As he approaches his junior year of high school, out of the clear blue sky, the Lord has brought one of his childhood football heros, and NFL running backs into his life, and is not only enjoying one on one workouts and training with him, but they are becoming great friends. This young NFL player is a fine Christian young man, and is a great influence in his life. My son, who is 16 years old, is 5’7″ 191 pounds of pure muscle with a bench press of 315, a 40 yard dash of 4.7 and a squat of 450 pounds. As a freshman and sophomore, he started and lettered each of his first two years on his 4A Sr High Varsity football team, and is currently listed as this upcoming season’s starting middle linebacker. He also has a GPA of 3.95
I said all of that for two reasons. Reason number one, I am an unashamed bragging father who is proud of his son and daughter(s). My son has worked like a mule to get to where he is physically and academically, as well as my daughter who through Haney Homeschool High School scored high on her ACT, and is looking forward to college this fall. Reason number two is to demonstrate that I am and have been as nose deep in the athletic activities of my children as anyone else has, and so let it be said, known and understood that we are a sports family.
But I am also a pastor, and have been a pastor for several years, and at no time in my life have I seen the games becoming the golden calf like I see it now, capturing Christians, and taking them away from the Lord’s church by the groves. Travelling ball teams, cheer teams, and tournaments in nearly all sports at all ages have placed Christians in the place where they have to choose between their church on Sunday, and their son or daughter playing a ball game. With no ill feelings, or judgments toward anyone in my heart, what I’ve seen is a lot of Christians choosing the games over their God.
One of the things that gets lost on people from time to time is the fact that (rightly understood) you cannot have the Lord first, and His church second. Now it is true that people can worship the church without worshipping the Lord, but no one will really recognize the place of the Lord in their life apart from recognizing priority of the church in their life. Sometimes the Lord will put us in the position of having to choose between His church and our desires, and too many Christians in this spot are like nailing jello to the wall; and do not want to choose, and/or will not choose; which is actually their choice.
Now let me say this; there is nothing unbiblical about athletic competition. The scriptures often utilize athletics as examples for the spiritual growth and gain. There is nothing wrong with them in and of themselves, but anything, including athletics, that comes before the Lord in loyalty to and/or authority of has become a god and a golden calf. I know no Christian who would bow to a golden calf. However chasing the golden trophy or the golden ring at the expense of the church is all too common place.
The fact is that we are now in an age where the church means nothing to the powers that be in the planning of sports activities. We cannot let it mean nothing to us. In days gone by, even society at large respected the Sunday schedule of the Lord’s House; they do not anymore. We need to come to the place that when faced with the choice of church or ball on a planned basis, Christians know what they should be choosing.
Of course I hear in my ears the questions already, “What about that NFL player your son is working with, he only plays on Sundays?” – And is in church on Sunday. What people do not know is that many NFL players don’t miss their church on Sunday, (except during their away games, 8 a year, which they can still visit a church when they’re out of town.) In fact, a few years ago, the punter for the Indianapolis Colts was the music director at his church. Many of them that desire to go to their church, can often go to the early services, and could attend the evening services. The primary point that I am trying to make is that in many people’s lives, the church doesn’t even serve as a thought, or hesitation when faced with such a schedule . . . it is an automatic reflex that when faced with the decision of team or church, for many there’s no hesitation . . .they’ll stick with the team, and any right minded person wouldn’t dare to think otherwise.
We are to be salt and light in a dark and dying world, even in the world of sports . . . but that is not a hall pass to by pass the command to have no other gods. The Lord never lets us cheat one command in order to obey another, He always empowers us to do both. I am a hundred percent behind every child playing ball, and playing well . . . in it’s proper place. Recognizing the magnitude of the priority of the church over all other secular activities is a much needed change worth making.