We live in the land of the free. Where we have the freedom to choose how to think, how to pursue our dreams, and most importantly, how to worship. But with such freedoms come attacks. Attacks on our belief systems, attacks on our faith. You see we also live in a land where people will fight for the life of a tree or a whale, but not a child. All of a sudden that particular life becomes a “choice.” But I digress. That is a topic for another day. The point is that Christianity has a lot of enemies out there. While we have the freedom to worship, others have the freedom to tear us down, take shots at our faith, and give us the ever popular name, hypocrite. This opposition comes in many forms, however there is a group of people who are quickly becoming an overwhelming, living opposition to the word of God. I believe this group of people may very well be the most dangerous group of people to give Christianity a bad name. Unfortunately that group of people is…….us!!! Christians are becoming the biggest reason that the lost and unchurched are turning away from Christianity. Frankly speaking, people are looking at how we live and saying to themselves, “I act better, I treat people better, and I live purer than Christians” and they would be correct. We have become a judgmental, self-righteous group that has attempted to assume the role of judge, jury, and executioner- a role meant only for God the father. Now, don’t get me wrong , it is I who said that if I offend you with my opinion, I will apologize, but if I offend you with the truth then I’m not backing down. I am not talking about Christians taking stands for the truth of Christ; but that is just it- its HIS truth, not ours. We are to love people the same way that Christ loved us. We are to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and make disciples of all nations. Yet, here we are deciding who can and can not come to our churches, who should and should not be shunned, and who we minister to. Guys this is not the job left to us by our savior.
I am a Baptist, so you know that I believe that you can not lose your salvation- once saved always saved. I do believe, however, that we need to be very careful of the status of our witness. I believe that Christians lose their witness every day. What does that mean? Well, simply put, it means that our actions, words, and lifestyle prevent our witness or our presentation of the gospel to be heard or taken seriously. Honestly, would you listen to a person tell you the dangers of smoking & how you should quit while he burns through a pack of cigarettes right in front of you? Unfortunately, our witness is a lot like a first impression- if our lives don’t mirror Christ, then it will be very hard for that person to hear the gospel from you. We have people who will sit in the pew on Sunday only to go cheat on their spouse on Monday. We have church goers that will sing the songs of praise to our father only to cuss out their employees that week. We have teenagers who will lead youth worship services on Wednesday night, only to be drunk at a party that Friday. We are slowly spinning out of control and the results will be catastrophic for the church.
As I thought about the implication of this epidemic, I asked myself where may be an area, an unexpected area, that Christians may not realize the damage they are causing to God’s Kingdom. The logical area that came to me was at the stadium. I believe that this may be the place where a witness is damaged quicker than any other venue on the planet. We love our sporting events and we get passionate about them. We get so passionate about them that we forget that it is just a game. Now I realize I just infuriated a lot of people by making that statement- believe me, I’m used to it. You are thinking that the sport is a way of life; and I once thought like you. Ask yourself though, if you truly follow Christ, is the socially acceptable behavior at these events really worth the cost of losing your witness?
Following Christ does not mean you have to give up your passion for the game you love. It does not mean you need to be any less intense on the field as a coach. It does not mean that you are not protecting your young athlete. What a Christ follower on the athletic field looks like is a player that gives his all for his team and wants to beat the other team with a passion, but is careful to give God all the Glory, Honor, and Praise in his actions and words. It looks like a coach who is intense, but promotes the self-esteem of their players, they expect the highest standards from their players in all areas including academics and character, and they teach their players how to be productive, respectful people on and off the field. It looks like a parent who, may not agree with the coach, but does not get online to begin a coach trash session on social media or the local sports media threads. A parent who allows their athlete the chance to succeed and fail without belittling their play from the stands.
I realize that I may be stepping on some toes with this, but think about this. What could we do for the Kingdom of God if we were as passionate about living for Christ as we are about our sports. We get up at the crack of dawn to go fish, or we tailgate for 10 hours before, during, and after a football game, but we can’t seem to make it to church. We get behind the things that we are passionate about. When will we start getting passionate about Christ? You see the word passion means “to suffer.” Are we willing to suffer for Christ? He was willing to suffer for us. We are certainly willing to suffer for our sports. I am not here to trash sports or high school and college athletics, quite the opposite in fact. We need players, parents, and coaches living radically different lives and proclaiming that faith is first, that Christ is the reason we are able to play these games we love so much. We need people willing to live differently and protect their witness.
I will leave you with this. Our witness is very much tied to how we live our lives. No one will want to accept your invite to church, if they see your profanity laced tirades from the stands or the bench.
Players: Make a stand on your fields. Make your faith the priority. Give God the praise, honor, and glory with everything you do & say on and off the field.
Parents: Before you go trashing your athletes coach online, stop to consider how much time they are spending away from their family in order to pour their energy and knowledge into your child. Stopping the coach bashing that comes with school athletics can solve a lot of problems and promote the Kingdom as well.
Coaches: Be mindful of church time. Don’t make your players choose between the sport and church; and don’t penalize them when they leave practice early to go to church. I realize sometimes you have to play on Wednesday, but a faith first attitude will avoid those times as much as possible. After all you need to be in church with your family too. And finally, teach your players that at the end of their lives, no one will remember the wins or losses or any stats, but they will remember what kind of person they were.
These are all games- GREAT GAMES. However, never lose sight of the bigger game going on. That race that determines the eternity of those who haven’t accepted Christ. That is a race that you don’t want people to lose and if you are not protective of your witness, that may just happen.
In Christ Alone,
Rev. Bro. Coach