I did not intend to write another section to the first article. However, the first part was met with a stony silence. What was I thinking? I came against the primary addiction of professing Christians just when the football season began in earnest. Sports is an indulgence that one had better not oppose if one wishes to avoid the right foot of dis-fellowship. American Christianity has embraced it as a sanctified privilege. Is that okay with God? Or are Christians simply singing a modified version of, “I surrender all”?
I ought to apologize, remove the first article, and go back to redundantly describing how heretics are destroying Christianity. But why are they destroying? Why are they invading so easily? Why is there a massive power outage in Christianity? Why has truth become so trampled and despised? Did the fire that filled men’s bones, that purified their hearts, that grew overcoming faith in them, fueled mighty revivals, birthed great Movements, come from a table prepared for the flesh or an altar prepared by God?
Obviously, there is a massive power drain somewhere. It is not difficult to discover the leak. In my opinion the drainage is at the table of sports where Believers and unbelievers join their spirits and emotions. Both factions are controlled by the same source/activity, provoked by the same stimuli, and fulfill the same desires. The ritual is designed and controlled by the god of this world.
It’s more than just a game—it is a religion. If you are hooked, just try to pull yourself off of the hook. Most people will not even consider trying to break free. I knew a pastor on that hook that put together his Sunday night sermons while watching two NFL football games.
Consider how much time is wasted with eyes fixated on the TV and our minds wired to an NFL football game. 64% of Americans watch football. 27% watch between 6 – 10 and 7% watch 10 – 14 hours per week. Over 20 million Christians watch Sunday afternoon football. Throw in the stats for Monday night football, Thursday night and Saturday NCAA football, PGA, NASCAR, NBA, WWE, Soccer, WHL, MLB, MMA, etc.
If it was just football, it might not be so terribly infectious and time consuming. How many times do one’s emotions spike during a game? I would guess at the least 10 times, ending with jubilation or despair. Here’s why: the fact is, there are over 100 commercials in the average NFL game that lasts approximately 3 hours and 12 minutes. But the amount of time the ball is actually in play during the game is approximately 11 minutes. Over 3 hours are invested for 11 minutes of action. So people are not actually watching football, but an event that includes football.
I confess that at one point I was an avid sports fan. I spent numerous hours in front of the TV and consider it one of the great wasted periods of my life. Most Christian men don’t need an excuse to emote with TV sports. It is considered a basic right of manhood. However, I knew that it was weakening me spiritually, so I had to justify the ritual. My reasons were because many of my pastor and evangelist friends were fans. Additionally, many men in the churches I pastored were fans. I could converse with them about sports and I enjoyed the entertainment. I also thought it helped me get rid of stress.
Getting rid of stress is the default excuse for pastors’ addiction to sports. Yes, it will rid you of stress the same way that a temper tantrum rids some people of rage. Much more than stress is being drained. Power (virtue in the KJV) flows out with the stress because enormous spiritual energy is being expended when we feed the flesh. Absolutely nothing spiritually beneficial is being put back.
You can realize the reason for an expenditure of spiritual energy in the Apostle Paul’s description of the war between flesh and spirit.
“I say then: walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law”. – Galatians 5:16-18
The word “lusts” in the Greek is epithyméō,” which means “to set one’s heart upon”. It literally means that what the flesh sets its heart on, and the Spirit sets His heart on, are diametrically opposite. In that context, Paul exhorts Christians to live, think, move, and make all our choices according to what the Spirit desires.
Sadly, that has become either an obscure principle or a selective application. Consequently, the spiritual lives of men have been severely weakened and/or in some cases completely depleted. In nearly 4 decades of pastoring, I have observed that Christian men are seldom the spiritual leaders in the church because of their addiction to fleshly distractions. They may be voted into office, but have little audience or office with God.
I believe that the primary reason Sunday night church meetings have ceased in most churches is because after spending 4 – 6 hours in front of the TV, most men have no taste or desire for spiritual substance. Not only have they rejected what they received Sunday morning, but they have also abused their emotional systems so severely, that the idea of a church meeting bores them.
However, there is another ramification of addiction to carnal pursuits. Recently, I was in a restaurant that had ESPN on their TVs. The camera panned from one panelist to another as they chattered about the minutia of sports. One panelist would stop and the other would instantly begin without a pause.
I could feel my brain gravitating to the discussion as if coming under a spell. Instead of the brain working to gather information, it is like putting it into a passive state, plugging it into the TV, and data is being transferred. Not only is watching sports an issue, but addiction requires “fixes” between games. That is were the endless pedantic chatter comes in. Thus, there is also an expenditure of time to transfer worthless data that has no spiritual benefit at all.
The brain is the control room of the body. The mind controls the brain. God’s word is clear about the importance of guarding our minds, what we should feed our minds, and even how we should use our minds. The Apostle Paul wrote that the battle is for control of the mind (2 Corinthians 10:3-6). Allowing anyone or anything to control the initiative or cognitive qualities of the mind is dangerous.
One powerful verse that should be a goal for every Christian is in Colossians 3:2, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Now, as to charges of “legalism”, it certainly is not about rules and outward appearances. It is about choosing whom we have pledged our loyalty to in response to each challenge from Satan or the world system. We humans do religion well, but fail miserably at being loyal friends of God in that regard.
Of course, there are many professing Christians, male and female, who have no problem partaking of clearly diabolical entertainment. However, God ordained men as leaders. I hope and pray that men will reaffirm their loyalty to God and reestablish themselves as spiritual leaders. We should not be focused on games, while the women fight our battles. Godly manhood is evidenced in men who put God’s kingdom first. They should lead in all things spiritual, especially in prioritizing time and establishing focus. Otherwise, how will the next generation of Christians understand from our modeling what the priorities must be? The following story reveals how important our priorities and focus are.
In 1904 the country of Wales experienced a powerful, life-changing revival. Multiple thousands of individuals surrendered to God. They were born in the fire and it consumed them inside out. Pubs were closed, and miners had trouble controlling their mules. The reason being they had trained mules using vulgarity. Jails were empty and police officers had nothing to do. The entire population was saved in some cities.
As a result, missionaries from Wales went throughout the world to spread the good news of the Gospel. On a street in Argentina, one of those missionaries witnessed a young boy, Luis Palau. The lad became a Christian and powerful evangelist to Latin America.
Years later in 1970 Palau visited Wales to express his gratitude for the missionary that brought him the Gospel. What He found was both astonishing and discouraging. The revival had not survived in the next generation. Crime was rampant, hedonism ruled society, the divorce rate was extremely high, and God was nowhere to be found. The people on the street that Palau asked about Christ had no clue who he was. Less than .5% of the population attended church meetings. In fact, numerous church buildings had become pubs.
Palau made a movie about his experience entitled, “God Has No Grandchildren.” In his movie, he filmed the victory celebration in a pub after a rugby game. The pub’s inebriated patrons, arms linked, swaying from side to side, sung their teams rally song to the tune of, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” No doubt, rugby had displaced the great Wales revival and replaced Christianity as the national religion.
The experience led Palau to conclude, “Christianity is always one generation from extinction.” Has our nation reached the same point in history? A number of observers believe that it has. In 2006, Josh McDowell wrote, “The Last Christian Generation.” McDowell does a great job in identifying the problem. However, I’m not certain that he pinpointed the cause. I believe that a major cause is distracted and dis-focused male leadership, too deeply invested in sports to pray or maintain passion for God.
Please pray about this great challenge in this very critical period. Nero fiddled while Rome burned. What will we be doing when society crumbles around us? When the world is on fire with wickedness and violence, I pray the fire of passion for God will have already been rekindled in our hearts.