Football and Church

Note the contrasts between the average football fan’s worship of a pigskin and the average Christian’s worship of God. Football fans pay a hefty sum to park their cars and walk a long distance to the stadium. The churchgoer expects free parking close to the building. Football contests are noisy with loud cheering and the enthusiasm of the fans. The churchgoer sits in grim silence, and objects to loud music. Football stadium seats are narrow, backless, and assigned. The churchgoer hates a hard pew and insists on a particular seat.

Football games always last well past three hours, and if they go into overtime, fans consider it a bonus. The churchgoer expects worship to take only an hour. If the service goes into overtime, the churchgoer displays great movements of agitation and frustration.

Actually, things don’t have to be that way. At my church, season tickets are free, and if you come early enough, you can sit in the same seat every week. Our seats are comfortable, the music is excellent, and the home team (Jesus) wins every time. And we try to keep it to an hour. By any measure, the best arena you will ever attend is the one down the street with the steeple.

With the new year dawning, find a place of worship. Thenew year starts on Sunday. Make it count.


I was insecure as a child. I think it goes back to my infant years. When Mom used to rock me, she used those big rocks. My insecurities carried over to my teen years. When I watched football games on television and the teams went into their huddles, I thought they were talking about me.

Actually, there was a day when they didn’t huddle up at all. The quarterback would tell each player what to do. Then it all changed at the powerhouse of college football: Gallaudet University. Located in Washington, D.C., Gallaudet is a school for the deaf. The quarterback calls the plays by sign language.

In the old days, one of their quarterbacks noticed that the defense was watching him call the plays. So he asked the players to “huddle up,” so he could call the plays without being seen by the opposition.

The custom continues today, on the football field and in the church. Yes, in the church! In most churches, we are more concerned with “holy huddles” (meetings, gatherings in our buildings) than we are with putting points on the board (ministry, service).

Church, it’s time to break the huddle and run some plays!

Get Out of Bed!

“Get out of bed!” said the mother to her son, who was 38. “I don’t want to,” he groaned, as he pulled the covers back over his head. “But you have to get up,” she insisted. “It’s Sunday, and church starts in an hour!”

“But I don’t want to go to church,” he complained. “Why do I have to go?”

Trying to maintain her patience, his mother suggested, “You need to go to church for three reasons. First, you need to go to church because I am your mother, and I said so. Second, church will do you good. And third, you’re the pastor!”

There are times all of us would rather stay in bed. I heard about a minister who told his church, “I’m here because I have to be. I’m paid to be good. But most of you are good for nothing.” Now, that’s honesty.

So what do you do this Sunday, when you’d rather sleep in? You deserve the extra rest. The church will be there on Easter. Get up anyway. Here’s an idea. Don’t go to church for yourself. Do it for everyone else. Whether you’re paid to be good, or you are “good for nothing,” your church will be a better place if you listen to your mom and get out of bed!

The Bible says, “Praise the Lord. Praise God in the sanctuary” (Psalm 150:1). But first, you have to get out of bed!

The Rushmore Report – A New Christian Denomination Is Born

Brian Houston founded what would become known as Hillsong 35 years ago, along with his wife Bobbie. Now he has announced that they are officially forming their own denomination. Hillsong is one of the largest and most influential churches in the world, with 123 locations around the world. Until now, they have been affiliated with the Australian Christian Churches (ACC), a branch of the Assemblies of God fellowship. The Assemblies of God are the largest Pentecostal denomination in the world.

In a letter to church members, Houston said they have “no grief or dispute at all with the ACC,” but after two years of consideration, made the move because of the church’s global growth.

He wrote, “As Hillsong Church has continued to grow, we no longer see ourselves as an Australian Church with a global footprint, but rather a Global Church with an Australian base – our global office now resides in the USA. Two thirds of the people attending Hillsong Church each weekend live in countries beyond Australia. We have pastoral staff in 24 nations around the world, representing 123 campuses and locations, with 263 different church services on any given weekend. We consider it to be ‘One House, with many rooms.'”

Houston explained, “We are now registered by the Australian Department of Births, Deaths, and Marriages, as a recognized denomination with the ability to credential pastors in our own right.”

In a statement to Eternity News, ACC President Wayne Alcorn said, “Recently Hillsong Church advised us of its desire for a change in its relationship with the ACC. In a way, this can be likened to a child who has grown up and now has a larger life outside the family home.” He also reiterated that there was no dispute with the leadership.

Houston added, “I believe wholeheartedly that Pastor Wayne Alcorn is doing a wonderful job in leading the movement, and I want to make it clear that we have no grief or dispute at all with the ACC. Instead, this decision comes after almost two years of prayerful discussion within both our global and Australian church boards.”

Why You Need to Join a Church

I hear it all the time. “I don’t need a church. I can worship God alone and serve him on my own.” That would be great if it weren’t so terrible. You cannot fulfill God’s purpose for your life on your own. You simply weren’t designed that way. Life is not a solo act. You were created for community. The only way you can fulfill God’s perfect plan for your life is with people in your life who are giving you spiritual input. You need a church family.

Why? Because the church helps you center your life around God.

God didn’t put you on Earth to live a self-centered life. His purpose for you is to build your life with him at the core. You were planned for God’s pleasure. He made you to love you, and he wants you to love him back. God says, “I want to be the hub of your heart. I want to be the focus of your attention. I want to be the center of your life. I want to be the axis of your existence.”

The Bible says, “Christ’s love has the first and last word in everything we do. Our firm decision is to work from this focused center” (2 Corinthians 5:14 MSG).

How can you tell when Christ is at the center of your life? You stop worrying. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” There’s a word for this: worship. Whenever you focus your life on God, that’s called worship. And worship is the antidote for worry. If you want to worry less, worship more.

When are we supposed to worship? The Bible says, “You have six days when you can do your work, but the seventh day of each week is holy because it belongs to me. No matter where you live, you must rest on the Sabbath and come together for worship” (Leviticus 23:3 CEV). God says once a week I want you to come together to re-focus, re-calibrate, and re-center you life on me.

Where are you supposed to do it? Acts 2:46 tells us that “they worshiped together regularly at the temple” (TLB).

Can you see that God meant for you to be a part of a church family? When you are, it helps you focus and center your life around God so that you can fulfill his purpose for your life.

The Rushmore Report – The 12 Most Effective Preachers in America

A dozen pastors known for their effective preaching have been recognized by Baylor University. These 11 men and one woman were chosen by scholars of homiletics, or the art of preaching, from 800 nominees, as the best English-speaking preachers in the world, based mostly in America. The rankings were the result of much consideration of the many aspects of the art of excellent communication.

“In a world where talk is cheap and there seems to be no end to it, the preacher has to recover the priority and power of the word,” said W. Hulitt Gloer, director of the Kyle Lake Center for Effective Preaching at Baylor’s Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas.

“Words are the tools of the preacher and that gives them incredible power,” Gloer added.

These are those 12 preachers, listed in alphabetical order.

1. Alistair Begg

Begg has been senior pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland since 1983. He is also the Bible teacher on the radio and online program “Truth For Life.” A member of the Council of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, Begg has written numerous books.

The survey also notes, “For ‘outstanding dedication to preaching, church leadership, and evangelism,’ Westminster Theological Seminary bestowed Begg as an honorary doctor of divinity. He also received an honorary doctorate from Cedarville University.

2. Tony Evans

Evans is the founding pastor of Dallas’ Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, which began in his home in 1976 and has grown to a membership of almost 10,000. Evans was the first African-American to earn a doctorate in theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. The radio and television broadcaster has been the chaplain for 30 years for the Dallas Mavericks, a National Basketball Association team.

The survey adds: “He [Evans] is a pastor, speaker, author, radio and television broadcaster.”

3. Joel C. Gregory

Gregory is the George W. Truett Endowed Chair in Preaching and Evangelism at Baylor’s Truett Theological Seminary. A preacher for 50 years, he gave the concluding message at the 2017 Baptist World Congress in Durban, South Africa. He is a member of the Baptist World Alliance Commission on Worship and Spirituality and edited “Baptist Preaching: A Global Anthology.”

4. Timothy Keller

Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. He also chairs Redeemer City to City, a leadership development organization that starts new churches in urban centers worldwide. Keller is the author of several books, some listed among The New York Times bestsellers.

Christianity Today has noted about Keller: “Fifty years from now, if evangelical Christians are widely known for their love of cities, their commitment to mercy and justice, and their love of their neighbors, Tim Keller will be remembered as a pioneer of the new urban Christians.”

5. Thomas G. Long

Long is an emeritus preaching professor and director of the Early Career Pastoral Leadership Program at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology in Atlanta. His textbook The Witness of Preaching is used in theological schools across the globe. The survey notes, “In 2010, Preaching magazine named The Witness of Preaching as one of the 25 most influential books in preaching for the last 25 years.” He also was named one of the 12 most effective preachers in Baylor University’s 1996 survey.

6. Otis Moss III

Moss is the senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. The activist, author and filmmaker is an ordained minister in the Progressive National Baptist Convention and the United Church of Christ. He is on the board of the Christian Century magazine and is a chaplain of the Children’s Defense Fund’s Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.

The survey notes, “Moss has written numerous poems, articles, and books. His work has also been featured on Huffington Post, Urban Cusp, and The Root.”

7. John Piper

Piper is chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis. The leader of has served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis for 33 years. He is the author of more than 50 books.

According to the survey,  “He [Piper] served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis for 33 years and has authored over 50 books, many of which are best sellers and award winners. Piper has made most of his books freely accessible through his online ministry,”

8. The late Haddon Robinson

Robinson was the former president and Harold John Ockenga Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Boston. His book Biblical Preaching remains in use in Bible colleges and seminaries worldwide. Robinson, who died on July 22, 2017, was named one of the 12 most effective preachers in Baylor’s 1996 survey.

In 2008, he received the E.K. Bailey “Living Legend Award,” and in 2010, Preaching magazine named him among the “25 Most Influential Preachers of the Past 25 Years.”

9. Andy Stanley

Stanley is the senior pastor of an Atlanta suburban megachurch with six locations. He also is the founder of North Point Ministries, a global network of more than 30 churches. A 2010 survey of U.S. pastors by Outreach Magazine identified Stanley as one of the top 10 most influential living pastors in America.

10. Charles Swindoll

Swindoll is the senior pastor at Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas. The radio preacher is the author of more than 70 books. He was named one of the 12 most effective preachers in Baylor’s 1996 survey. Swindoll, who is most commonly known as “Chuck,” not Charles, was also named Clergyman of the Year by Religious Heritage of America in 1988. He has also been awarded four honorary doctorates for his contributions as a pastor, author, educator, and radio preacher.

11. Barbara Brown Taylor

Taylor, an Episcopal priest, author and theologian, has served as a faculty member at institutions including Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology and the Certificate in Theological Studies program at Arrendale State Prison for Women in Alto, Georgia. In 2014, she was named to Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. She was named one of the 12 most effective preachers in Baylor’s 1996 survey.

12. Ralph Douglas West

Ralph Douglas West is founder and senior pastor of The Church Without Walls in Houston, which has grown from 32 members to more than 24,000 families. He is an adjunct professor of preaching at Truett Seminary. The radio broadcaster is the author of several books.

“Through publications, television, and the internet, his messages are available across the world and are witnessed by thousands beyond his church each week,” notes the survey.

I’m Quitting Sports

I have been a huge sports fan my whole life. But no more! I am never going back to another live sporting event, for several reasons. Every time I go, they want my money. The people I sat with last time didn’t even know my name. The seats were not comfortable, and the coach never came to visit me in my home. I never even got a call.

The referee made a decision with which I could not agree. I was sitting with some hypocrites who were only there to see what others were wearing. Some of the games went into overtime, which made me late getting home.

The band played songs I didn’t know. They scheduled the games at times when I had other things to do. My parents made me go to games as a child, which I’ve always resented. I read a book on sports, so I know more than the coaches, anyway.

As for my kids, I’ll let them decide if they want to go to sporting events when they are old enough to make that decision for themselves. So, I am done with sports. I’ve decided to spend my time in a place where none of these things can ever happy. So Sunday, I’m going to start going to church.

In Every Church

Every church has a few. When we see them, we think of the old chorus., “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God.” But we change the words to, “I’m surprised you’re a part of the family of God.”

They are fearfully and wonderfully weird. They have a gift for sucking the joy right out of those around them. They are a French fry short of a happy Meal, missing a few buttons off the remote. You know the type. The porch light is on but nobody is home. They even look funny, as they apparently shop at “Nerds Are Us.” There is always something that is unbuttoned, undone, unzipped, or untucked. They are the Dagwoods of Simpletown.

When you see them, you want to ask, “Where are Moe, Larry, and Curly?” They stand when they should sit and speak when they should listen. They are everywhere. And they always find you, excited to tell you the same story they told you last week. They are the church.

You find yourself avoiding them. And then it occurs to you that you, too, are weird. Your life is often untucked. But you realize and rejoice that God came to love untucked people. And when you mistreat these untucked people, you are really mistreating Jesus.

Jesus said, “Whatever you do for the least of these, you did for me” (Matthew 25:45).

The Rushmore Report – The Seven Reasons People Go to Church

Why do you go to church? If you are like most people, your reasons will be on the list below. Gallup has conducted an interesting study. One of the things they have found is that the things that draw people to a church don’t keep them at that church. The following lists tell us a lot about modern church culture.

Reasons Why People Attend Church

  1. For spiritual growth and guidance (23%)
  2. To stay grounded (20%)
  3. To sustain their faith (15%)
  4. To worship God (15%)
  5. For fellowship with other believers (13%)
  6. To sustain former practices (12%)
  7. To honor traditions (12%)

Reasons that Previously Unchurched People Choose a Church

  1. Pastor/preaching (90%)
  2. Doctrine (88%)
  3. Friendliness of members (49%)
  4. Other issues (42%)
  5. Someone invited them (41%)
  6. Family member attends (38%)
  7. Sensed God’s presence (37%)
  8. Sunday School class (25%)
  9. Children’s/youth ministry (25%)
  10. Worship style (11%)

Things that Keep the Formerly Unchurched in Church

  1. Ministry involvement (62%)
  2. Sunday School (55%)
  3. Obedience to God (54%)
  4. Fellowship with other members (49%)
  5. Pastor/preaching (38%)
  6. Worship services (14%)

Why Youth Attend Church

  1. To find God (65%)
  2. Guidance for life’s issues (58%)
  3. Become a better person (50%)
  4. Committed to church’s purpose (42%)


A Few Good Men

One of the great movies of recent years was A Few Good Men. Jack Nicholson played the role of Colonel Nathan R. Jessup. In a courtroom scene, he bellowed to Tom Cruise, “You can’t handle the truth!”

The same could be said of the modern church. You want the truth? I’m afraid most of us can’t handle the truth. But here it is. Forty-six percent of people in their twenties say Christians get on their nerves. And only five percent of them are drawn to a church that bears a denominational name.

But most churches fall into one of two categories. We are a “checkmark church,” where we check off “I went to church today.” Or we are a “clown church,” driven by entertainment. And as a result, the church is losing ground.

We are like the Black Plague. In 1664, only a few cases were reported. By 1665, 590 died. And within a few years, 100 million were dead. Disease is like decay. It happens slowly.

The modern church must awaken to today’s reality. The world is hungry for Jesus. It’s not Jesus they don’t like; it’s the church. The way most of us are “doing church” isn’t working anymore. Does that make you angry? I told you, “You can’t handle the truth!”

Jesus said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).