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.
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).
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
- For spiritual growth and guidance (23%)
- To stay grounded (20%)
- To sustain their faith (15%)
- To worship God (15%)
- For fellowship with other believers (13%)
- To sustain former practices (12%)
- To honor traditions (12%)
Reasons that Previously Unchurched People Choose a Church
- Pastor/preaching (90%)
- Doctrine (88%)
- Friendliness of members (49%)
- Other issues (42%)
- Someone invited them (41%)
- Family member attends (38%)
- Sensed God’s presence (37%)
- Sunday School class (25%)
- Children’s/youth ministry (25%)
- Worship style (11%)
Things that Keep the Formerly Unchurched in Church
- Ministry involvement (62%)
- Sunday School (55%)
- Obedience to God (54%)
- Fellowship with other members (49%)
- Pastor/preaching (38%)
- Worship services (14%)
Why Youth Attend Church
- To find God (65%)
- Guidance for life’s issues (58%)
- Become a better person (50%)
- Committed to church’s purpose (42%)
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).
I was insecure as a child. I think it goes back to my infant years. When mom used to rock me, she used really big rocks. My insecurities carried over into my teen years. When I watched football games on television, I hated it when the players got into huddles. I assumed 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: Callaudet 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 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!
In his book, Harvest of Humility, John Seamands told of a wounded German soldier who was ordered to go to the military hospital for treatment. When he arrived at the large and imposing building, he saw two doors, one marked “For the slightly wounded” and the other, “For the seriously wounded.”
He entered the first door and soon found two more, one marked “For officers,” and the other marked “For non-officers.”
He entered through the latter and was suddenly faced with two more doors, marked “Party members” and “Non-party members.”
He took the second, and then found himself standing back on the street. When the soldier returned home his mother asked him, “How did you get along at the hospital?”
“Well, Mother,” he replied, “to be honest, the people there didn’t do anything for me, but they have tremendous organization!”
That is a picture of many modern churches. The people are busy, and things are well-organized. Things run well. But lives aren’t being changed. The church has just one product: changed lives. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how organized we are.
Shane Hall was the beloved pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Oklahoma City. For three and a half years, the 46-year-old battled stomach cancer. Friday, the battle ended, as he went to be with the Lord. Knowing all medical options had been exhausted, Hall knew his fate. He had one dying wish. And that wish came true.
Hall’s final desire was to see his youngest daughter, Mallory, come to faith in Christ before he died. Here is the timeline of the pastor’s final days.
On Wednesday, February 7, Mallory trusted Christ as her personal Savior. Two days later, on February 9, Misti, Shane’s wife, announced that all medical options to save Shane’s life were exhausted, and they were now focused on pain management until his death. Then, on Sunday, February 11, Pastor Hall baptized his young daughter. On February 16, Misti posted, “Tonight he is worshiping with Jesus.”
The last person Hall would baptize would be his daughter.
The funeral service for Shane will be today in Oklahoma City. This week, Misti posted, “We continue to see God’s sustaining grace in all of this. Shane said he just wanted to baptize Mallory. So, for him to say that and then to see it within two or three weeks was just a precious gift to him. I felt like, that’s what kept him here for awhile, his wanting to fulfill that desire to see her come to know the Lord.”
Frank Page, President and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, prayed with Hall many times in his final weeks. “When I heard about Shane’s miraculous efforts in helping to baptize his daughter, I wept,” he said. “It spoke of a father’s love. It spoke of a pastor’s determination. God bless his wonderful family.”
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 to 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 a new year dawning, find a place of worship this Sunday.
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!
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