Eternity is rushing towards us.
You and everyone else must be ready.
Since sports seems to be a major issue today, I was reading this newsletter by David Cloud on the topic of professional sports. He is one of my favorite people to read. I can tell you upfront that some of you won’t like some of the things he has written in this article. He is strong and passionate, but most of all, he is biblical.
At the end of the article, make sure you pay attention to the ten reasons why Billy Sunday left professional baseball. Very fascinating.
A Warning About Professional Sports
Enlarged July 11, 2017 (first published October 14, 1997)
The more I have meditated upon the topic of professional sports, the more disgusted I have become.
This is not to say I have not found enjoyment from sports in general. In the 1990s when my sons were teenagers, I got involved with baseball and, to a lesser degree, with a few other sports. At the same time my limited experience has been bitter-sweet, and I have noticed many spiritual dangers. There is a tremendous amount of misplaced enthusiasm, money, and time being spent upon the vanities of this life by those who profess the name of Christ. There can be some value in sports, but it is a dangerous thing and easily becomes an idol. May God help us redeem the time while we have the opportunity.
Let me make it plain at the outset that I am not preaching against sports in general (though there are some warnings which could be given even in general, and we have given those warnings in the article entitled “Beware of an Unwholesome Addiction to Sports,” which can be found at www.wayoflife.org).
HERE, I AM SPECIFICALLY WARNING ABOUT THE DANGERS OF PROFESSIONAL SPORTS. I am warning about the misuse of time. I am warning about friendship with the world whereby God’s people become adulterers and adulteresses in God’s sight (James 4:4). I am warning about misplaced priorities. I am warning about covetousness and idolatry and sensuality.
I BELIEVE THESE THINGS NEED TO BE PREACHED FOR THREE REASONS:
TWO, THESE THINGS NEED TO BE PREACHED BECAUSE THIS IS A SPORTS-MAD GENERATION. Commenting on the amazing sports frenzy that has permeated the land, sports psychologist Dr. Alan Goldberg of the University of Connecticut said: “Sports [is] like a religion, and the god of that religion that we all worship is the god of winning” (CNSNews.com, August 31, 2001). In a report on the drought in west Texas that is killing the grass on football fields, the Los Angeles Times observed that this is serious because “football is God and the field is church” (“In West Texas,” Los Angeles Times, Oct 3, 2011).
An extensive survey commissioned in 1983 found that seven in every ten Americans watches, reads, or talks about sports every day. The study, the most comprehensive ever undertaken about America’s attachment to sports, found that almost 35 million people are “ardent sports fans” who watch sports events on television at least once a week, and in some cases, every day. I am confident the statistic would be higher today. It was also in 1983 that World Almanac and Book of Facts polled 2,000 8th-grade students to see which persons they most admired. There was not a single name on the list that was not an entertainer or a sports figure. In 1982, the famous sports announcer Howard Cosell, while viewing the largest Sunday football game attendance in Texas history, said “the Cowboys are more than a football team in Dallas; they are a religion.” He exclaimed, “Look at the loyalty of those people! Look at the signs they have made. Truly, the Cowboys are a religion in Dallas.” He was right. Professional football has become a religion all across America. On Sunday, December 27, 1987, 75,000 Denver Broncos football fans battled blizzard conditions to reach Mile High Stadium by the 2 p.m. kickoff. The airport was closed at 12:30 p.m. that Sunday and remained closed until 6 a.m. Monday. Thousands of people were stranded at the airport, but those extreme conditions did not stop the football-mad crowd.
In other countries the religion is called soccer.
A funeral service in the United States is marketing “alma mater caskets,” which feature the logos of more than 50 universities. Why would someone want to take a college or university with him to the grave? No doubt this new marketing scheme has a lot to do with the sports craze. The love for college football is at near insane levels, and now someone is cashing in on that fervor by offering to allow the sports fan to take his favorite college with him to the grave.
The noise level in a domed ballpark has been recorded at 125 decibels. This was in Minnesota’s Metrodome in Game 2 of the 1987 World Series (USA Today, Oct. 18-20, 1991, p. A1). That is louder than a launch of the massive Saturn V rockets which carried men to the moon. The noise level for a Saturn V launch was 120 decibels.
Morality and sports are almost completely separated in the minds of large numbers of people. A survey of 1,240 adults completed in 1995 and published in Sports Marketing Newsletter asked people to name the athletes they most admired. The first four were Magic Johnson (HIV positive and an admitted adulterer), Tonya Harding (convicted conspirator for the violent attack upon fellow-skater Nancy Kerrigan), O.J. Simpson (held financially liable by a jury for murdering his wife), and Mike Tyson (convicted rapist).
Other major league sports stars who have served time in prison include the following:
Dave Meggett (football, criminal sexual conduct, burglary)
A person’s god is that which he loves and serves the most. Sports is one of the chief idols in the lives of people today, and God hates idolatry. The prophets and apostles of old preached directly against idolatry. So should we.
“And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in
wickedness” (1 John 5:19).
THREE, THESE THINGS NEED TO BE PREACHED BECAUSE MANY CHURCHES TODAY ENCOURAGE LOVE FOR PROFESSIONAL SPORTS WITH NO WARNING OR CRITICISM. Houston’s First Baptist Church announced in June 1994 that “if there is a sixth game between the Rockets and the Knicks” the Sunday P.M. service might be changed. During the same month this huge Southern Baptist Convention church had an Elvis contest and Beatles music at its Solid Rock Café. Before me, as I write, is an ad which a Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod congregation – placed recently in a local newspaper in Wisconsin. It encourages the community to attend a church event advertised as “Preaching, Pig Roast, and Packers.” It involved a “worship celebration, a pig roast, and big screen Green Bay Packers game free of charge.” Pastor Dan Kelm explained his philosophy: “A lot of people today have the false notion that Christianity is rigid and inflexible, boring and irrelevant. … we want to show that Christians can have fun, too” (Christian News, Oct. 6, 1997, p. 4). This man wrongly connects inflexibility with boring irrelevance. Biblical Christianity is as inflexible as the Bible, but it is not boring or irrelevant. Sure, Christians enjoy the wholesome things of life, but that does not mean we uncritically join hands with the wicked things of this world. You can’t convince me that watching the cheerleaders shake their immodestly attired selves and watching the wicked things promoted by the sponsors of the games is spiritually edifying.
It is not only some Lutheran churches which are promoting worldliness in the name of liberty and fun. There are many fundamental Baptists who have fallen into the same trap.
WARNINGS ABOUT PROFESSIONAL SPORTS
3. VAIN PHILOSOPHY
Consider the vain philosophy, for example, that “winning is everything” and “when we are winning, everything is fine” and “the solution to our problems is winning.” I hear this frequently from the lips of sports figures. When Chuck Knoblauch was traded from the Minnesota Twins baseball team to the New York Yankees, Feb. 6, 1998, he said he was very excited about being on a winning team because “winning creates happiness.” After his team won the American League pennant in 1998, New York Yankees outfielder Paul O’Neill told the press, “It’s only fun when you win.” While discussing the unexpected 1999 slump of his Anaheim Angels, manager Terry Collins observed: “When things aren’t going good, things don’t go good.” This obtuse statement refers to the sports philosophy of winning is everything.
Consider the philosophy that implies that the chief goal of life is to pursue some vain sports goal. Frequently we have heard sports stars say, “THIS is what it’s all about,” referring to the World Series or to the Super Bowl or to some other apex of professional sports. This is nonsense, of course. The Bible teaches us that life apart from Christ and His perfect will is utterly vain and empty. The Christian life certainly is NOT about sports goals. Christ has given us a Great Commission, and it is not to win the World Series!
Consider the “No Fear” sports slogan which has caught hold of the imagination of the youth of this generation. Millions of T-shirts and sweat shirts have been sold bearing this slogan. It promotes the philosophy that man himself has the power to conquer all. He has no fear. He is able to reach down within himself to find the strength to overcome any obstacle. He is a god. Or at least his sports idols are gods.
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
Take the halftime show and commercials for America’s great idol called the Super Bowl. The 2013 halftime performance by Beyoncé has been described as “pushing x-rated.” The 2013 Super Bowl commercial voted a contender for “best” was a Mercedes advertisement that depicted a young man contemplating selling his soul to the devil for the pleasures he could expect from owning a sleek automobile, those pleasures being the exact sins warned about in 1 John 2:16 — the lusts of the eyes, and the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. The commercial was set to the Rolling Stone’s wicked song “Sympathy for the Devil.”
Any professing Christian who invites such spiritual garbage into his personal life or home needs his head examined.
Those who keep up with professional sports month in and month out become desensitized to the wickedness that is inherently associated with it.
6. DESPISING THE CHURCH
7. HERO WORSHIP
WHAT ABOUT CHRISTIAN SPORTS PLAYERS?
There are professional sports players who are model citizens and good family men and who avoid the general dissoluteness that characterizes their field of endeavor. There are some, in fact, with clear testimonies of faith in Christ. When the Cleveland Indians clenched the American League pennant in October 1997 and pitcher Mike Jackson was interviewed, he said, “I give thanks, first of all, to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
It is encouraging to hear such things from the mouths of sports stars, but this does not change the fact that the world of professional sports, generally speaking, is very wicked. And professional sports players are disobeying a number of the plain exhortations of Scripture.
FIRST, THEY WILLFULLY ABSENT THEMSELVES FROM THE ASSEMBLY. The Lord’s plan is the New Testament assembly, and the Lord’s people are not to forsake it. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching (Hebrews 10:25). A parachurch Bible study cannot take the place of the church. God has established the church to be the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15), and that is the church which has pastors (1 Timothy 3:1-7) and deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-13). What kind of example do the Christian professional players give to young people in the churches who see them out on the sports field on Sunday morning and Sunday evening, when Christian people should be in the house of God under the ministry of God’s Word? Do they not get the message that one can be a great Christian and ignore the house of God? Professional Christian sports players encourage, by their example, weak Christians to follow them and put sports above the commandments of God.
SECOND, THEY WILLINGLY IMMERSE THEMSELVES IN A VERY SENSUAL ATMOSPHERE FOR MONTHS AT A TIME. Attending a major league baseball game was a bittersweet experience for me. I enjoyed baseball as a game, but I was depressed by the worldly atmosphere. I cannot imagine immersing myself in that atmosphere for thousands of hours each year. Orel Hershiser might have been able to remain pure in such a spiritually oppressive, morally tempting atmosphere, but how many young Christians who follow his example will fall to the great temptations which are part and parcel with the professional sports world and will lose their testimony for Christ? I realize that we all live in the world and are exposed to its influence. As Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 5:10-11, if we are to avoid company with wicked people altogether, we would have to go out of this world. That is not God’s will. We are in the world to be a testimony for the Gospel. Any man or woman who works a “secular” job is forced to endure things which are worldly. Even so, it does not follow that every job is equally edifying for the Christian. God’s Word warns, for example, against giving my neighbor alcoholic drink (Habakkuk. 2:15). This would restrict a Christian from being employed in the liquor or beer trade. I know of a number of Christians who gave up jobs as bartenders and beer salesmen after they were saved. Theirs was a decision based upon the principles of the Word of God. The Bible also warns against being a partner with a thief (Proverbs. 29:24). This would restrict a Christian from being employed with any company or field involving any type of dishonest gain. Further, the Bible warns against nakedness and indecency and immodesty. This would restrict the Christian from being employed in certain fields such as prostitution or pornography or modeling (if required to dress or perform indecently), etc. What I am saying is that there are jobs which the Christian should avoid because of scriptural principles. I believe professional sports today might be one of those. “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11).
THIRD, THOUGH THERE ARE SOME PROFESSIONAL SPORTS PLAYERS WHO HAVE A CLEAR TESTIMONY OF SALVATION, THEY ALMOST ALWAYS FOLLOW THE UNSCRIPTURAL CHARISMATIC AND/OR ECUMENICAL PHILOSOPHY. There might be an exception to this, and I trust there is, but I have never heard of an exception. As a rule, Christian sports stars do not practice biblical separation. They associate with anyone “who names the name of Christ” and do not make careful doctrinal distinctions. They do not earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints by exposing false doctrine and marking and avoiding those who practice error (Romans. 16:17; 2 Corinthians. 6:14-16; Jude 3). These are not obligations which can be ignored. They are not obligations for preachers only. These passages are directed to every child of God.
There are other things which could be mentioned. For example, professional sports players are sponsored directly or indirectly by beer companies which are responsible for a multitude of wickedness in this world.
Can we imagine the Lord’s apostles smiling upon a first century Christian who desired to join a professional sports team under such circumstances?
In conclusion, WHAT IS THE MESSAGE THAT CHRISTIAN PROFESSIONAL SPORTS PLAYERS ARE SENDING TO THE YOUTH IN OUR CHURCHES? Is it to give oneself unrestrictedly to the Great Commission, to winning souls, and to building churches throughout the world? No, the message which is coming across the loudest to the youth, rather, is that they can have the world and Christ, too. They can pursue the self-oriented goals of sports attainment and ignore many responsibilities of Christian discipleship and still have God’s best blessing.
“No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Luke 16:13).
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
TEN REASONS WHY PITTSBURGH PIRATES OUTFIELDER BILLY SUNDAY LEFT BASEBALL IN 1893 (USA Today Baseball Weekly, June 8-14, 1994)
1. Because it is a life which has an undesirable future.
Until the nets are full,
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