Category Archives: Idolatry

The Passion of a Disciple

collegefootballidol2

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”
-Luke 14:26

collegefootballidolI don’t know if this photograph is real or photoshopped, but I do know that the situation in our churches make that photograph plausible.  The South is no longer the “Bible Belt.”  It is the College Football Belt.  But, the idolatry of sports (especially college football) pervades the Church across America.  I came to this conclusion back in 2012 when we moved to Warner Robins, Georgia.

Every new Air Force assignment for me requires a move to a new location and that means we have to find a new church wherever we move.  One Sunday in November 2012 we visited a church in Warner Robins.  The song portion of the worship service was typical of what I had seen all over the country: people showing up late, men standing in the sanctuary with their arms crossed or with hands in pockets, women holding coffee cups, hardly anyone singing.

I tried to ignore them. I was there to worship God, but it does put a damper on your attitude of worship when your supposed brothers and sisters do not appear to be as enthusiastic about worshipping Jesus as you are. (I am not saying this in self-righteousness. I am simply describing that the outward posture of the people in that church demonstrated a lack of zeal for worship.)  Anyway, I wanted to worship God.  I was disappointed when the obligatory three songs were over and we were told to be seated.

Then the pastor took the stage.

That’s when the congregation appeared to be more animated.  The silence from the congregation when we sang worship songs was erased by “cat calls,” jeers, whistles, and the random “Roll Tide!” from the crowd.  You see, this Georgia pastor just happened to be a ‘Bama fan, and that Sunday just happened to be the day after Texas A&M defeated Alabama 29-24.  The congregation was giving the pastor quite a ribbing because his team lost.

The pastor then spent 15-20 minutes of his sermon time talking about the game and college football.  Whereas before, the congregation appeared bored and uninterested to be there, they now came alive.

What motivated them?  The Almighty, Infinite God?  No, not hardly.  College football motivated them.  The difference in the congregation was stark.  They had more passion for Saturday afternoons than for Sunday mornings.

And this difference in passions occurred in church no less!  So, perhaps you can understand why I harp on this idolatry in the Church.  I see more “Roll Tides” and “War Eagles” and “Go Dawgs” from Christians in my Facebook newsfeed than I do songs, and hymns, and spiritual songs.

I do not single out anyone to tell them they have a sports idolatry.  I simply speak in general terms to address the issue, hoping people will honestly evaluate themselves.  I get a lot of push-back, though.  No one seems to have a problem, yet nothing changes in the Church.  I love my brothers and sisters.  I know that most of them are sincere in their faith and do not want to worship idols.  I have to trust that they are being honest with themselves and with God.

collegefootballreligionMeanwhile, my Facebook newsfeed continues to be filled with people’s sports passions.

In the Scripture above, Jesus spoke to a multitude of people about the cost of discipleship.  Being a disciple of Jesus means that we are to be so devoted to Him that our passion for other things is to seem like hatred in comparison.  Discipleship requires sacrifice, following Jesus, laying down our lives, our passions for the sake of the Gospel.

The disciple of Jesus demonstrates his passion by bearing his cross.  As disciples of Christ, perhaps one of the things we need to nail to the cross is our passion for college football.

Me? An Idolater?

I debated whether I was going to address our American sports idolatry this fall.  It is such a touchy subject for some.  Most do not believe they have a sports idolatry, I mean, after all, sports is not inherently evil, right?  Yet, everywhere I go our churches are filled with people who are more passionate about Saturday afternoons than Sunday mornings, or more excited about the opening kickoff than an opening hymn.

If you do not think there is a sport idol in America, watch this commercial:

Before you dismiss any call to evaluate idolatry in your lives, read these articles:

3 Questions to Detect Sports Idolatry
SPORTS IDOLATRY? Has America Made Football Its God?
When Does Sports Become Idolatry?
Worshiping The False God Of Football
Idolatry Season Has Begun

I concluded that I had a sports idolatry a few years ago.  I spent too much time watching sports, talking about sports, thinking about sports, arguing about sports.  It caused me to dislike some people.  I identified myself by what teams I supported.  I evaluated myself honestly and found that I was more passionate for my teams than I was for God.  I had to remove this idol.  Because I identified this idol in my life I can identify it elsewhere.

I debated whether to address our sports idolatry again until I came across this passage in Ezekiel 6:3-7 just this morning:

3 You mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord GOD! Thus says the Lord GOD to the mountains and the hills, to the ravines and the valleys: Behold, I, even I, will bring a sword upon you, and I will destroy your high places.

4 Your altars shall become desolate, and your incense altars shall be broken, and I will cast down your slain before your idols.

5 And I will lay the dead bodies of the people of Israel before their idols, and I will scatter your bones around your altars.

6 Wherever you dwell, the cities shall be waste and the high places ruined, so that your altars will be waste and ruined, your idols broken and destroyed, your incense altars cut down, and your works wiped out.

7 And the slain shall fall in your midst, and you shall know that I am the LORD.

sportsidol-01Brothers and sisters, idolatry is a serious matter with God.  How long will we be like the Church of Corinth, attending sacred assemblies on Sunday and dining with idols the rest of the week?  God slew his own people who defiled his temple with idols.  Do we think God will not chasten us because “we are under grace?”

“Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.”
-I Corinthians 10:14-15

Yes, Church, we do worship idols, most prominently the idol of sports.  Let us flee this abomination, and destroy it as thoroughly as King Josiah destroyed the idols in his day when he had the people tear down the idols, burn them with fire, pound them into powder, and spread their ashes.  Assuming I was merely spouting my opinion again, someone asked me where the line is drawn between idolatry and appropriate leisure.  I responded that I’ve found that as we get closer to God, and know Him in a deeper way, we will know for ourselves where that line is.  Knowing God requires us to die to ourselves.  Our idols are a false reality.  God is the only source of truth.  God does not demand we put away our idols for His sake, but for our own.  God knows that it is to our detriment that we place our passions on and worship things that are false, on things that cannot give us true meaning and worth.  Only in worshipping Him will we find true meaning in our lives.

Judge for yourselves if what I say is the truth.

Let us finally be the Church that worships God exclusively!