If you’ve been following this series of articles, I’ve been doing a critical dive into why the church finds itself on the steep slope to irrelevance. A recent news article highlights one of the issues plaguing the church today. A church in Kansas has decided to turn one of its regularly scheduled Sunday Services into a prayer service for injured Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes suffered an injured ankle a few weeks ago as of this writing but will likely have returned to the line up by the time this post goes live. While I do not wish an injury on anyone, nor that it lingers, this church exemplifies what is wrong with much of American Christianity.
The fact that Asbury United Methodist Church is having such a service should not be a surprise. The United Methodist denomination as a whole has fallen off a cliff, ordaining women, and embracing the homosexual movement. In fact, the denomination nearly split over the issue of homosexuality at their convention earlier this year. Asbury is no exception to this rule. They have links on their website which promote the homosexual agenda within the United Methodist Church. However, they do serve as an indicator of a broader problem.
Many churches in the United States are very interested in sports. There are church softball leagues, dart ball leagues and dozens of other church sports leagues scattered across the United States. Many churches cancel Sunday evening services for the Super Bowl. Pastors feel pressured to end their sermons in time for the parishioners to get home to watch the football game. Parents skip church services to take their children to whatever sporting event they are playing. Every Sunday in America, millions of people who claim to be Christian skip church for a sporting event.
This is not to say that sports are bad. I play sports personally and always enjoy myself. Sports, like many other things, can be used in the proper context to teach moral and spiritual lessons. I’ve done this myself when coaching youth soccer and many other Christians have done the same thing. The issue is not the sports themselves. The issue is the focus.
What message is this Methodist church sending by devoting a full service to praying for Patrick Mahomes ankle? What message do parents send to their children and to the culture when they skip a Sunday service to play whatever sport? What they are subtly saying to the culture is that Christians do not take church seriously. And, if Christians don’t take church seriously, why on earth should the world? Parents are doing the same thing, except even worse. They are training their children that there are a multitude of things more important than being in church. This is not to say that a sporting event might not take precedence over an extra-Biblical focused activity from the church (such as a youth game night). However, even worse, the children will likely view this as hypocritical, which is perhaps the biggest turn off to Christianity any young person can have.
Unfortunately, even in our solid churches, we often overemphasize sports. Consider the latest youth event for your church. Did it include some form of sports like basketball, volleyball, dodgeball and so on? Or perhaps some form of goofy team competition? How long was spent on that? Now how long was spent on the teaching of the Word of God? You see the dilemma I trust. Sports and team games are a great draw for a certain brand of kid. However, often quieter, more bookish students, are left behind in the race to have “fun”. Even more often, the Scriptures are made subordinate to the pursuit of “fun”.
The church has failed. In pursuing sports and fun, we have left the teachings of Scripture behind. The result has been blatant Scriptural illiteracy within the church and a sense within the culture that Christianity is shallow and empty. True Christianity has depth and meaning, and has the answers the dying world desperately needs. By our obsession with sports, we have obscured the truth of Scripture from the lost. It needs to stop. Sports have a place but should never take the place of the clear teaching of Scripture.