No team wants a fan like me. But my church does!

I’ve never meant much to any team I’ve rooted for.

I grew up in Alabama and went to quite a few Bama games during the Bear Bryant era.  When I moved to Mississippi, I learned to love Ole Miss and State. Later, living in the New Orleans area, I became a fan of LSU and Tulane.

Those schools make no money from me. They do not know I exist. I’m on no mailing list for alumni or anyone else.  I just watch them on TV. I cheer when they win and hurt (a little) when they lose.

On one occasion, LSU was playing Alabama and it was a huge game.  I cut off the television and went to bed at halftime.  Sunday morning, I got up and drove to the church where I ministered all morning, and did not learn the outcome of the game until the afternoon.  Some fan, right?

Personally, I’m good with that. It does not bother me one iota that I no longer live and die by the fortunes of any team.

Sports are not reality . They are called games for good reason. Granted, the fortunes of teams affect the livelihood of a lot of people and the economies of their host cities.  But that would be true of t-shirt factories or ice cream parlors if the city invested its hopes in them.

I know preachers who are delighted no longer to be pastoring in the heart of football-land where a large segment of their church members have lost sight of the dividing line between fantasy and reality and bring their school loyalties and animosities into the fellowship.  I know pastors who need to take down all the fan stuff hanging on the walls of their offices and replace it with something about Jesus.

There are church members with deeper loyalties to a college team than to the Lord Jesus Christ.

If that does not concern you, well…it should.

Nearly fifty years ago, Psychology Today magazine ran an article with the interesting title “Winning isn’t everything; it’s nothing.”  I was so taken by its message that I preached on the subject on Super Bowl Sunday, 1975.  You will not be surprised to know I was lambasted by several die-hard sports fans as unAmerican.

A football player who is hated by the fans of Atlanta, let’s say, can suddenly be traded to that city and put on the uniform of the Braves or the Hawks or the Falcons and presto, he’s a good guy.  Your star player leaves your team and signs on with your hated rivals and suddenly, you despise him and the fans boo him.

You’re rooting for the uniform, not the player.  And in most cases, the players know this, which is why they don’t take fan loyalty to heart. They know you’re only as good as your last game.

When your team wins the Super Bowl, as our Saints did a few years back, immediately the question on everyone’s mind is “Can they repeat?”  The coaches and players hardly get a moment to savor the win before they have to begin planning the next year.  The main thing they have achieved by their great season was to send the expectations of the fans through the roof.  Some coaches with outstanding records have been fired after one or two poor seasons.  Fans have a short memory.

Message to my family: When I die, please do not have the obituary say that I was a devoted fan of this team or that one.  While I love a good ball game–and will sometimes watch one when I have no favorite and could not care less who wins–that in no way defines who I am.

Now, church, that’s another matter.

I grieve when I hear of churches fighting and self-destructing, even though I know no one there. I happen to know the Owner and consider the members my brothers and sisters.

When told of a church running off a good preacher because he refused to play the games of a handful of leaders who consider the church their family property, my pain is genuine.  Likewise, when I hear of a congregation honoring their shepherd in a significant way, I know they are blessing the Lord and I rejoice with them as though they had blessed me.

I wear the uniform of my church team all the time, day and night. I do live and die by the fortunes of my spiritual family .

You could say I buy tickets to all our doings.  A hefty portion of my income goes for the upkeep and ministries and programs of my church and almost that much goes to related ministries outside my church.

The maturity of an individual is revealed by their ability to make a distinction in what is for fun and what is for keeps, the genuine and the fantasy.  When your child knows and is good that certain aspects of the Christmas story are pretend but that Joseph and Mary and Jesus, the Magi and the shepherds and the star, are “for real,” you know they’re growing up.

All games of all sports is fantasy football, fantasy baseball, etc.  They are all based on the premise: “Pretend this matters.”

Reality is what happens in life.

Reality is what happens on Sunday morning when you kneel in church to pray and stand to praise.  Reality intervenes when you open the Scriptures and read what a Holy God has said about life and eternity.

God help us to get this straight. And Heaven help us to never leave a confusing record behind as to our loyalties and our priorities.

Whoever believes on the Son of God has everlasting life.  That’s John 3:36 and it’s more real than anything you’ll read in today’s newspaper.

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