(The following is a transcript of a sermon I preached in the spring of 2016 while the Chicago Cubs were playing the World Series. I used baseball as an analogy to deal with some challenging topics.)
It is hard not to share the excitement of the Cubs winning the World Series after all these years of so called blunders and curses. Growing up I followed the Cubs on WGN and have always been a fan. Can you imagine the electricity in Chicago? I think I felt the earth shake a bit when they won!
I was struck by the mania in Chicago. Bars and restaurants around Wrigley opened at 7am during the series! People paid handsomely to get into the bars just to watch the game. And forget about getting into the stadium without forking over major coin. People spent thousands of dollars for tickets!
The Cubs have been the ultimate underdog in baseball for years. Their winning the World Series has revived America’s excitement for its greatest past time.
Can you imagine if Christians were just as excited about worshipping the Creator of the universe as we are about attending the World Series? After all, who do we think gave people the ability to create such a wonderful sport? Imagine if people showed up on Sunday mornings two hours early for a tailgate party before worship. And imagine if they left worship beeping their horns and shouting the name of Jesus! The world would be a different place!
Unfortunately we know that is not usually the case. Instead, the attitude can be quite the opposite. Can you imagine if the Cubs and Wrigley Field received the same complaints people have about coming to worship? Just think of the reaction the manager of Wrigley Field would have if he or she received the same feedback ministers and staff receive about coming to church?
The Seats at Wrigley are Uncomfortable
All seats at sporting events are uncomfortable unless you are in VIP seating! Yet it doesn’t stop people from going. Did you see the crowds at Wrigley? Over 40,000 people! Some were not even seated. They stood the whole time. It was standing room only! And those folks stood for four hours. Those who were seated were in a hard seat cramped next to people spilling their beer for four hours.
Most churches only ask for about an hour of your time for worship. Is it really that bad?
Every Time I Go to Wrigley, They Ask for Money!
I am amazed at the money people paid for World Series tickets. The median price for the first game of the series at Wrigley was $3,000! Guess what people paid just to be in bars around Wrigley. Over 1,000 dollars! That price did include food.
In Cleveland people gave donations to sit in their stadium to watch the game on a screen! I doubt anyone complained about giving those donations!
We have the best news in the world, the most transforming message in the world, the most important work in the world! We should never complain about giving money to God to transform this world. If we are happy to spend tons of money on baseball and junk food, we should be ecstatic about spending money on the work of God and his church.
The People Sitting in My Row Didn’t Seem Very Friendly
My first response to this complaint is move! Move to a different row.
Second, some people come to church because they are hurting and they don’t feel like talking. Some are shy and are intimidated. Others are introverted. It is rare for anyone in church to be rude. Be sensitive. You may be seated next to someone who is going through unimaginable suffering. Suffering is sometimes like an iceberg. What you see above the surface is nothing compared to what is going on below the surface.
The question is, “Were you friendly to them?” If you want to have a friend, be a friend. Jesus said, “Be ye kind one to another.” Remember the Golden Rule: “Treat people like you would want to be treated.”
I Was Sitting with a Bunch of Hypocrites – You Could Tell They Weren’t Real Baseball Fans
You never hear that from baseball fans. In fact, baseball fans are all too eager to talk to folks who are new to baseball or don’t know anything about it! What if Christians were the same way with those who are new to the faith? I wish Christians were just as excited about sharing their faith as baseball fans are about sharing their sport!
Besides, we are all hypocrites. The church is made up of imperfect people because, as the old saying goes, “The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.” There is no such thing as the perfect church. If only perfect people were allowed in church, no one would be here! Saying that you are not coming to church because of all the hypocrites is like saying, “I am never going to that gym again because there was a bunch a fat people there!” What? Isn’t that the point?
I often find people who are searching for the perfect church. My response is always the same. I give them the old line by Bill Self, “There is no such thing as the perfect church. But if you find the perfect church and join it, it will not be perfect anymore!” They don’t like that. I don’t know why.
Why did Jesus come? Think about it. Jesus did not come for perfect people. He came for imperfect people. You don’t need a bath if you are clean. Jesus said he came to seek and save the lost – to bring healing and wholeness to broken people. The church is not perfect, but we know the one who is perfect and he is working in our lives.
The Music was Too Loud and I Had Never Heard It Before
In most sporting events the music is really loud. I love it though. When they’re blaring the AC/DC I get all fired up. But I am sure not everyone loves it like I do. But can you imagine someone running up to a stadium manager and saying, “You need to change your selection of music. How about a little less AC/DC and a little more Lionel Richie?”
From time to time I get the complaint that the music at our modern worship service is too loud. I have two responses to that. One, go to our 11am traditional service. That is why we have two worship services. Two, move to a different seat. The acoustics in our sanctuary are strange. Some locations are louder than others. This is true in many churches. People may say, “I don’t want to give up my seat.” Well, that is another sermon!
You will never please everyone. If you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. If we tried to appeal to everyone’s particular tastes we would drive ourselves mad.
If the music in worship is unfamiliar to you, give it time. You may end up liking it. After all, all of your favorite songs were once unfamiliar to you, right? I hated sweet potatoes the first time I tried them. Now I love them! You never know. Expand your horizons.
The Umpire Made a Decision I Didn’t Agree With
Those umpires have it rough, don’t they? Imagine the role of an umpire. No one ever goes up to an umpire and says, “Thank you so much for doing such a great job at the game.”
But the great thing about being an umpire is that if someone complains too much they can say, “You’re outta here!” and kick them out of the game! Pastors, imagine if we could do that. “That’s enough out of you! You’re outta here!” We would not be in the ministry very long if we were allowed to do that!
The Church is not about you or me. Chances are you will not agree with every decision your church makes. No one is going to be pleased all the time. Besides, pleasing people is not our job. Our job is to please Jesus Christ! To do what he is calling us to do. Sometimes that means doing things we don’t want to do or feel like doing.
Sometimes there are legitimate complaints in churches. If you have one, share it in love and with a spirit to solve it. Be part of the solution, not the problem. Don’t spread it around.
Paul said in Colossians 3, “Above all else put on the virtue of love. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.”
My Parents Took Me to Too Many Games When I Was a Kid
I’ve never heard that complaint from a baseball fan. Have you? “I don’t want to go to the World Series. My parents took me to way too many baseball games as a child.” You never hear that.
But I have certainly heard it from people about church. To this one I say, “Get over it.” It is time to stop blaming our parents for everything. There is no such thing as a functional family. All families are dysfunctional. And most parents do the best they can.
I am not insensitive to your bad experience with church. Maybe you grew up in a strict religious household and you went to church all the time. It was boring or cruel or terrible. I get that. But here is the thing: Go see a therapist. Process it and work it out. But don’t blame the entire church and faith on your negative experiences. That’s like saying you had a bad experience at the Publix up the road and you will never go to a grocery store again. Come on.
I Read a Book about Baseball, and I Know More Than the Coaches Anyway
The ministry is the most advised profession on the face of the earth.
I once had a man come see me and he was angry about something. I don’t remember what it was. He said, “You don’t know anything. You have a lot to learn about running a church.” I replied, “Well, I do have a Masters of Divinity and a Doctor of Ministry. I have been doing this for over 20 years. I think I know something about it.” He replied, “I don’t care about any of that. Just listen to me. You need to read this book. This will teach you all you need to know.”
I said, “Thank you so much. What time do you get to work in the morning?” He said, “About 9am.” I said, “Great! I will be there in the morning. You see, I read the book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ and I can tell you exactly how to do your job.”
What if I walked into an operating room and said, “Excuse me Doctor. I read a book on surgery at the library. You are not doing this right. Give me the scalpel.”
The Games Are Scheduled On My Only Day to Sleep In and Run Errands
Can you imagine? “I don’t want to go to the baseball game. This is my day off!” You never hear that. People will go to a game even if they are bleeding to death. Yet, we don’t have time for or feel like praising the one who gave us everything?
It used to be that when people said they were active in a church it meant that they worshipped about every week. Now it means they come to worship every 4 to 6 weeks. For some it means worshipping every few months.
I recall the first Christmas open house I hosted for the church I serve. I had been at my church for about 6 months. A lady walked into the party and looked lost. I went up to her and said, “Can I help you?” She said, “Yeah, I am looking for the restroom. Who are you?” I said, “My name is Charley. I live here. I am the host of the party and the pastor of the church.” She said, “Oh, oh. Well I have been real busy and haven’t been able to make it to church.” I said, “Well, we are glad you are here now.” What I wanted to say, but didn’t was, “Well, you had time to come to a Christmas open house with a bunch of free food.”
The Bible says to “Observe the Sabbath and the keep it holy.” There is a reason for that. There is wisdom here. We need the Sabbath for rest, nourishment and for spiritual growth. Now I know some people work on Sundays. I do too! Pick a different day. I take Mondays off for my Sabbath. I’m not very pastoral on Mondays. If you call me on Mondays, you get what you get.
Set aside time for worship and Sabbath each week. Sooner or later in life you will need to rely on your spiritual growth. If there is nothing to draw from you will wish you spent all those times sleeping in and running errands concentrating on your walk with God.
Some Games Went Into Extra Innings and I Was Late Getting Home
I have never heard anyone complain about a game with extra innings. In fact, quite the opposite. When a game goes into extra innings, people will scream out, “Free baseball! Extra baseball!” When I go over time, I never hear anyone say, “Free sermon! Extra sermon!”
Will it kill you to listen to an extra minute of a sermon? Will it kill you to take a few minutes after worship and welcome those who have joined the church? I think that is a lot more important than getting to see the first pitch of a baseball game. And, by the way, God made a wonderful thing. It is called a DVR!
We find time for what and who is most important to us. If something is a priority in our lives, we will move heaven and earth to be committed to it. The question is: Is worshipping God, growing in our faith and making disciples a priority for us? Are we keeping the main thing the main thing? Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you as well.” Amen.
The list of complaints this article is based on was taken from a post on Face Book. I do not know the author, but they are good, aren’t they?
This article was adapted from a sermon I preached. Click here to watch the video of the sermon.
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