Monday, June 29, 2009

Why I Shout When I Preach

I came across this article (via

Many have asked why I shout when I preach. Many have commented on my shouting and my tone while preaching. I thought this preacher put together a helpful and insightful post on why he shouts. His comments resonated with me. For anyone interested in some of the reasons I find myself shouting when I preach, I encourage you to read the article posted below. You can go there directly by clicking here.

Why I shout when I Preach
“Do it from the heart, or don’t do it at all” Tope Koleoso

As I preached on Easter Sunday, about the resurrection, a 10 year old boy (Jake Bennett) who was in the congregation, whispered to his grandfather – “why does Tope have to shout when he is preaching”. It is a good question.

I don’t ever shout for effect, for preaching is not acting. I shout because I mount the pulpit to preach with three overriding emotions bubbling up in my soul – Anger, Joy and Love. These three however, have an effect on how I preach.

When I have prepared well, I know the text and the structure of my sermon, but it doesn’t mean that I am ready to preach. It just means that I have a mental understanding of what the text says. Good preaching however, is not just about the science of exegesis. That is too easy and cheap and even a non Christian can probably do a good job of that.

No. Good preaching happens when the Holy Spirit moves the heart of the preacher by the text, the preachers experience, and the “now” Word of God to his soul. All of these move me at an emotional and spiritual level. Emotional because my heart is involved. Spiritual because the Holy Spirit is involved.This means that during the sermon, any one of the mentioned emotions, (Anger, Joy or Love), spill out without warning or apology. This is because when I am preaching, I am angry at satan and sin, I am joyful about salvation and hope, and I am eager to show the Love of God to the lost.Therefore, I shout, I laugh, I cry, and I dance. Therefore, I use my voice, my hands, my legs and my eyes. Therefore, I will do it with utter conviction and passion for if I will not do it from the heart, I will not do it at all. Therefore, I engage the crowd, the best I can for I will not be ignored seeing that I carry the greatest message the world has ever heard. Therefore, I will be even more undignified for I do it all to the glory of God. Therefore I will be careful and calm lest I become the message and distract from the cross and by so doing, sin against the Lord I love.

I have been entrusted with the gospel. I do not “have it”, it has me. It has grabbed me by the throat and now I will only speak what it demands. It has my mind, so I will think of the gospel alone. It has me by the lungs, so I breathe and live for Him alone.One day, this mortal body will die and be rendered useless. Until then, I will preach loudly, and softly and deliberately, and carefully, and lovingly, and angrily, and demonstratively, and powerfully until the prodigal comes back home, and the lost is saved, and the glory of God cover the earth like the waters cover the sea.SOME HELPFUL QUALIFIERS1. Shouting alone does not accomplish anything by itself. It is just noise. There must be something to shout about and a context to shout in.2. Let the display of emotions be true to yourself for preaching is NOT acting.3. Let it be rightly calibrated for the people so that it is engaging.Whitfield said of John Bunyan and Pilgrims Progress: “The book pilgrims progress smells of prison”. The point he was making was that Bunyan’s suffering comes through in the book.Piper says, the reason the puritans are still read today is because they lived their lives on the precipice of eternity, alive today but perhaps dead tomorrow. When you write out of that experience of life, your experience shapes your preaching. Whitfield said, we all write better when we are under the Cross.

Another Solid Reflection on the 2009 SBC in Louisville

This past weekend, I read another solid reflection on last week's annual Southern Baptist Convention. For those interested, I have posted it below. I thought Micah Fries did a good job of helping those who were not there get a feel on what happened in Louisville.
You can go there directly by clicking here.

"Louisville in the Rearview Mirror"
by Micah Fries on June 28, 2009

Although this is late in comparison to many of my friends and colleagues from around the convention I thought it might still be appropriate to jot down a few thoughts about this year’s annual meeting. These are not intended to be comprehensive, but rather something of a snapshot from my mind - which has great potential to be terrifying, I’ll grant you, none the less here we go.


First, let’s start with what I viewed as good or even great parts of the convention.

Pastor’s Conference Preaching:

I have never been so encouraged as I was this year concerning the passionate, Gospel centered, expositional preaching that was delivered over and over again. Standing out in my mind were the messages delivered by J.D. Greear, & David Platt. Certainly there were many more that I was excited about, but none more than those two. Both showed an excellent skill at faithfully exegeting God’s Word, and both showed an amazing capacity to do so in an inviting, yet challenging manner which was humble in nature and yet so thoroughly convicting. David Platt’s message in particular, will go down as one of the best messages, if not the best, I’ve ever heard. I heard that one former SBC President remarked that it was the greatest message in the history of the Pastor’s Conference. That’s some high cotton, but it’s deserved in my opinion. If those two are indicative of the men being produced by our SBC seminaries, our convention’s future is significantly brighter than I might ever have imagined.

Gospel Centered Unity:

One of the characteristics of the younger generation seems to be a great commitment to theology driven practice, much more so than I’ve seen in many, many years. The popularity of men like Mark Dever, Ed Stetzer, Danny Akin, Al Mohler and more seems to have fostered a great desire for a methodology that is driven by a Gospel centered theology. This convention represented that like no other that I’ve ever attended. While there was certainly powerful opinions that were expressed on various sides of various arguments, when it came to voting there was remarkable unity and it was encouraging to see it seemingly motivated by a passion for the centrality of the message of the Gospel. In fact, aside from the election of officers, I don’t believe ever used our ballots other than to raise or lower than in votes. Every vote was overwhelmingly clear. That’s new for me at an SBC meeting.

The Great Commission Resurgence:

For quite some time I’ve been fairly open about my excitement concerning the potential for a GCR. From the moment I heard Dr. Akin espousing a commitment to a GCR I found myself gravitating towards that call. A providential opportunity to spend half of a day with Pastor Johnny Hunt two months ago only confirmed my commitment to the GCR, particularly under the leadership of two men that I respect and trust. Heading into the convention I was fairly confident that the Task Force motion would pass with a significant majority - and had shared as much with a number of friends. However, knowing Southern Baptists my idea of a significant majority was around 65%. Imagine my absolute shock, then, to see it pass with 95% of the vote. I spoke to another friend who was on the platform when the vote happened and he was of the opinion that 95% was actually a conservative count. His thought was that it was even higher than that. Amazing.

Pastor Johnny Hunt’s Leadership:

If you would have asked me a year ago I would have probably offered an opinion that Pastor Johnny was another SBC insider who would probably be satisfied to maintain something of a status quo. I really had never had any interaction with him and I have never been more thankful to have been wrong. I was shocked, to be honest with you, when he told me that prior to serving as SBC President he had never served in SBC life in any capacity other than as a preacher at various events. His passion to serve as pastor of a local church, and his willingness to reach people with the Gospel was evident and on display as he lead our convention during the week with great graciousness and yet firm resolve. We need more men like Pastor Hunt in our denomination.

Youthful Engagement:

Whether it was due to the convention being in a large seminary town, or due to interest in the GCR there was undoubtedly a younger hue to the convention this year. It’s the first time I have not felt decidedly out of place and something like 20 years younger than the average participant. In fact, it’s the first time I’ve actually felt a bit like I was older than a significant number of those in attendance. The fact that the convention offered such good preaching, Gospel centered unity and a passion for the future probably bodes well in helping bring many of these young Baptists back which is certainly a good thing for our convention.

The opportunity to attend meetings like the Baptist 21 panel on Tuesday afternoon was invigorating as I worshipped with 600 other Southern Baptists at Sojourn Church in downtown Louisville. The guys who run B21 did a phenomenal job of putting together one of the best, most helpful meetings I’ve ever attended at an SBC.

Elderly Wisdom:

I continue to be amazed at the men in our convention who love to pour themselves into younger guys. I know that I long for the mentoring and wisdom that comes from years of experience. God has blessed me with relationships with a number of these guys, and others I don’t know personally but love watching their ministry and this year was no different. Men like Dr. David Dockery, Dr. Danny Akin, Dr. Al Mohler, Dr. Mark Dever, Dr. John Marshall, Dr. Frank Page & Dr. Johnny Hunt continue to encourage and motivate me. Dr. Marshall’s convention message was particularly inspiring and encouraging. After he finished, all I knew to do was tell him “thank you”. We are a blessed convention to have their wisdom and guidance.


Now, it wouldn’t be a fair assessment if I didn’t mention a few of the things that were not quite as encouraging. I’ll try not to be as long here because I want to focus more on the strengths of this meeting, but there certainly were a few disappointing moments.

Poor Reports:

Almost without a doubt the Executive Committee report by Dr. Morris Chapman had to be the most disappointing moment of the entire meeting. His report was anything but a report and instead appeared to be his own personal vendetta against all things that he found troubling in convention life. His drive by’s included the Great Commission Resurgence, those who embrace a Reformed soteriology, those who used contemporary methodologies to reach people with the Gospel. I felt quite disturbed after it was over. Evidently I was not the only one. Dr. Mohler, from Southern Seminary, apparently found Dr. Chapman’s report troubling and Dr. Danny Akin, of Southeastern Seminary, called it “shameful”. It was a sad misuse of time and power, in my opinion, for him to use his position to take shots at Southern Baptists across the denomination who embrace conservative theology but whom he personally finds disturbing. While he has every right to hold those positions, that was not the time, nor the place, to express them.

Political Stumping:

I’ll have to admit that I was pleased when I heard that Mike Huckabee was asked to speak. As Huckabee is a former Baptist pastor, and I knew that Huckabee is a good speaker, I was encouraged about the idea of hearing him preach. Unfortunately, that’s not what we got. Instead we heard what appeared to be a political stump speech where Huckabee said that the cure for America was morality. While I pray that we become a more moral nation, morality is not the answer. If that’s true the Mormon’s, Jehovah’s Witnesses & even the Muslims are the great hope for our country. In a moment when he had the floor, and could have established a new tone as a politician who embraced his faith and clearly communicates its truths in no uncertain terms, Huckabee let us down in my opinion. As I’ve told my own church, politics are not the hope for America, the Gospel, and righteousness through the Gospel, is the hope for America. Unfortunately Huckabee appeared to take the politically expedient route in dealing with those concepts.

Persistent Disbelief:

Leading up to the convention we heard from Baptist Press that the convention was really not in decline. Instead, we were told, we were just looking at the numbers all wrong. Instead of being in decline, we just didn’t have people to reach out to. In fact, since the convention, the author of those previous articles claimed in an interview with Christianity Today “I hate to use these terms, but you can’t reach people if there isn’t a market”. It is seriously discouraging to me to hear people on our convention staff, paid by our convention dollars, who are trying to wish away the obvious and act as if no problems exist. It’s concerning to me when the population is growing strongly as a whole, and the argument being offered is simply “there isn’t a market” to be reached. Wow.


In conclusion, however, I’ve got to be honest that it was the most encouraging SBC I’ve ever been to. Sure there were some discouraging components, but in retrospect, they were insignificant in comparison to our Gospel centered unity and our commitment to the exposition of God’s Word. This convention marks the first time that I’ve left convinced that our future is bright if we keep moving in the current direction. After previous conventions I’ve felt as if the future could be bright, if necessary changes occurred. This year is altogether different, and for that I’m grateful!

The Great Commission Resurgence - Reflection on Axiom #1

Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20, HCSB).

I. A Commitment to Christ’s Lordship. We call upon all Southern Baptists to submit to the absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ in all things at the personal, local church, and denominational levels. (Col. 1:18; 3:16-17, 23-24)

Scripture is clear that Jesus Christ is Lord of all. Therefore, Jesus Christ must be our passion and priority and we should aspire to both know Him and love Him more fully. We must long to see Him have preeminence in all things. We desire to see a Convention of Christ-centered, “Jesus-intoxicated” people who pursue all that we do by God’s grace and for His glory. We believe we need the ministry of the Holy Spirit to lead us into a new and fresh intimacy and communion with the Lord Jesus that results in greater obedience to all that He commands. Christ’s Lordship must be first and foremost in a Great Commission Resurgence or we will miss our most important priority and fail in all of our other pursuits.

This axiom truly needs no further reflection. All I would add at this point is that for the Southern Baptist Convention to to a "Christ-centered" and "Jesus-intoxicated" people will mean that we must have "Christ-centered" and "Jesus intoxicated" churches, pastors, and congregations. In short, it will require each individual church member to be focused on, passionate about, and driven by Christ.

Questions we all must ask ourselves, then are questions such as:

  • Can I be described by others as a 'Jesus intoxicated' person?

  • Are my pursuits, expenditures, goals, etc. geared towards bringing Christ the most glory?

  • Am I trying to build my kingdom, or Christ's on the earth?

  • Is every member of the church I attend a genuine, born again, Christ-centered person?

  • How can I spur others on toward being intoxicated with Jesus?

  • How can I gear my life so that future generations are passionate for Christ?

  • Do I long for others to be enthralled with a love for Christ?

I believe this axiom is first for a reason. If we fail here, we fail all the way down the rest of the line of axioms. So, I pray God would make me into a man who is intoxicated with the Person and Spirit of Jesus Christ.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Great Commission Resurgence Reflection #1 - The Preamble

Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20, HCSB).


Southern Baptists have always been a Great Commission people. Christ’s command to go, disciple, baptize, and teach is woven into the very DNA of our churches. By God’s grace, over the last thirty years, the SBC has undergone a Conservative Resurgence that has brought substantive changes to many of our churches and all of our Convention’s seminaries and boards. We are thankful for the Conservative Resurgence and believe that God has also called Southern Baptists to a Great Commission Resurgence as the next step in the fulfillment of our mandate in missions and evangelism which will result in the renewal of our Convention.

In my opinion, the very first sentence of the very first paragraph says much to the need for a Great Commission Resurgence: "Southern Baptists have always been a Great Commission people." Amen and amen. No one would argue with that and every true Southern Baptist (SB)would wholeheartedly affirm it. However, as many studies have shown, well over half of all SB churches are declining. In addition, the IMB came up $40 million short toward their LMCO goal this past Christmas. As a result around 2,000 God-called missionaries are being told there is not enough money for them to go through the IMB right now. Yet, more buildings are being built here in North America. More staff are being hired. More 'material' things are being purchased to support our programs.

Please hear me and do not misunderstand: I am not saying all buildings are bad or that hiring staff is bad or that programs are bad. But I am saying something is bad wrong about our priorities if the Great Commission isn't being fulfilled while we, here in the Bible-Belt, continue to increase things that are not the MOST effective.

So, whether one likes the Great Commission Resurgence document or now, if it is true that SB's have always been a Great Commission people then SOMETHING has got to change. Something is going to have to give. Someone is going to have to ask the tough questions. Thus, everyone must at least admit that something has to change in order for Southern Baptists to be who we say we are, i.e., Great Commission People. Having a task force to AT LEAST evaluate how things and entities are run so as to help us be most effective to reach the nations

Blessed are the Meek for they Shall Inherit the Earth

As I was putting some finishing touches on Sunday's message, I found it interesting and fitting that of all the celebrities that have passed on into the next life this week, one who no one is talking about will be one of those who will inherit the new heavens and the new earth. Though I do not know for certain about the salvation of Ed McMahon, Farah Faucett, and Michael Jackson, and can only guess (with much grief in my soul) that their eternal fate is one of utter horror. They, though in some ways seemed to have partial rule of the earth in this life, will suffer eternal torment. They are the ones talked about. They are the ones discussed and written about in the big newspapers and magazines.

However, Jesus (whose only opinion ultimately matters) says that those who are meek (mild, humble, unassuming, willing to suffer and succomb so as to prevent inflicting punishment, gentle, etc.) are those who are blessed of God and will inherit the earth. Those who gave of themselves and of their own personal agendas for the good of others will be the ones who inherit the earth from Christ Himself. What a massive role reversal! Now it is the opposite. Those with power seem to have rule on the earth. Those who step on others to climb to the top seem to be those on the top of the world. But it's only for a moment.

Yesterday, when all the talk of Ed, Farrah, and Michael was going on, Chris Leggett was shot by two Al-Queda militants. He had been serving our King spreading His name in Africa for the past 6 years. You can read a bit about it here and here and here. May God bless his wife and four children during these days. May we, as Christ's followers, remember that those who meekly and mildly and gently and humbly serve others as we serve King Jesus will inherit the earth in the age to come.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What is the Great Commission Resurgence and Why Is It Important?

Much of the talk in and around this year's SBC had to do with what is called a "Great Commission Resurgence" (GCR). The convention voted to pursue a GCR and put together a task force to evaluate the SBC and think about how we (as Southern Baptists) can best take the Gospel to all the peoples of the earth.

In the coming days, I plan to blog about what it is, why it is so important, who the task force is made up of, and why we should pray for them.

For now, I hope it suffices to link you to the GCR web-site. What is there will familiarize you a bit with what the GCR is. You can go there directly by clicking here. As I discuss it on this blog, please feel free to offer comments and/or ask questions for dialogue sake. I look forward to seeing how God is going to use this to further His kingdom around the world in the days ahead. Please stay tuned for thoughts on this in the coming days.

The International Mission Board Report at the SBC in Louisville

Below is a link to an article posted at the International Mission Board's website ( It is a summary of Dr. Jerry Rankin's report on the IMB at this week's SBC. The article is linked below, but please observe some key quotes by Rankin here:

"Is it more important to maintain our institutions, sustain church programs and support a denominational structure centered on 5 percent of the world's population that is already well-churched than to send the missionaries God is calling out of our own churches to reach the 95 percent of the world who are deprived of an opportunity to know Jesus?"

"Is it really a problem with the economy or rather distorted priorities and hearts that are not aligned with our Lord's passion to be glorified among the nations and peoples of the world?"

"Are we saying that 5,000 missionaries are evangelize the rest of the world while we support over 100,000 pastors, church staff, and denominational workers in our own country?"

"We can examine our priorities, restructure an outdated bureaucracy, support the missionaries being called to reach our world or allow our hearts to become hardened, our future to decline, our influence to crumble and our witness fade into insignificance as we focus on maintaining the status quo and strive to sustain that which is increasinly irrelevant."

"Let us not dilute the Great Commission to mean less than our Lord's mandate to disciple the nations and to be His witness to the ends of the earth."

Wow. God help us.

Click here to read the entire article.

Thoughts on the Southern Baptist Convention 2009 in Louisville, KY

Yesterday afternoon Katie and I returned from an incredible trip to Louisville, KY for the annual Southern Baptist Convention. As I have already told several who asked how it went, "I have never been more excited about the future of the convention and the direction we, as Southern Baptists, are headed." I mean that. I came back from the convention this year extremely proud to be a Southern Baptist. I guess what I mean by that is that I am very, very, very excited about being a Southern Baptist in these days.

The reasons are plenty. I have considered much how I can best articulate my thoughts about the convention. For now, I want to point you to several articles that express some of my exact thoughts. I will link you to four articles. All are very good summaries and, in my opinion, good and thoughtful analysis of what took place at the convention. As always, please remember that just because I point you to an article it does not mean I wholeheartedly agree with everything that is said or written. I point you to these for your information and because they seem to express some of my same thoughts and emotions.

Each of these articles offer some very helpful and insightful thoughts and reports on what happened at the convention. They also discuss the importance of what things look like for the future. I truly am grateful to be a Southern Baptist and look forward to the days ahead for the cause of the Gospel and glory of Christ and the joy of the peoples of the earth!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Platt's Message At the SBC

Last night at the SBC Pastor's Conference, David Platt preached out of Hebrews 13:12-14. As I was reading some 'tweets' (via twitter) this morning from those who heard it, Alvin Reid said it best. He labeled Platt's message as simply 'Historic.' Indeed it was.

I will do my best to find out how/if it will be available via the internet. I will also see what I can do about purchasing it for our church library. There was much that grabbed me about the message, but what I am wrestling with and pondering this morning is this thought (please note the thought is not a direct quote, but some of the essence of his message):

When the Israelites of the OT disobeyed God and retreated, rather than risk for Christ (God), God sent them into the wilderness for 40 years. Were they still His people? Yes. Did He forgive them? Sure. But He made them wander for 40 years until they died. In other words, they wasted their lives due to their refusal to risk and obey and live for the glory of God. Which causes me to ponder: If I disobey today, I am still forgiven because of Christ. If I refuse to walk in the Spirit today, I am still God's child because of Christ. If I refuse to risk today, I will still be a 'follower' at the end of the day. But I will have wasted my life. I will have totally blown the life God has given me to live. He does not need me, Wynne Baptist, the SBC, the IMB, the NAMB, etc. to accomplish His purposes. No! But He has given me a glorious and fascinating and absolutely incredible opportunity to live my life to the full, with all of my might, for His glory and for His name's sake.

So, I plead with my soul and with others: "...Let us go to Him outside the camp and bear the reproach He endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come." (Hebrews 13:12-14)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Lottie Moon Christmas Offering Shortfall for 2008

Here is a link to the article I quoted from last night regarding the shortfall of funds given to the IMB via the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Please note two things in particular in the article: (1) Because of lack of financial resources, God-called missionaries are not able to go right now; and (2) There is a massive harvest going on throughout the world.

This means, then, that when you and I give to the IMB then it is a guarantee that the kingdom will expand for all of eternity. Let us guard ourselves against all kinds of covetousness and seek first the kingdom.

Help, Lord!

'Thomas' Story' from E-family on June 3rd, 2009

This past Wednesday night, during the first of six E-family sessions, I quoted from Voddie Baucham's The Familiy Driven Faith. (For those with teenager sons and daughters on the dating scene, click here to check out another helpful book by Baucham.)

The title of the story is "Thomas' Story" and is a true story (with name changes) about a young man who grew up in church, but who's father 'passed the buck' in leading his family in spiritual things. Very sobering story. Several of you WBCers have asked for the quote. You can read it below....

"Thomas' Story"

"Not long ago I sat down with a grieving father. He wasn’t grieving because his child had died, but over something potentially far worse. His son, Thomas, had grown up in church. He was a good kid. He was a fixture in the youth group, he dated a girl from the church, he went to Disciple Now weekends, Youth Camp, and AYEC (a Baptist youth outreach), and even participated in a mission trip his sophomore year in high school.However, when he went off to college, things changed. His parents had heard of the dangers of “secular” schools, so they guided him toward a Christian university. He was an outstanding athlete and had won a baseball scholarship. Thomas’s story was not just typical—it was exceptional. He had done all of the things Christian parents desire for their children—good grades, great friends, active in church, popular, and off to college on an athletic scholarship.

So why was his father grieving?As it turns out, there was a darker side of Thomas’s life. Things were lurking beneath the surface that his mom, dad, youth pastor, and Sunday school teacher never saw. Once he was away at “All-American Christian University,” this darker side began to surface.

First, Thomas stopped attending church. He occasionally attended the large weekly Bible study on campus or the area-wide college service hosted by a large church in town, but he was not plugged into a local body of believers. Moreover, there was no sense of personal holiness, no pursuit of Christian disciplines. Next Thomas began to struggle a bit in class. He had always been an A/B student, but now he was struggling just to pass his midterms in some of his classes. Upon closer examination of his academic struggles, they found that Thomas was staying out late and drinking heavily and often missed classes. Finally, Thomas was suspended from his baseball team when a random drug test revealed that he had taken anabolic steroids. The father was so distraught that he did not allow Thomas to return for his second year. He opted instead to place him in a local community college until the young man could 'get his head on straight.'

Upon hearing Thomas’s story, I tried to console this grieving father as best I could. He cried for a while and then asked me a question that I don’t think he wanted answered. “Where could I have gone wrong?” he asked as he shook his head in disgust. Over the next several days he and I unpacked the situation and dealt with some very tough issues. I am not suggesting that this case is cut-and-dry, but we did find some very familiar patterns.First, Thomas’s lack of commitment in spiritual matters was not as strange as it seemed. As I talked with his father, I learned that Thomas was more than just a naturally gifted ballplayer. This kid had been playing baseball since he was six and started taking private instruction at nine! He had been part of a traveling squad at age twelve and was an all-star at every level. This man and his wife had gone to great lengths to see to it that their son became the best baseball player he could be.This also meant that during the summer and fall their church attendance was sporadic at best. Like many parents, they found themselves traveling to tournament after tournament and praying for the opportunity to be out on Sunday since that meant they were playing for a title somewhere.

What they didn’t realize is that they were teaching Thomas to prioritize baseball above the Fourth Commandment. They were teaching Thomas that he should honor the Sabbath and keep it holy unless it’s baseball season.Thus when Thomas went to college and had to choose between going to church and hanging out with his teammates, the foundation for his decision had already been laid. When he had to choose between extra time in chemistry lab and extra time in the batting cage, he knew intuitively which choice to make. And when he had a choice between sitting on the bench for the first time in his life or taking a shortcut to a bigger body and a faster bat, he struggled for a while but eventually made his decision based on the one thing that had directed his path since he was six years old.In other words, Thomas’s lack of commitment to spiritual matters laid the groundwork for his moral compromise. Christianity was never the center of Thomas’s universe. It was always something on the periphery. Church, and more importantly Jesus Christ, always orbited around baseball, the bright, shining star at the center of his universe.

Does this mean that every young ballplayer will experience moral compromise? Certainly not; nor am I arguing that we should abolish all sports. I am simply arguing that anything that causes us to compromise our beliefs can (and probably will) become an idol. Some people will only worship that idol halfheartedly, but some will sacrifice all on its altar.

Thomas’s father had never missed one of his son’s games. Moreover, it was his father who taught him how to throw a curve ball, how to put his body in front of a grounder, and how to turn a double play. In fact, Thomas’s father was the coach of his first T-ball team. However, when I asked whether or not he led his son (and his family) in worship, his only response was, “I never even thought about it.” In other words, this man had spent countless hours and immeasurable amounts of energy teaching his son how to be a ballplayer but hadn’t done a thing to teach him how to be a Christian. When I pressed him on this issue, he said, “I thought the youth pastor was doing a good job of that.”

The point here is so obvious that I hesitate to state it. When it came to baseball, he had coaches and leagues, but he was the one providing private instruction in the backyard. However, when it came to spiritual matters, he passed the buck.When it came to game time, he was not willing to miss (and wore that fact as a badge or honor), but when it came to church, they thought nothing of being absent for weeks and at one point months at a time. This family was worshiping a rival, and their son’s life was the fruit of their idolatry. There were certain things for which they were willing to sacrifice all.

Unfortunately, their son’s walk with the Lord was not one of those things. Is there any wonder that a young man in his situation would miss church? Is there any doubt that a young man in Thomas’s situation would be hard-pressed to find the courage to resist having a few drinks with the guys on the squad?Sadly, this story is very familiar to those of us who have been around the church for a while. In fact, many of us see ourselves as we read between the lines. We live in an age where many gods vie for our allegiance. What’s worse, these gods try to convince us that if we bow down and worship them, they will give our children what the God of the Bible cannot give—success by worldly standards."