“Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:19-25
From 2003 to 2010, I played in 83 softball tournaments. If I hadn’t broken my leg taking out a shortstop in 2007, I would have played in many more. Including league play, I made 1,402 plate appearances during that time span. I grew up playing little league baseball and watching my parents play church softball. When I was old enough, I joined the church softball team myself. Our church’s team played in both local and travel tournaments. Some of our family vacations revolved around it. My mom coached middle school fast-pitch softball, which she grew up playing in the 1960s. My grandfather coached her team; when Woodland Park Baptist Church sponsored it and people asked them what the “WPB” on their shirts meant, they told people “We Play Ball”. Everybody who knows us knows that my family loves all things softball. Lately, however, I’ve been disturbed by the amount of devotion I see being garnered by sports culture.
Yesterday, an old friend of mine posted a video of her teenaged daughter giving a devotion to her tournament softball team. I watched with dismay as the young lady said the following:
“One way we use softball to worship Jesus is, on Sundays if we can’t make it to church due to a softball tournament, God blesses us with Ms. Melissa who does a devotion with us.”
Run the numbers. There are about 12 girls on a youth softball team. A decent-sized double-elimination tournament will draw about 16 teams. That means, on any given weekend, there are 192 girls missing church, along with their parents and siblings. They are not missing time at the public school. If they were, they would be declared truant by the authorities and their parents would be made to answer for keeping them out of school. They aren’t missing time at school, though; they are missing time at church. Their hierarchy of values looks about like this:
School > Softball > Church
To whom will their parents answer for that? Ask yourself if Jesus considers “missing church due to a softball tournament” is something He considers a form of worship. Jesus understands that sometimes people can’t make it to church due to performing acts of mercy, falling ill, or experiencing inclement weather. Playing softball is not a reason people “can’t” make it to church. Playing softball is a reason they don’t make it to church, because they consider playing ball more important than gathering together with God’s people. Christian parents demonstrate the same level of commitment to Christ’s church as non –Christian parents when they forsake the gathering together of the brethren to take their children to play youth sports: zero. That a team pauses to hold a devotion in Sunday morning while they are skipping church is, arguably, not a demonstration of worship but an affront to God. Exactly what qualified teacher is leading such devotion? Christ gifted the church, not the youth softball team, with teachers. The church, not the softball team, can perform the ordinances of Baptist and Communion.
Somewhere out there in my home state of Tennessee, there is a young girl who can knock the fire out of the softball but has been misled to believe softball is something that can be used to “worship” Jesus while skipping church on Sunday. That young woman and her teammates desperately need discipleship in a church and parents training them in the way they should go, not a hackneyed devotion at the ballpark. When considering the amount of money families spend on travel ball culture (gas, hotels, eating out, tournament fees, team fees, equipment, and pitching lessons) one wonders how they have any money left over to give to the local church. How many young people have you seen lately washing cars in the K-Mart parking lot or selling donuts door-to-door to raise money for their softball teams? Now, how many have to seen evangelizing door to door?
For that little girl who thinks she is worshiping Jesus when she skips church to play softball, I lament. For skipping church to play softball tournaments on 08/17/03, 08/21/05, 07/30/06, and 08/13/06, I repent. May God forgive us.
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use
I couldn’t agree more. Thank you for saying what needs said
Yes, we had a family that did this at least twice a month. No church attendance because just one daughter was in softball. When we actually talked to the mom about it, she gave us the old “worship God on the golf course” routine. Because as we all know, Jesus will build His golf course, and the gates of hell will not prevail.