It’s Just a Game

I like sports. And I mean a lot. I grew up watching sports, both amateur and professional. I remain a fan of the baseball, football, and basketball teams of my childhood. I consider myself to be more than just a casual fan. But I am not what I would consider an “extreme fan.” By that, I mean the person whose life seems to revolve around one or more sports teams.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not against being an extreme sports fan. Sports can be a great escape from the monotony, cares, and weight of the world. I just wish that more of us could focus the attitudes and energy that many extreme sports fans have for their favorite sports teams onto other things. Onto things of life that truly matter, things that are lasting, things that make a difference. I’m talking about such things as our families, our jobs, and our churches.

Extreme fans are fervently loyal to their team. They never miss a game. They root for their team even when the team disappoints. Their team is their team, both in win and in loss. I admire that kind of loyalty. But do we display this same level of fervent loyalty toward ours spouses and family members? How about our employers or churches? That’s loyalty that matters.

When our spouses or family members disappoint, we too often turn on them. We berate them, argue with them, and even ignore them. This is inexcusable. When our spouses and family members disappoint, which, I guarantee, they will do, we must continue supporting them. We must continue rooting for them. We must continue encouraging them.

Our employers will not always meet our expectations. We may miss out on a raise, a promotion, or a benefits package. Unfortunately, in the face of such disappointments, we are all too ready to jump ship. We are ready to move on to another employer. Being loyal to an employer? Rooting for an employer to succeed? Never! Too many of us have a “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” attitude. We love the company during the good times; not so much during the bad times.

Oh, and our church? Disappoint? Let me give another resounding, “Guaranteed!” I have attended church my entire life. God, in His infinite wisdom, established His church with fault-ridden individuals. His church has continued for centuries with the same type of fault-ridden individuals. Church leaders and church members alike will inevitably disappoint us (and by the way, we ourselves will likely disappoint them). Yet, unlike the extreme sports fan, too many of us shift our loyalty to another team – another congregation or another denomination – when our church disappoints.

Many extreme fans, much to my amusement, talk as if they are actually part of their team or its management. You know what I mean. When their favorite team wins, they ecstatically proclaim, “We won the game!” As if they somehow contributed. When their favorite team acquires a new player or gets rid of an old player, it’s “we” just acquired (or got rid of) “so-and-so.” As if they work in the team’s front office, and were consulted about the personnel maneuver.

Like the extreme fan, we should openly exhibit ownership of our families. Such ownership should be natural. It should be instinctual. But that is not what I observe. Too many of us describe our own successes individually – “I succeeded” rather than “we succeeded.” And we do the same when it comes to the failures of family members. We rarely, if ever, credit our spouse, our children, or our parents for our successes. We rarely, if ever, share the responsibility for family member failures. Indeed, the thought never even crosses our mind. Hear me. I am not saying that we share the responsibility for every failure in our family. All I am saying is that we should at least consider whether we played a part and, when appropriate, not hesitate to own up and admit that “we failed.”

I am continually frustrated with the lack of ownership people have toward their jobs and the companies that employ them. When I hear people discussing their jobs, the word “I” is uttered far more often than the word “we.” True, most people do not own the company they work for, but the same is true of the extreme fan. They do not own their favorite team. Nonetheless, they project a feeling of ownership. Why? It’s because they care about their team. I wish more of us cared enough about the companies that we work for to project that same feeling of ownership.

Lack of ownership can also extend to our church. During my lifetime in church, I’ve observed pastors and congregants who act as though the local church exists solely for them. They act as though the church’s sole purpose is to serve them whenever they have a need. They don’t consider serving the church – unless, of course, there’s something in it for them. That’s not ownership, that’s selfishness. Congregants with a sense of ownership want the church, which means the people of the church, to succeed. Congregants with a sense of ownership know that it takes a team, a synergism, or as the Apostle Paul put it, a body. I am thankful that I attend a church where the pastoral staff and most of my fellow congregants display a sense of ownership.

Look in the closet or dresser of an extreme sports fan. You’ll find it adorned with t-shirts and jerseys of their favorite team or player. Their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts are filled with photographs of themselves in these t-shirts and jerseys. In many instances, even their cars, offices, entertainment rooms, and bedrooms are decorated, sometimes to extremes, with their favorite team’s colors. Observe an extreme sports fan watching their favorite team. They yell at the television, both in delight and disgust. They passionately and unwaveringly defend their team. They passionately and unwaveringly root for their team. They passionately and unwaveringly display pride in their team.

We should have at least as much passion for our families as the extreme fan does for their team. We should passionately and unwaveringly defend and root for our spouse, our children, and our parents. We should passionately and unwaveringly display pride in them. Our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts should be filled with family pictures.

When it comes to our jobs, while we don’t necessarily need to have the same level of passion as the extreme fan does for their team, we should have at least some passion. If not, we’re cheating ourselves and our employers (or employees, as the case may be). Without passion, our job is just something we do for one-third of our lives, merely to receive a paycheck. That’s boring. Instead, let’s take pride in our jobs. Let’s defend our employers and employees. Let’s root for our employers and employees. Let’s display pride and passion for our jobs on social media.

A church without passionate people is boring. It’s empty. It’s dead. That’s not the kind of church I want to attend. I trust you feel the same. I am certain the pastoral leadership of your church feels that way. So let’s help them out. Let’s be passionate about our church. Let’s root for our church. Let’s brag about our church on social media.

The biggest game in professional football, perhaps in all of sports, is being played this weekend. If you’re like me, you’ll be watching the game, and would watch no matter which teams are playing. As you watch the game this weekend, observe some of the many extreme fans that are in attendance and ask yourself, “Do I place the same importance on things that matter?”

Hopefully, the answer is “yes.”

After all, it’s just a game.

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