The fall of 2004 has been an embarrassment in the world of sports. Yet, I am not surprised. NBA players out of control. Fans who act like morons. College football players fighting on the field. Oh where, oh where is sportsmanship? It went out the windows when values and morals became optional in our society.
Anger seems to be the number one emotion in America. We are ticked about everything. Road rage, domestic violence, fighting in sports, gang wars, are all symptoms of a far greater problem in our society. Anger is being expressed at an entirely new level. At home, in relationships, in malls, on television and even in churches. Some of the meanest people I’ve ever met, call themselves Christians. Some of the most unkind and unchristlike comments I’ve ever heard have been spoken in business meetings.
Our culture and many of our churches are marked by lack of respect for authority. The me generation, raised in a school system and family system where everything is open for discussion… where there are no absolutes… where every man does what is right in his own eyes… has taken decency to the garbage pit.
What happened at the Pacers vs. Pistons game in November of 2004 is just a symptom of a deeper problem. The problem is one of the heart. It is a problem of sin, selfishness, self-centeredness and self-justification. The big “I” is on the throne. We can’t control ourselves because we are not under authority. What happened in 2004, with the firing of Ron Zook at Florida, David Cutcliffe at Ole Miss and Coach Willingham at Notre Dame is embarrassing to me. In my humble opinion, Ron Zook was fired because the ego maniacs at Florida thought they could get Steve Spurrier back. Wrong.
The powers that be at Notre Dame (more concerned about football championships than integrity or the gospel) thought they were in the perfect position to get Urban Meyer to leave Utah and come home. Wrong.
The Athletic Director at Ole Miss is apparently a micro-manager. He demanded more of the football coach than even John Vaught (who is revered at Ole Miss like Bear Bryant is at Alabama) could produce in his first six seasons. It wasn’t enough that Cutcliffe had winning seasons every year but one. It wasn’t enough that the only reason Eli Manning went back to his father’s school was because of Cutcliffe. It wasn’t enough that they consistently beat their arch rival. Apparently some of the good old boys at Ole Miss think we can go back to the glory days. It’s not going to happen. The SEC is tough, end of story.I don’t know about the other two, but I know Cutcliffe was a class act and a Christian gentleman. We’ve lost civility in that being a successful coach with a winning record is not enough. We’ve lost civility when being a man of integrity is not enough. We’ve lost civility when we can take a coach and throw him on the ash heap the first sign of trouble. What if all jobs worked that way. What if you had a bad quarter in sales? Does that mean they should fire you? No.
The reality is, we aren’t a civil society. We try to pretend we are. But when we are obsessed with ‘Desperate Housewives,’ Jerry Springer, watching Trump fire someone and cutting deals to be a Survivor, we’re all about number one. Work with me and you are my friend. Work against me and I’ll cut your throat. If you aren’t willing to sell your soul and sacrifice your family for the company, you are out. So much for loyalty, integrity and character. There is no civility, that went out the window of simpler times.
When pundits can take pot shots at politicians and pew warmer’s can take cheap shots at the preacher, it should be no surprise that the Pacers take a few swings at the fans. We have pushed for decades to have a society where we can be free of restraints. We are seeing the first signs of such a society. Nice isn’t it? Makes you proud to be an American.
When slobs like Michael Moore are given a seat of honor by a former President at the Democratic National Convention, what else do you expect? Today it’s acceptable to be a crude, uncouth, ill mannered, foul mouthed, half truth telling, moron. There’s a difference between freedom of speech and lying or misrepresenting facts. As long as we allow the Hollywood cesspool to churn out movies filled with profanity, gratuitous violence, nudity and sex, we shouldn’t be shocked. We shrugged our shoulders when Woody Hayes attacked a player years ago. It was an isolated event. We say, ‘That’s just Bobby Knight,’ when he goes into one of his tirades. The problem is we’ve accepted it and it’s rarely been penalized and rejected to the level that it needed to be.
Church members stand by and watch carnal or lost members tear a preacher apart and do nothing. That is as unacceptable as anything that happened at the Pistons vs. Pacers game. Malcontents need to be dealt with. Church discipline needs to be returned to the church. The handful of demon possessed or demonically inspired people in the average church who think roast preacher is the right of every member need to be kicked out until they repent or get saved.
I heard of one pastor who had eight men come to him and demand he resign. They specifically told him to announce his resignation on Sunday. The church had grown under this pastor’s leadership but the old crowd was losing power. The pastor got up on Sunday morning, his opponents gloating and poking each other thinking they had won the day. The pastor told the church what he had been asked to do. He called for a vote. Either vote me out as the pastor or vote these eight men and their families out. The church voted by 90% to vote the families out. The pastor then instructed the deacons to escort the men and their families out of the church. That my friends, is revival.
The problem with our churches is preachers have let members run over them. There’s a difference between being a doormat and being a servant. We need to know the difference. If you are God’s man, stand your ground. They can fire you, but you have to stand your ground. The issue is, we’ve let carnal people start fights and deacons have refused to stop them or have, themselves, been the problem. Deacons should be held to New Testament standards – which is a far cry from the good old boy system. No deacon can be any less than what the church expects of the pastor. Read your Bible, it will shed a lot of light on how we’ve lowered the standards for deacons and expected the impossible for pastors.
Two pastors in my area have been fired in the last few months. One because he was committed to reaching people and crossed some racial lines. The other because the deacons didn’t want to use the Bible as a guide for making decisions. They were the kind of deacons who sleep with Robert’s Rules of Order on top of their Bibles and study the Church Constitution during their quiet time. They aren’t interested in revival, evangelism, prayer or fellowship. They want one thing, power.
No wonder thousands of men leave the ministry every year. No wonder so many preachers kids grow up hating the church. No wonder there’s no longevity in the local church. Who wants to put up with that mess for years and years. Most of the churches in my area and yours could be shut down and closed for business and the community would be better off. They aren’t interested in reaching the lost and glorifying God. They care more about business meetings than meeting God. They care more about fellowship supper than giving a cup of cold water to anybody. If you want to see the big ME, just take a trip to the average American church. It’s a sad sight, and apart from a movement of the Holy Spirit that cleanses and purges, it’s going to continue and get worse. In the culture of the 21 st century, jerks and malcontents are running the circus. We don’t have a society. Good sportsmanship is not inconsistent with being a tough athlete. Good manners is not inconsistent with being a strong leader.
We’re letting people who are out of control, get hand slaps when they should get handcuffs. It’s time for preachers and good people to stand for what is right. It’s time to take back what’s been taken from us. It’s time to tell our kids that athletes who act like the Pacers and Pistons or Clemson and South Carolina are an embarrassment to the game, the university and society.
It’s time to ban some pro’s from the sport. It’s time to eliminate scholarships from anyone who starts a fight. It’s time to stand up for what’s right. We need some righteous anger about what’s happening in our society and to our kids. We need some holy boldness that says enough is enough.
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© Michael Catt, 2005.
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.