Before Christians became gladiators, they were the victims of gladiatorial contests. Mostly, this was done in “the arena” to begin the days’ events. Send a few traitors and criminals in to be torn up by wild animals to get the crowds really going.
My own county hosts a “Christian boxing club.” And most churches, including my own, use Super Bowl Sunday to raise money for a local food bank. We say, “the Lord moves in mysterious ways>” I also understand about silver-linings and clouds. But, should not we consider the incongruity involved here?
First, let me say, I watch football, track and field events, soccer, and love baseball. Shows, like professional wrestling, are not worth my time. I do not understand the attraction with mixed martial arts. I think it is still about the show. And therein lies the problem for the church. What gets us excited to be Christians?
Passion is not meant to be distraction. Divine glory is supposed to be the primary focus for Christians. Whatever we say or do is meant to bring glory to God even if our words or actions fail to provide more secular or “practical” results.
My own denomination, The United Methodist Church, has a mission statement that says the primary task of the church is “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” It is not a bad statement by itself. The down-side has been too many of our pastors burn out when the congregations do not grow in membership. We forget that membership is not discipleship, success is not victory, and salvation is to bring about transformation. Hence, the temptation to provide a spectacle as worship.
This temptation is not a new development. Old time revivals were often just as bad as anything done today. When a person could testify that he or she has only now been saved after making the same testimony at three previous revivals, something is wrong. When the teaching or preaching of the church is not meant to help transform people for the glory of God, the church is failing.
American Christians and their denominations must stop the last two hundred years of choosing spectacle. We are losing too many young people who see their “christian journey” as a phase or a fad. Let’s worship God and let the Spirit direct how the Spirit wants to work.