Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fantasy Football? What about Fantasy Christianity?

It's fall again and pre-season football is in full swing. We've even gotten through the recent annual tradition of waiting on Brett Favre's decision to return to football. It's like a $16M professional sports version of Groundhog Day, waiting for Punxsutawney Brett to see his shadow. And while I'm excited about the pre-season hype for my Dallas Cowboys, I'm also excited about another season of Fantasy Football. This is my third year playing and I'm hoping for a great draft.

If you're not familiar with Fantasy Football, it's pretty simple. I have a "team" made up of a number of offensive players (quarterbacks, receivers, running backs, tight ends, and kickers (sorry linemen)) who are all from different NFL teams. As these players play each week, I get points for their performances-6 points for a touchdown, 1 point for every 10 yards of rushing or receiving, 3 points for a field goal, etc. There are more players on your roster than what you are allowed to play each week. So the trick is to play which players you think will perform well in a particular match-up. And with the miracles of modern technology, the computer automatically tracks the stats and points for you. Each week you go head to head against one of your buddies and at the end of 12 weeks, the best fantasy players make the playoffs.

But as I contemplated all things fantasy sports, my brain wandered to the idea of "Fantasy Christianity" and what that would look like. And the more I thought about it, the more I think it's something that unfortunately already exists. I've not played a down of football since 9th grade, but through Fantasy Football, I live vicariously through "my" players without ever so much as putting on a pair of cleats. Just as I am not actually playing football, I think many of us sit on the sidelines of the Christian faith, letting others do the work, while we miss out on the blessings of serving others. What I mean by this is that we live our Christianity out vicariously through our pastors, staff members, and missionaries whom we may support in various ways. All the while there is work to be done all around us. We go to church on Sunday and see how our fantasy team has been performing. Our pastor reports that he had a great visit with a new family who is joining the church soon-that puts some points on the board. A missionary comes to thank the church for the support we give monthly and shares of all the great things going on in a different part of the world, and our fantasy points just keep rising! Some youth lead the church in worship and we are swooning because of our connection to all these fine ministries.

But is that what the church is all about? Just show up on Sunday and see how our "team" is doing? What about all the opportunities during the week to love and serve others? James says that actions must accompany our faith. I know I do not do all I can to make the most of every encounter I have with people. I also know even as a staff member, that I sometimes guage my spiritual health based on my church's fantasy points, and not on my individual performance. So how do we avoid Fantasy Christianity?

I suggest these three things.
1. Don't compartmentalize our lives. In other words, try not to have church friends, work friends, family friends, etc. We will all have different circles with whom we interact, but it is important that we don't act differently around each group. This allows our faith to impact everyone we encounter, not just our "church friends."
2. Determine our spiritual gifts and find ways to implement those in our daily lives and in our church lives. The Bible lays out numerous spiritual gifts in the New Testament that are personality traits we all have. Once we understand how God has wired us, it makes it easier for us to serve others in ways that are natural to us.
3. View Sunday as a celebration of what God has done in the rest of our week. Hopefully God has placed people in our path that we can help or impact. Let Sunday be a day when we can pray about these relationships and celebrate the ministry we have in them.

Have you ever caught yourself playing Fantasy Christianity? What would you do to help people get off the sidelines and into the action?

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