By Roger Alford
DULUTH, Ga. – Too often, God’s people are taking sides in political and cultural divisions, weaking their ability to lead people to the kingdom of heaven, a pastor and nationally syndicated preacher told some 2,000 Georgia Baptists who gathered Thursday for an online discipleship conference.
Using a football analogy, Tony Evans, pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, said referees know they may be booed or cheered depending on the circumstances, but they understand they must stick to the rulebook, even when it’s not popular.
“We’re seeing that all around us today,” Evans said. “We’re seeing the teams line up. Seeing the Republican team and the Democrat team clash. The white team and the black team clash. The police team and the community team clash. We’re seeing the poor team and the rich team clash. Everybody trying to win. But in the midst of a clash of a football game is a third team. That’s the team of officials. This officiating crew does not belong to either team that’s in conflict on the field.”
Evans, whose sermons are broadcast daily on radio and TV across the country, was the keynote speaker at the premiere of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s SPARK discipleship conference. The conference is one of the Mission Board’s most popular events, drawing participants from 45 states and 15 countries.
In his keynote address, Evans said Christians should be more like referees than the players fighting it out on the field.
“They don’t don the uniforms of either team, because they have their own black and white identity in the jerseys that they wear,” he said. “They are distinct. Each has been handed a book, and that book governs all decisions. Their personal opinions must be subject to that book. Their preferences must be subject to that book. They know sometimes they’re going to be booed. They know sometimes they’re going to be cheered. But popularity is not their first concern. It’s obedience to the book in the middle of the conflict that matters.”
Evans stressed that referees can’t favor either team in conflict, but simply follow the rulebook that has been handed to them by the NFL.
“Unfortunately, today, God has an officiating crew that has joined the teams,” he said. “They’re more Democrat than Christian or more Republican than Christian. More black than Christian or more white than Christian. More part of siding with this group over that group than Christian. And instead of bringing order to the field of play, they are adding to the chaos on the field of play. That is because far too many Christians, far too many Christian leaders, far too many churches don’t understand that we belong to another kingdom run by another King who has His own playbook. And until there’s a decision to operate from the playbook that comes from the kingdom of heaven by the Executive who rules that kingdom, rather than bringing order to the chaos we will find ourselves part of the chaos and even contributing to the chaos.”