When the Quarterback's A Referee!
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It's unbelievable what a total cultural phenomenon the Super Bowl has become in America. The whole country seems to stop for the extravaganza surrounding the professional football championship game. More avocados are consumed on that day than any other of the year, for example, in a guacamole dip at Super Bowl parties. Commercial time sells for two and half million dollars for 30 seconds. Big city water departments report major drops in water pressure, citywide, at commercial times - as Americans take a simultaneous bathroom break. Even many churches with Sunday night services have decided they can't compete with the Super Bowl. A lot of them have chosen to have outreaches in the form of Super Bowl parties at their church. Our local TV news covered one church where they're doing that. Looking at the crowd, it was hard to distinguish which one was the pastor. Well, he was the one dressed in a black and white striped shirt - the pastor was the referee!
It's okay for a spiritual leader to be a referee for a day. It's not okay for it to take up most of his life. But sadly, many people in spiritual leadership spend as much time refereeing the complaints and conflicts of their people as they do preparing to teach the Word of God and leading the work of God. Something's wrong in this picture.
That's what the Apostle Paul is trying to tell the believers in Corinth in our word for today from the Word of God in 1 Corinthians 1, beginning with verse 10. As I read these words, see if they describe in any way any group of believers you're a part of. "I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no division among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you...One of you says, 'I follow Paul'; another, 'I follow Apollos'; another, 'I follow Cephas;' another, 'I follow Christ.' Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?"
These people had gotten their eyes off Jesus and they were focusing on issues and personalities. When God's people do that, the Body of Christ, which has already been broken enough, is broken again. For in our world today, we are His Body. Someone has wisely said that Christians are the only soldiers who form their firing squads in a circle! Can you imagine any army turning their guns on each other, rather than focusing them on their common enemy? We do it all the time! And pastors and other spiritual leaders have to abandon quarterbacking God's team and waste precious time being a referee instead!
Personal egos, personal agendas, control freaks, soapbox issues, turf fights - these are tools of our enemy to divide us and to make the work of God into the pitiful and powerless facsimile of a work of man. As a result, there are tons of discouraged pastors and leaders who are being dragged into battles that don't really matter much and away from the battles that really do matter. Paul's call in Philippians 1:27 is that we conduct ourselves "in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ." And what is that? "Stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the Gospel." See, as long as a group of believers is focused on the Lord and on the lost, they're going to be playing as a winning team. When we forget that we're surrounded by spiritually dying people and that we have a life-or-death mission to rescue them, we take our eye off the ball and we start bickering over trivial pursuits. Rescue unites people around a mission where turf and trivia just don't matter!
No spiritual leader should spend his time as a referee. There's too much ground to gain, and he's God's quarterback. And no team that wears Jesus' colors should waste their time in struggles with each other. We have a Savior to follow together and a sea of dying people around us to rescue. Let's fight for them and not with each other!