The Depressing Reality of Kids’ Sports

depressing reality of kids sports 3Having spent most of my high school and college years coaching or being a Little League umpire, I have witnessed the power of freshly cut, chalk-stained grass to transform soccer moms and carpool dads into rabid lunatics. Sadly, even Christian parents get sucked into the screaming, chanting, (and occasionally throwing things, too!) and coach criticizing until Mr. Jekyll has completely transformed their once sweet smiles into snarled anger.  Why do we fight with officials, other parents, and coaches? Why do we go nuts at our kids’ sporting events?

The answer is easy. We have lost our God-centered perspective. We have begun to worship our kids’ sporting successes. We find happiness in tournament wins and batting averages. And because no amount of MVP awards can make us perfect and complete, we become bitter, snarky people, willing to win at all cost in hoping to feel warm inside. To experience a joyful and fulfilled life, we need to continually remember the true value of sports and the awesomeness of God.

The Depressing Reality

According to recent studies, approximately 2,000,000 girls between the ages of 12-18 are playing softball. Once they graduate from high school, there are only 30,175 available roster spots on college and junior college teams and 36 USA national team spots. This means that about 1 to 2 out of every 100 girls has a chance of playing collegiate softball at any level ( And only about half of those who play in college will receive an athletic scholarship. And only about 2 of every 100,000 girls will get to play for the USA team (Ibid).

Guys fair little better. Of the 5 million guys playing baseball between the ages of 6-18, only 1 out of every 1000 will have the chance to play in the MLB or the minor leagues (Wallerson, 2014). Of the 3.2 million boys throwing footballs around only .0005% of them will ever walk into an NFL stadium as a player (Ibid). And only .00008% of those guys dribbling the b-ball will sport an NBA jersey (Ibid).

In short, unless a kid has the talent of a Kerry Wood or a LeBron James, the probability of him or her becoming a professional athlete is next to none. Regardless of how many tournaments a kid plays in or how much we scream, most kids will never make it to the “next level.” Most will walk away from their bats and balls before the next ten years are up. Let’s take a deep breath and enjoy our kids’ amatuer sports, remembering games are just games. But if we make our kids’ sports career an idol, we will be disappointed and will frustrate our kids by placing unrealistic expectations on them. Most kids won’t go pro even if they truly wanted to play in the NFL.

God Is Way Better Than Little League

footballMore importantly, we need to always remember that God is way better than a Little League World Series title. Instead of shady hotels, hot metal benches, and bug infested hotels, God offers us joy, life, and hope. Being the creator of the universe, he delivers every time. He proves his love for us by sending his son to die for us. He responds to our prayers, giving us more than we could ever dream of. The God who created Venus and Mar loves you and me enough to bless us with houses, cars, good churches, and beautiful families! If we begin to think that a room full of plastic trophies or that the fame that comes with being the parent of a professional athlete is better than God, we are crazy. Jesus gave us the money to buy those trophies and our kids the skills to play. Let’s worship the Creator instead of the creation.

Ultimately, whether we have a pro or just another “good” player on our hands, we always need to keep Christ first in our family. Our children can be great athletes, become famous, and still go to hell (Mat. 16:26). Sports are not bad, but we need to always place them second behind Christ.

Let’s engage kids’ sports with a heaven-centered perspective. Let’s focus first on living for Christ. Let’s pass on Sunday tournaments, let’s speak kindly to coaches, and let’s spend more time in the Word than on the road trips. Then, let’s point our kids to Christ, actively teaching them how to be godly men and women. Our kids are watching us and will pick up our values: good or bad. As Pastor Art Murphy comments,

It saddens me when I see parents who have made time to volunteer for Little League…but have not made time for their children’s spiritual or church life. This speaks volumes to children about what their parents value the most. – Murphey, p. 95

If we do not sacrifice softball for Christ, we cannot but help sacrifice Christ for softball, exchanging eternity for a slim chance of fading fame.

Works Cited

Murphey, A. (2000). The Faith of A Child: A Step-By-Step Gueid to Salvation For Your Child . Chicago: Moody Publishers.

Stats, S. (2013). Retrieved September 22, /2014, from

Wallerson, R. (2014, 1 31). The Wall Street Hournal . Retrieved September 24, 2014, from

Playing With Water

SalvationSeries_PlayingwithWaterA Shhh..splash flowed by a showering of water radically interrupted the pastor’s orderly explanation of baptism. As he tried to recover, ripples of laughter echoed through the congregation who just saw the latest baptism candidate show off his cannonball skills in the baptistery. Although I did not see the faces of the boy’s parents, I can imagine they probably had a few streaks of embracement on them. And quite frankly, most parents would be embarrassed to see their child turn baptism into a juvenile joke for quick amusement. As parents, we have a responsibility to both encourage our children to publicly display their faith and to help them understand the spiritual significance of baptism. How do we do guard against cannon balls? Well first and foremost, we must explain the gospel to our children. Our three foot tall man and our four foot tall woman cannot truly believe or rightly interact with the baptism pool without an understanding of salvation. With a right view of God in place, we then have to help them understand exactly what baptism is, means, and does.  Put on your goggles and let’s dive into the: who, what when, where, and why of baptism!


Admittedly, a host of opinions about baptism have circled around the church for ages. And I have been both sprinkled as an infant and submerged as an adult. Today, I do not intend to set the world aright with this short blog post. While infant baptism is practiced in many Bible believing churches in an effort to establish a child’s spiritual heritage, I believe baptism is more than a baby dedication tool.

I think believers’ baptism is a more faithful and accurate fulfilling of Christ’s command to baptize “them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:18-20). The word baptize always means immersion or “to dunk” when used in the Greek. Moreover whether it’s the believers at Pentecost, the Philippian jailer, the Ethiopian Eunuch, or anyone else, baptism as recorded in the Bible is always a direct expression of faith by those who have repented of their sins upon hearing the gospel. As the theologian J.L. Dagg wrote, “the apostles and their fellow-laborers required repentance and faith as qualifications for baptism” (p. 69).So who gets baptized? Those who have repented and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ should be baptized.

A Quick Caution

In our effort to faithfully practice baptism, we must be careful not to make the church ordinance, “the basis of division among Christians” (Grudem, p. 967). Rather we should seek, as Dr. Bruce Ware’s encourages us, to:

“be gracious with those of different practices…let’s work to understand and follow as best we can what the Bible teaches. Baptism matters, to be sure. But the truth that baptism points to matters even more” (p. 205).

Even though they sprinkle, we can and should still fellowship with Presbyterians, Lutherans and others who affirm the gospel. Let’s be careful not throw the church out with the baptism water.


Baptism is a physical sign established by Jesus to picture what happens in our hearts when we believe on the finished work of the cross (Romans 6:3-7). Christians go under water to symbolize that they have died with Christ from sins of this world. Then seconds later, they pop out from the water, revealing that they have been given new life “through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him [Christ] from the dead” (Col 2:12). The ordinance of baptism is a beautiful picture and public declaration of how God redeems the lost.


The easy answer is: “As soon as a person repents of sin and confesses Jesus as Savior, he/she should be baptized.” We see both Philip and Paul baptizing new believers shortly after they confess Christ (Acts 8:36; 16:33). And when adults who have counted the cost of following Christ embrace Jesus as their Savior, they should be baptized quickly.

SalvationSeries_BaptismClassforParents6But we also want to protect the waters of baptism from religious cannon ballers who pursue the sacrament either hoping to please parents or to appease the Christian culture. Before the onset of the middle ages, the church responded to this dilemma by requiring baptism candidates to attend a three year training class (catechizing) to ensure that they understood the faith. Today, the church expert, Mark Dever, recommends that children should not be baptized until they reach an age of maturity during the end of their high school years (Dever & Alexander, p. 106).

At FBCE, the staff follows a more Grudem-esk view of baptism believing:

“It is impossible to set a precise age that will apply to every child, but when parents see convincing evidence of genuine spiritual life and also some degree of understanding regarding the meaning and trusting in Christ, then baptism is appropriate” (p. 982).

In short, we will baptize children upon a credible profession of faith. We define a credible confession as the ability to clearly articulate the gospel, the nature of baptism and one’s personal testimony, citing the evidence of good works. We also want to know if the child’s parents have noticed their child displayiing the grace of God in her life. Once a child has met with a pastor, written out her testimony, and demonstrated her love for God in her daily life as observed by her family, the FBCE staff will baptize a child. Admittedly the process is rather elastic, taking weeks and even years to complete. But as Pastor Art Murphey noted, “Children need time to understand and show signs of maturity before they are baptized” (p. 127). Baptism is not a race to see who can get the wettest the fastest.


Being the doorway into the blessings of church membership, baptism should always occur within the context of the local church (I Cor 12:13). The location of the baptism matters little. As long as your local church is present, an ordained church member (pastor, elder, or deacon) performs the baptism (signifying that church affirms the work of Christ within the heart of the person being baptized) and immersion occurs, a baptism is truly a baptism.


We are to pursue baptism as a sign or act of faith. Going under water does not save; nor, is dunking necessary for salvation. As I Peter 3:21 makes clear, “the removal of dirt” does not produce salvation. Moreover, the thief on the cross repented and was never baptized. Yet, he was promised eternity by Jesus (Luke 23:43). Regardless of our or our children’s piety, their baptism will never save them.

Rather, baptism is act of obedience in faith. If you “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved,” then you will naturally want to follow all of Christ’s commands (Romans 10:9). What is Christ’s first command after repent and believe? It is to be baptized (Acts 2:38). In the New Testament, all who trust Christ eagerly identify with their Lord and Savior via the waters of baptism.  Christians go into the waters of baptism proclaiming that God has already regenerated their hearts.

Recommend Resources:

Manual of Theology: Second Part A Treatise On Church Order. Dagg, J. (1990).Harrison : Gano Books .

. The Deliberate Church: Building Your Ministry on the Gospel. Dever, M., & Alexander, P. (2005)Wheaton: Crossway Books.

Systematic Theology . Grudem, W. (1994).Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House .

The Faith of a Child: A Step-by-Step Guide to Salvation for your Child . Murphey, A. (2000). Chicago: Moody Publishers .

Big Truths For Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God . Ware, B. A. (2009). Wheaton: Crossway.

Is It Real: Discerning The Work of Your Child’s Heart

SalvationSeries_Isitreal_4Parents, Be Afraid         

A handful of modest little applauds went off in the church library that doubled as our classroom. Sheepishly, I made my way around the long wooden table that divided the third and fourth graders into blue and white Bibles on one side and lace adorned Bible covers on the other. By the time I arrived at the side of my Sunday school teacher, I was all set for the big moment. Then, out of the box it came! With the disengaged enthusiasm of my nine-year-old psyche in full swing, I took hold of a beautiful cross shaped salvation trophy made out of the finest gold plastic. A quick prayer latter, I stepped through sliding partitions the separated us from the sanctuary and freely began to daydream about my plastic toy soldiers as the services first hymns sprang to life.

Sadly this was neither my first nor my last false public profession of faith. Having been a relatively accomplished liar and thoroughly exposed to religion, I singlehandedly concocted a childhood spirituality that justified the fears that many godly parents bring to the discussion of Deuteronomy 6 and 11. What happens when we are too successful?

Concerned About Things Going Too Well

If you are like most godly parents, you faithfully strive to live out the Shema by demonstrating the gospel through your words and actions. Everywhere you go, you proclaim the glories of Christ day-in and day-out. And now as Moses predicted, your children are responding to your godly testimony by expressing interest in the gospel! Praise the Lord! These little guys and gals talk about loving Jesus and of praying for forgiveness. You are ever so excited about each demonstration of faith. But you are also afraid that you could be giving your smiling child a fake “Get out of Hell Free” card that will potentially push this unredeemed heart further away from the gospel. Consequently, you are left wondering if you should break out the salvation trophy (ice cream party and all) or if we should ship our little lady off to a nunnery for a ten year all-intensive baptism class.  Thankfully, we do not have to judge our children’s motives and stamp them “saved” or “lost.”  As J.C. Ryle notes, the Holy Spirit is the one who “changes, and renews, and sanctifies, and purifies” (p. 25). As Christians parents, we are called simply to discern fruit of our child’s spiritual life. Below, I have created three questions that will help us understand our child’s heart.

1.     Does Our Child Mentally Grasp the Gospel?

Several years ago, I worked with a four-year-old who could enter children’s church with a quick rundown of that day’s bulletin inconsistencies and errors. Not surprisingly, this little guy also asked a good number of questions about the Bible (and snack time), expressing a real curiosity about Jesus. Because of his intelligence and curiosity, I could have easily led him through the motions of repentance. But at that time, his words would not have indicated a heart change. He still thought of Jesus as living in the world of Spiderman, and Marvel Comic book heroes. Lacking an accurate understanding of the historical Jesus, he could not yet repent and embrace Christ. A child cannot believe in something he doesn’t know.  As Art Murphy notes, “Praying the right words doesn’t make a [child] Christian if he does not understand what he is saying” (Murphey, p. 82).  Before we affirm our child’s salvation experience, we need to determine if the repentance was founded on the accurate understanding of the gospel. Just as the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8, a child (and an adult for that matter) who is ready to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ should be able to: 1) Explain the gospel in his/her own words, 2) Express a love for Jesus, 3) Demonstrate a sorrow for sin 4) Distinguish between salvation and baptism (Ibid. 74). Although the Holy Spirit is not bound by human guidelines, children typically develop the mental maturity to pursue saving faith between the ages of 7 and 8.

2.     Does Your Child Do More Than Talk?

 Jesus very clearly says, “Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Mat 7:21). In modern terms, we could say “not everyone who prays the sinner’s prayer or who walks down an aisle, or who asks a lot of questions is a Christian.” While we should get excited when our children pray for forgiveness, we must remember that good words do not equal salvation. As Art Murphy reminds us, “Understanding the basic terms of salvation does not mean a child has experienced it” (Ibid. 74). SalvationSeries_BaptismClassforParents4This was my problem in a nutshell. As a child, I understood truth. Being a fan of Awana, I mastered the art of reciting the gospel. But my life had not yet been touched by the power of Christ. I fought with my siblings, had a few grade school cheating scandals, and was too lazy to clean my room even when offered the promise of a Lego pirate ship. Thankfully, my parents were not fooled and continued to press me on my faith. We too must encourage our children upward and onward from their profession of faith. Paul says in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” If our child is truly saved, this little soul will do good works. The radical life changing effects of salvation are not optional or reserved for adulthood. Before we vindicate our child’s conversion, we must see if she has the complete package. Does our child do good works? Does he treat his siblings with love and grace? Does she honor and respect your parental authority? The writer of James powerfully reminds us that,

Faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead…You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe-and shudder” (James 2:17,19)

3.     What Kind of Fruit Does Your Child Usually Produce?

In Mathew 7:17, we read, “A healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.” If our precious 4 foot gymnast is a believer, we will see her develop a life characterized by, “fruit keeping with repentance” (Matt. 3:8). Generally speaking, she will be selfless, kind, and obedient to her parents. Now at times, she will still get upset, snap at her brothers, and mutter a cruel word or two. The apostle John says if we claim to be sin free we are liars (I John 1:8). We should not be surprised that our believing child still sins. After all, we too struggle with the faith. Therefore, we must not be too quick to question our child’s salvation, frustrating the little person “with our doubt” (Martha Peace, p. 27). Instead of looking at the snapshots of our child’s life, we must examine, as Dr. Scott says, “the habitual day-in and day-out lifestyle (the movie-strip film of one’s life)” (Ibid. 27). We are looking to see if our child has built his/her spiritual life upon the foundation of Christ or upon the foundation of expedient compliance. When the winds of adversity slam against our little soul’s spiritual home in the form of a bully, or of an unjust umpire, or of a nagging sister, we will get insights into our child’s heart. Does he respond with grace, loving words, and compassion? Be encouraged. Does he respond with anger, harsh words, and mean spirited judgment? Be concerned. As Dr. Scott notes, “Parents should not be convinced of their child’s profession if the child is not for the most part persevering in the faith and obedience to God’s commands” (Ibid. 27).  The fruit of your child’s life will tell you much about the seriousness of his faith. Jesus reminds us that,

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).

So What Now?

               How do you handle your little guy or gal who makes numerous professions of faith? We preach the gospel and challenge our children with truth according to their spiritual fruit. As J.C. Ryle says, “Give them the Bible, the whole Bible, even when they are young” (Ryle, p. 25). We help our children understand that the Christian faith is not contained in an emotional bedside moment but spans the depths of life (Phil 3:12-14). And if at any point (even post baptism), they fall away from the faith, we continue to preach the gospel.  As Dr. Scott concludes:

Bottom Line, we should encourage each spiritual step that a young child makes without assuming or assuring salvation…Whether you think them saved or not keep teaching all the marvelous elements of the gospel to them. And by all means disciple them if they profess to know to be a Christian (Ibid. 27)

Recommended Resources

The Faithful Parent: A Biblical Guide to Raising A Family: Martha Peace, S. W. (2001).. Philipsberg: R&R Publishing .

The Faith of a Child: A Step-by-Step Guide to Salvation for your Child: Murphey, A. (2000).. Chicago: Moody Publishers .

The Duties of Parents: Ryle, J. (2012).. Codex Spiritual Publication .