Maybe it’s because I’m bias, being a preacher and having
been a church pastor for a number of years, but I have always regarded religious
leaders as the ones who have the greatest spiritual influence on society. Many
of these leaders devote their life to this one cause. But according to a recent study by the Barna Group, most Americans believe sports figures have a greater
influence on society than pastors and other faith leaders do.
I believe few would deny that church leaders today have
declining influence in America. According to the Barna study, a whopping 64% of
Americans say they think pro athletes have more influence on society than do
members of the clergy. Those making more than $60,000 per year, college
graduates, whites, and parents were more likely to agree that pro athletes have
more influence, according to the study results.Weekly church attenders and those making less than $40,000 per year were
more likely to choose faith leaders as the more influential.
I am not sure how much I want to read into this study. For
instance, what do those who took part in the study mean by influence? Sure, pro
athletes have a bigger platform because they have a national TV audience at
times. But their activity during a sports event is limited to acknowledging the
Lord or actually praying at the game. And, yes, a few of these Christian
athletes do speak at Christian youth rallies to encourage them in the faith.
But what is the real impact? According to the study, most
Americans believe that when a pro athlete talks publicly about his or her
faith, it does not make much difference to those who listen. Still, about 32%
believe that when pro athletes do this, it makes listeners more spiritually
To me, I think it’s hard to make a valid comparison here. Sure,
the Christian church is missing the mark on several fronts these days. And sure, we have too many preachers who by
their conduct have failed to represent Christ well. But I still believe that
what committed members of the clergy
do is more substantial than what a pro athlete can do. For instance, there are
more than a few pastors who faithfully feed the flock weekly to equip them to
build strong families to effect a more stable society. And there are
neighborhood churches that serve as beacons of hope in otherwise dreadful
communities. I think you get my drift.
No, clergy members don’t have the platform of Tim Tebow, or
Jeremy Lin, but still many of these servants of God are without fanfare making
a positive mark in society that cannot be easily erased. I'm saying there is a big difference between star power and real impact.