Wednesday, May 17, 2006

"A Match Made in Heaven"?

That's the title of the article in the May 8, 2006 issue of ESPN The Magazine. The double-page, full color introduction to the article is a racy picture of 2 women (?) wrestlers in a ring, one standing over the other, about to kick her. The kickee is holding the ropes, grimmacing and in obvious need of more clothing. A pull-out quote next to the women says this:
BORN-AGAIN WRESTLING LEGEND TED DiBIASE IS SAVING SOULS ONE SMACKDOWN AT A TIME
There is so much in the article, written by Allison Glock, that warrants comment that I must necessarily limit myself or else someone will think that Gene Bridges really wrote this entry. :-)

First, the story indicates that a real conversion to Jesus Christ took place in Mr. DiBiase's life. Glock writes that in 1992, while at the top of his profession, DiBiase (aka "The Million Dollar Man" [MDM]) turned from a very sordid and opulent lifestyle to following Christ. One can only rejoice at this testimony of saving grace. The obvious zeal that MDM has to see people converted is also wonderfully encouraging.

Out of his love for the Lord and for wrestling, he founded the Power Wrestling Alliance, an independent league that "doubles as a Christian ministry." The league's stated purpose is "to get souls saved." To that end they host wrestling events in local churches, charging a one time fee and then allowing the church to keep "all the proceeds from tickets and concessions."
Initially, people thought he was crazy, MDM admits. "They couldn't see how wrestling and religion connected. But they've come around the idea of having a ring in their sanctuary."

Their promoter, Bobby Riedel distinguishes the PWA from other Christian wrestling organizations by noting, "We do upscale.... We have lighting. Smoke. High standards. It isn't a boring, hokey show because it's Christian. If WWE can have the best, why can't God's people? The Bible says to be fishers of men. We say you need some good bait. And the bait we use is wrestling." At least he is honest.

The show ends with a reenactment of the crucifixion that is realistic enough to make children cry and turn away. Then MDM takes the microphone to preach, or as he puts it, "to wrestle with you." After he spends half an hour speaking, he gives what Glock rightly identifies as "an altar call" to join him in the ring. On the night that she was researching this article, many come. In fact, she writes, "almost all the remaining audience members file down to join him at the ropes, heads tilted skyward, hearts pounding, arms outstretched. Autograph books in hand."

The article is actually surprisingly sympathetic to DiBiase and his PWA. 1 Corinthians 9:22 is cited in the article ("I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some"). That is a key (partial) verse in thinking about what evangelism. But too often it is used as if it were a theological justification for Joseph Fletcher's situation ethics where the end justifies the means rather than a principled approach to compassionate evangelism.

Overall, this article is one more indicator of how confused we are as modern evangelicals. DiBiase's zeal is so obviously commendable. But it is equally obvious that it is a zeal without vital knowledge.

Tomorrow I plan to pick up on this last point and complete my thoughts.

29 comments:

centuri0n said...

Jacob was a wrestler. 'course, he had to quit because of a bum hip.

Matthew said...

Finney's ghost still lingers amongst us...

Chuck said...

'Flee from the pile-driver to come.'

Byroniac said...

As Charlie Brown would say, Good Grief! (one of my favorite lines)

Brian R. Giaquinto said...

If WWE can have the best, why can't God's people?

I have heard this argument before. Why does the world "own" the definition as to what is considered the best? IMHO, it seems that a comment like that shows that one is riding the proverbial fence (ropes?). The thinking goes like this: I love the way the world does things, but I am a Christian. So, I will take what I love and mix it with Christianity.

Of course, maybe Paul, when in Athens, set up a Greco-Roman wrestling team to get the attention of the denizens!

The Bible says to be fishers of men. We say you need some good bait. And the bait we use is wrestling."

The Word of God isn't sufficient? Isn't Christ (in the Gospel), the bait? Didn't the fishers in Galilee used a drag-net, anyway?

David & Rose Ann said...

Sure, why not. Brothers Welch, Graham, and Pres. Floyd may have already updated their rolodexes.

jbuchanan said...

It is great to hear that the Million Dollar Man has been converted. I also commend his zeal for evangelism and sharing his faith. But I would have to question the use of scantily clad women and pyrotechics in the presentation of the gospel. I am so tired of hearing people use 1 Corinthians 9:22 to justify anything that they do to present the gospel. We need to return to a firm conviction of the sufficiency of Scripture.

It is also interesting that so many people feel the need to start para-church ministries rather than working through the local church. I have noticed that latley there are many high-profile people who have started these kinds of niche ministries, e.g. Kurt Cameron, Billy Baldwin, Heather Veitch.

Chris Bonts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James said...

I think this form of evangelism is actually a methodology employed by the Roman Catholic Church. After all, fans of the new pope have long hailed him as the individual responsible for "Putting the smackdown on heresy since 1981."

http://www.cafepress.com/ratzfanclub.5713770

;p

Brian R. Giaquinto said...

Chris,

I think you made a valid point. I guess we must "..devote ourselves to the apostles teaching..." Acts 2:42.

The problem is that, in many churches (SBC especially), serious teaching and doctrine are NOT being taught.

Just a question: Is MDM affiliated with a local congregation? This, too, presents an issue. Many of the "para church" ministries and evangelistic efforts are not rooted under the accountability of the local church.

No method of consistent teaching of doctrine for newer believers. A lack of the centrality of the local church. I think were bound to have issues.

Scott said...

Tom,

I "Kid You Not" I just saw a church sign down the road from my house( This is a SBC church) that was inviting people to a Tractor Pull. Yes, I live in Georgia but Georgia is not Mississippi ! I live in Atlanta not South GA. However, when I read your blog the Tractor Pull didn't seem quite as " Odd" compared to the Wrestling!
I believe I will take my family to check it out this weekend before I knock it ! I'm sure my wife will really love it. However, I guess the Tractor Pull is not like: Giving a Car away, Money, DVD's, VCR's, and to get kids to come to a Crusade. This Tractor Pull must be geared to reach the Senior Adults!

Gavin Brown said...

What ever happened to Vernon? MDM's associate pastor?

Scott said...

Gavin,

You just proved that you watch wrestling! Vernon is " Parts Unknown"! Real wrestling was back in the days when you had Dusty Rhodes, Tommy " Wildfire Rich", The Masked Superstar, Chief Wo Hoo Mcdaniel, The Funk Brothers, The Four Horseman with Ric " The Nature Boy" Flair. These were the men that could be found on GA Championship Wrestling with cohost Gordon Solee.
Tom Ascol is a big guy. You don't think he was " Kane" with a mask ? What would be a good wrestling name for Tom?

hashbrown said...

This story brings out my inner redneck. I grew up going to the wrastlin' matches at the national guard armory with my grandmother.

I'm not defending this program...

but one quote hits close to the mark. "If WWE can have the best, why can't God's people? "
I think it can be argued that in a world where good preparation and excellence is honored, the church should stive for excellence in everything, including small practical stuff. ie. having safe well made play ground equipment, good signage so people can find their way around the church, a practiced and music program.

The knock that Christian sponsored things are sometimes cheesy is often well deserved.

As far as drawing a crowd in order to share the gospel. We must exercise discernment and should not do a bait and switch to get people to make a decision that is not a conversion. But I think it fine to have something special to draw a crowd which will help the church engage with lost people and give a venue for truth telling.

My guess is that NT miracles tended to draw a pretty good crowd to preach the truth to. Of course then the crowd would hear the truth and get much smaller.

I think there should be a balance. We are going to have a kick-off for VBS soon which will include a clown, face painting, and games. We aren't using it to trick people into praying a prayer, but it brings us into contact with lots of unchurched families.
We also play in a softball league. We have had 3 lost university students play on our team, who were marvelously converted and actively serving Christ. One is on mission this summer. They were first drawn by softball, then by Christ.
Just, keep the balance.

I've got to go now and lay the smack down on some deacons, if you smeeeelllll what the hashman is cookin.

martyduren said...

Scott-
Wahoo McDaniel, not "Wohoo." And you call yourself a Georgia boy.

It was really Tony Atlas and Kevin Sullivan, though...before Sullivan went over to the dark side.

What about Milles Mascaras, Mr Wrestling #'s 1 and 2, and Sterling Golden (who later changed his name to, uhm, some guy named Hulk Hogan). Oh yeah, and what about the tag team The Caner Brothers?

BTW, where is Fellowship Community is Buford? I saw the "Tractor Pull" sign too.

Gavin Brown said...

Let me be clear...I used to watch wrestling, as in, when I was 10 years old:) However, I remember quite a bit.

Our youth group recently went to some mind-numbing pep rally conference where STING was one of the conference speakers.

Brian Hamrick said...

It's not Vernon, it's VIRGIL. And I have no idea what happened to him. Parts unknown sounds most likely.

If he's still with the MDM, that causes a problem- because the guy just doesn't say anything, he just sits there.

I wonder if there is a pastor to whom MDM is accountable. I believe he has been a guest on TBN before, maybe multiple times. Let's help this man get his testimony out there in a way that compliments, not confuses the Gospel.

jbuchanan said...

Now with all due respect I must submit the Polish Hammer, Ivan Putsky as being one of the greatest rastler's of all time.

I bet James White is a big time Rowdy Roddy Piper fan with the Kilt and all.

D.R. said...

This is a really sad story. I actually did a D-Now in Clinton, MS and DiBiase's son was my college "helper". He was a great guy and seemed to be a very strong Christian young man (physically and spiritually). From what he said about his father and his family I was really impressed and left there feeling like DiBiase must have had a great ministry with these wrestlers. But, there is a huge difference between being a light in a depraved business and using the depraved business to be a light. I think the latter ends up getting lost in the glitz and the glamor and apparently the sexual undertones.

Scott said...

Marty,

Hello my brother! I live off Sardis Church Road in the Duncan Park neighborhood. I'm about 10 minutes from your church. I was pastoring FBC Oakwood before the theology " Got Me in trouble". We started a church out of that with 30 people. We are currently looking for a rental place but are mtg in Flowery Branch in one of my Elders massive basement. Let's get together!
You got me beat on the Tony Atlas, Kevin Sullivan stuff! Your bringing out some names. Thanks for the spelling correction on the Chief. Wrestling 1 and 2 ( That's classic).

David & Rose Ann said...

Nah, both the Great Kabuki and Fritz Von Erich's iron claw could take Rowdy Roddy and Ivan Putsky.

What are some wrestling pseudonyms we could give some of favorite SBC leaders these days?

Scott said...

Sparrowhawk,

You are scaring me with some of those names. Only a true wrestling fan could remember those. Could it be that there are some closet wrestling fans at the Founders blog. Help us if that is the case ! OK I will admit that in my early teenage yrs I was a big fan of "Jimmy Superfly Snuka" !

Brian R. Giaquinto said...

I was watching it in the days of Hacksaw Jim Dugan, The Iron Sheik, Nicolae Volkoff, and Jake the Snake Roberts.

D.R. said...

As a former Saturday morning wrestling fan, I can't resist throwing out some names. Remember,
Jerry "the King" Lawler
Bill "Superstar" Dundee
The Rock N' Roll Express
CoCo B. Ware (the Birdman)

and the Don King of local wrestling:
Jimmy Hart

Ahh...those were the days.

Even So... said...

Jack and Jerry Briscoe, the Mongolian Stomper, Killer Carl Cox, and Harley Race, circa early to mid seventies.

This "Sting" you mention also has a "wrestling for Jesus" type thing out there. I appreciate their "want to", but just because you have a platform doesn't mean we should be listening. Hopefully, in His grace, God will use these flawed premises in spite of themselves.

In spite of that, and in order to be faithful, we need to help clean up this mess, and call these men and women (hotties for Jesus, anyone?) to account with church discipline.

Oh yeah, I fogot, that doesn't exist anymore.

sigh

Even So...

Scott said...

evenso,

You have to win the award for a wrestling name( Harley Race). I remember watching him. He was a 4-6 time champion. He was on GA championship wrestling.
Let me tell you who looks like Harley Race ( SBC Evangelist Bob Harrington). Maybe they are the same guy ?

hashbrown said...

I smell what you're cooking D.R. on the Saturday morning shows.

I can still remember the Rock-n-Roll Express theme song.

I've seen some big time wrastlin' at Rupp Arena.

Jerry "the King" was the man.
I was also a big Leaping Lanny fan.

The Macho Man almost crushed my hand shaking it at one event. His wife Elizabeth graduated from my high school.

martyduren said...

True Story:

I started a church in Jackson, GA that met in the local skating rink. Every now and then, they hosted the small time wresting guys on Saturday night; more than once we had to set up chairs beside the ring on Sundays.

One such Sunday, I happened into the men's room and saw an unfamiliar piece of notebook paper taped to the wall. It was a handwritten list of all the matches, who was in them, who was going to win and the hold that was going to end the match.

Strange but true...rasslin' is fake.

Sorry Tom, I probably just destroyed your blog.

GUNNY said...

Wrestling ... a soap opera for men.

Still, it's a very popular sport ... er, form of sports entertainment.

Oddly enough, I happened to see the WWE RAW right after Eddie Guererro died. HBK Shawn Michaels reflected on the life of EG and noted that his fondest memory was the bond they shared in the "King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ." He essentially went on to give the Gospel right in the middle of the night of wrestling.

It was surreal. Gimmick or not, he certainly got a larger audience for the gospel than I likely ever will.