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This ‘Bud’ might not be for you

By Scott Hilgendorff/Cow boys of the Cross

Imagine walking into a church Sunday morning and seeing seats bearing Budweiser logos and a banner across the top of the pulpit, just above a large wooden cross with the slogan, “This Bud’s for you.”

A commercial for an upcoming concert at the neighboring casino is projected onto a screen ahead of the morning’s announcements and then the pastor steps forward to deliver the sermon in a Bible whose cover holds the Alberta Premium Rye logo.

 The average Christian would find that immediately offensive.

A non-Christian, entering church for the first time would most likely be confused by the mixed messages. Without understanding salvation and grace and mercy that’s found through Jesus Christ, most would at least associate Christianity with being about being ‘good’ and avoiding sin. Yet these logos suggest a way of life that they understand by church standards, to be sinful.

What kind of message does that send to a world that doesn’t understand the need to repent from our sin and experience a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ?

Now imagine you show up at a rodeo or bull riding in a part of North America where Christianity isn’t as widely accepted and you’re known as one of those Bible thumpers or holy rollers. Or you compete in an area where almost everyone is a Christian. But as you gather for cowboy church or as you sit on  your horse waiting for your turn in the box in calf roping, you’re wearing a jacket with logos from that same beer company and that same casino.

 Now is when being a Christian in the sport of rodeo or bull riding can become complicated. What do you do?

 Christians are supposed to represent Christ to the world around them that doesn’t know our Savior.  

1 Corinthians 11:1 Be imitators of Christ, as I am of Christ

Ephesians 5:1-2 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 4:22-24 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

We’re to be different from the world around us that lives a life corrupted by sin and live a life instead as someone who understands he is forgiven from those sins through his faith in Jesus. We’re far from perfect, but as we strive to become more like Christ, others see that and understand there’s something different about us and the choices we make.

 But do we complicate their ability to see Christ in us when logos on our shirts and vests project back to them, not the light of Christ but the marketing of sin?

So what do you do when your local bar wants to sponsor you or, when you’ve made it to the PBR and NFR levels and you have a beer company wanting to hand you fist-fulls of money?

You pray. You seek God’s wisdom. You look for answers in His word, the Bible. And you search your own heart to be sure you’re not looking for ways to justify a choice you want to make, same as any difficult decisions we face.

Part 1 of 3 on what the Bible teaches about Sin City sponsorship

Riding for the Brand. A three-part series exploring what it means for a Christian cowboy or Christian bull riding to live a Christ-like life with rodeos and bull ridings sponsored by sin-related companies.

Part 1

That brand might cause a stumble

By Scott Hilgendorff/Cow boys of the Cross

I had a conversation once with a bronc rider who was fired up in his faith, telling others about Jesus, all the while wearing a logo for a local country bar on his shirts and vest.

He had a difficult time understanding the confusing message something as simple as a logo presented, especially to another young bull rider who knew him, hung out at that same bar, and was trying to understand what the difference was between being a Christian and living like everyone else when this cowboy seemed to be doing both.

Worse, the bronc rider connected with the bull rider’s girlfriend and because his judgment was messed up by being drunk, he got caught fooling around in the parking lot with the bull rider’s girlfriend.

If that was Christianity, the bull rider didn’t want to have anything to do with it.

This is how hard Christianity gets. This bronc rider had become a stumbling block of sorts for this other cowboy who couldn’t see Christ through the contradictory actions of the other.

But guess what… it gets even more complicated.

The bronc rider’s justification for being at the bar was because the youth pastor from his church was there every week. The pastor was there to dance and have fun, without drinking, but the bronc rider didn’t see the difference and went there to party.

The pastor had become a stumbling block for the bronc rider who drove someone else away from Christianity.

Now, this is extremely important. Grace. When we’re saved through our faith in Jesus Christ, we’re forgiven for our sins, past and present. It’s not an excuse to continue to sin, but we can’t hold on to self-pity or self-loathing for the mistakes we sometimes make.

Romans 6: 1-4 (but we recommend reading all of Romans 6)

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

The illustration these three men give us, shows us why a life in Christ needs to be devoted to letting ourselves be changed by God through the Holy Spirit in us. We can learn something important about what it means to be a stumbling block and the warnings the Bible gives us about it.

1 Corinthians 10: 31-33

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

See how relevant something written 2,000 years ago still is today? Paul, in is letter to the Corinthian church is urging us to live in a way that honors God so that others, through our actions, may come to know Him and experience the saving grace found in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Can something as simple as a beer logo on your shirt sleeve be what causes someone to stumble? Maybe. A decision to wear one deserves prayer and thought, as do many choices we make that can confuse non-believers struggling to understand what about Christianity is worthwhile.

Part 2 of 3 on what the Bible teaches about Sin City sponsorship

Part 2

By Scott Hilgendorff/Cow boys of the Cross

The past two Center Gate Stories have focused on the issue of corporate brands and how, for Christians, they can be complicated when they represent products related to sin. They can become stumbling blocks in the way of some growing in their faith and others ever coming to know Jesus.

           We're going to look at two of those: alcohol and gambling.

 The Bible makes alcohol easy to understand (and drug use applies here as well). Drunkenness is a sin.

          Some will argue that any kind of drinking is wrong but to debate it based on Jesus turning water to wine or sitting down with sinners has nothing to do with going out to a bar and partying.

         Can you really put yourself in those situations and have enough self-control to not end up getting drunk? Some people can, most people can't.

         It's also a reason why the Bible includes reference to being of self-control in multiple verses including describing it as a 'fruit of the Spirit', a characteristic that grows in us when our relationship with Jesus is real.

         A person can't be drunk or under the influence of drugs and be of self-control. Without self-control, we can't be under God's perfect influence and we're more likely to commit other sins.

Ephesians 5:18  And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Then we have gambling. The Bible doesn't teach specifically on gambling itself. They didn't have casinos back then. But it doesn't make Scripture irrelevant to our culture today. There is plenty of teaching that applies.

        The Bible tells us to be good stewards of the resources that God gives us.

Hebrews 13:5 Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”

Proverbs 21:5 Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.

1 Timothy 6:9-11  People who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.  And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life…

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and money.

         It also tells us to be thankful for what God has given us.

      So when we take the money he has provided and risk it for the chance to gain more, we're essentially telling God that what He gave us isn't good enough. On top of that, even if we do believe He's given us enough, we're saying we're still willing to risk what He provided for a chance at more. That's not being a good steward of His resources, especially when we weigh it against the needs of others be they missionaries.

       Think about it this way:  We’re into Las  Vegas rodeo and bull riding season with the PBR Finals just completed and the National Finals Rodeo on the horizon. How many thousands of dollars would ministries like this and cowboy churches out there have every year to further the work of God if people donated the cost of what they drank in beer, smoked in pot and risked at casinos during less than three week’s of events. By calling it what it is, Sin City, we actually minimize the very real reasons Vegas has that nickname.

      So...when it comes to wearing a company's logo, what would you take into consideration before promoting it to thousands of people during your upcoming rodeo and bull riding seasons? Have you weighed the cost? Have you thought about what it communicates about you as a Christian, to others?  

       Like cowboying, Christianity is not an easy lifestyle.

It’s Sin City season

Part 3of 3 on what the Bible teaches about Sin City sponsorship

Part 3