The Barna Group released a new study last week finding almost two-thirds (64%) of Americans believe professional athletes have a greater influence on society than faith leaders. The report also suggested most people are increasingly comfortable with the blending of faith and sports, even to the point of having no problem with the fact that an athlete like Tim Tebow is widely seen as a more effective ambassador of the Christian faith than a given national religious figure.
Such news probably doesn’t come as a great surprise to many, but it still represents and reveals an interesting shift in the faith landscape. It also shines a light on the priorities of our culture.
David Kinnamon, president of the Barna Group, said the study shows “most Americans are comfortable with a mash-up of their faith and their sports. That there’s such a strong and positive awareness of Tim Tebow and his faith reveals Americans – and particularly Christians – desire for an authentic role model who is willing to so publically connect his faith and life.”
Like many of you, I have a great deal of respect for Tim Tebow (I’m curious where he’ll land next season), and I’ve enjoyed watching the way he uses his influence to share his faith and live as a strong role model. Professional athletes have the unique opportunity of exercising a far-reaching influence. It’s good for athletes like Tim to take advantage of these opportunities wisely and winsomely.
But should it concern us if our society esteems athletes as more influential than faith leaders? Or is it inevitable given our rapidly shifting culture?