So, are you having church Sunday night (if you normally do)? Services cancelled? A Super Bowl party on the church’s big screen? At Southern Hills Baptist Church, we will be having our regularly scheduled service at our regularly scheduled time. Are we the last church in America that carries on as normal on Super Bowl Sunday night?
I would love it if the only voice in my head was the still small voice of the Lord leading and guiding me. But I have another voice there. It’s the voice of Lew Miller. I grew up in a preacher’s home – one who had some pretty strong beliefs about some things. One of Dad’s uncompromisable convictions:
You do not change the worship schedule of the church because of a football game!
My dad is probably more passionate about sports than I am. Yes, he is the one who introduced me to the glories of the greatest sports franchise in world history, the New York Yankees (27 World Series Championships and counting…). He’s a passionate Steelers fan and thinks my quandaries about Roethlisberger are silly. But he is also an old school Baptist. In fact, if you look up “Old School” in the Baptist Handbook, they’ve got my dad’s photo! And the idea of altering the worship of the Lord Jesus Christ to accommodate a football game is just beyond the pale.
When I was a kid, we did not miss church for anything. I mean anything! I remember when my brother made the Little League All-Star team and the game was on a Wednesday night. I was shocked that my dad actually gave my brother permission to attend the game and play (he was the winning pitcher of the game). I did not get to watch the game; I went to church and attended RAs.
That sounds old-fashioned, doesn’t it? But I will tell you one thing, it gave us a sense of priority – that the things going on at the church mattered. If every time there is a conflict between a church activity and a school activity, or between a church event and a sporting event, we sacrifice church, what does that say about our values and priorities?
As a child, I never got to see “The Wizard of Oz.” It was always shown on TV on Sunday nights and I was always at church (Training Union followed by the Evening Worship service – as was dictated in Holy Writ!). One year, I actually faked illness (or more to the point, grossly dramatized and exaggerated an illness) so I could stay home and watch the movie.
When Christmas fell on Sunday, our church carried on as usual (even Sunday night). My dad used to say, “We’re going to celebrate the birth of Christ by NOT worshiping him?” Whenever I cancel or adjust a worship service, I hear a voice in the back of my mind saying, “That’s more important than worship?”
Okay, I know, there is more than one way to look at this. And I am not saying that everyone has to agree with my father’s views, or mine, to be a faithful Christian. I realize I may be alone on this, and year after year I am tempted to change. But I cannot come to the point where I will change our church’s worship schedule because of a football game. Just can’t do it! Somehow, it feels like it sends a message I don’t want to send.
Again, I may be hearing my dad’s voice in my head. I can remember every year in January (the Super Bowl used to be a January event) that on Super Bowl Sunday morning my dad would engage in a lengthy rant about the spiritual state of anyone who would dare to choose a football game over a worship service. We’d actually have good attendance, because I think many of our folks feared for their eternal souls if they chose football over worship.
- Is it possible that Americans, even American Christians, have become somewhat idolatrous about our sports?
- I know that many churches call their Super Bowl parties “outreach” but I’m not sure just how effective an outreach it is.
- Is there value in standing on a principle even when most of your congregation either decides to stay home, or comes to church out of a sense of duty on Super Bowl Sunday?
- I also know that most churches don’t have Sunday night services anymore – so its not a huge issue.
This Sunday night, as the Super Bowl moves into the second quarter, we (me and the 17 other folks who show up) will be singing songs (perhaps acapella if all the musicians desert me) and opening the Bible.
I wonder the following:
- Does everyone think I’m nuts or overly rigid on this?
- Is there anyone else having church Sunday night?
- What does your church do (if they normally have Sunday night services)?
- Are church Super Bowl parties motivated primarily by ministry?
- Do you know anyone who has been saved or whose walk has been renewed through a Super Bowl party?
- Am I wrong in wondering what message it is we are sending when school, sports and other activities are given a higher priority than church events in our lives?
I am not a consistent old-school Baptist. I prefer contemporary worship over traditional by a wide margin. I reject the legalism that dominated Baptist thought in my childhood. We should we willing to let the Bible be our guide and not add human rules to God’s revelation. But having said that, I think there were some old-school values that we have given up – perhaps to our own detriment. There was a sense of loyalty and commitment that seems to be dying out with the World War II generation.
For the time being, I’m going to be the last pastor preaching on Super Bowl Sunday night!