I’ll admit, I’ve struggled for years about having a party at church on Superbowl Sunday that is focused on the game and eating tailgating food. The part I do enjoy is the fellowship, simply because I like hanging out with friends and family in a relaxed setting. However, I enjoy almost nothing else about it, and I think wisdom and prudence call us to cancel this event in the life of our church. I have listed out several reasons why.
It Is the Lord’s Day – All Day
Many Christians struggle with the fact that we are commanded of God to set aside the Lord’s Day for worship and focus on Him. The Superbowl is not a God-focused event, not in the least (nobody would argue that it is). It is entertaining, it is recreational, but it is not God-focused. It does not induce worship.
Now, those of you who know me know that I am not a legalist. I do not believe in imposing rigid rules on people and giving the impression that we are earning our salvation by “being good.” I am not in the least opposed to people watching and enjoying the Superbowl, even on a Sunday. What bothers me is when our church (an organization whose purpose is to promote the worship of God) changes the focus of people who come to our building from worship to Superbowl party.
To be clear, I’m not against canceling services on the Sunday night the Superbowl is played. I understand the wisdom of that. It gives people the opportunity to watch the game if they want or to host a party in their home if they desire (as opposed to the church building). It also gives people who are not interested in the game the opportunity to continue studying the Scriptures, praying, or other God-focused activities. Canceling church activities gives people a choice to use that evening as they choose.
It Doesn’t Really Work as Outreach
One of the reasons we have hosted the Superbowl party in the past was because it seemed like a good idea to reach out to the community. However, the past several years has revealed that it doesn’t work. Very, very few guests have been a part of the party. It is mostly the faithful core who show up, swap chicken wings and desserts, and most leave in the third quarter, so that by the end of the game there are a small handful left to clean up the mess.
In other words, the party doesn’t seem to help achieve the goals of our church in any real way.
It Creates a Lot of Work for Just a Few
Most years, I have found myself being the person who has to organize the party. From obtaining the satellite to setting up the projector, chairs, and tables, to promoting the event, it seems most of the work falls back on me. Now, I do not mind working, but I want to be efficient in the efforts I give to ministry. As stated under the previous two points, the Superbowl party doesn’t really lend itself to the goals of our church. Why should I put so much pastoral energy into making it happen?
It’s the South – Nobody Cares
I have also found by talking to folks, that very few really care about the Superbowl in our area. Certainly, most women don’t, but very few men do either. Why? Because this is Alabama and Auburn territory. We are not, generally speaking, into NFL. Therefore, the folks who come to the party only seem nominally interested in the game. People seem to be there out of obligation to support the church who is carrying out the event (a noble purpose to be there). But why should we exert so much energy creating hype around a game that seems trivial and insignificant at best?
I am a big baseball and Braves fan. In the past, the Braves have had some big games on Sunday nights – plenty of important post-season games. I have always accepted the reality that I would be missing those games. As a church, we have more important matters to deal with. I can always catch up on the Braves later.
But why should we promote a game in such a public way that most people honestly don’t care about?
Commercials and Half Time
Many folks watch the game, not for the game, but for the commercials and half time show. Most of the commercials are great and funny and well done. I’ve always enjoyed them. But you can count on the fact that there will be a good number of raunchy commercials as well. Hardee’s, Victoria’s Secret, and other companies who sell their products with vile images will be an active part of the commercial lineup.
This always creates a majorly uncomfortable situation for me as a pastor. And I’m sure other church leaders have felt this discomfort as well. Because we are showing these commercials publicly at our church building, I cannot help but feel we are implicitly endorsing these types of commercials and the products they are selling. Sure you can verbalize, “We don’t endorse,” but come on, we are showing it on a huge screen in front of the crowd. Actions speak louder than words.
The same is true for the half time show. Most years, it majors in raunchy. This year, it could get bad, with the notoriously raunchy Red Hot Chili Peppers. Flea, the bassist for the band, has promised he will be shedding much clothing during the show. He has proven through the years how willing he is to do this.
Now I understand, people have a right to watch this in their homes. But should our church (an organization designed to help people worship God, and to promote sexual purity, among other virtues) willingly and openly display these things before a crowd of folks in the name of fellowship and outreach. It just does not seem wise to me.
In the past two years, we did not display the half time show. I actually gave a devotion during that time. However, it was not appreciated or well received (understandably). It did not fit the flow of the party. We were not there for devotion, we were there for entertainment. It seems the devotion was a meager attempt for me to feel better about myself.
Now, I know that some may not agree with my assessment or with the cancellation of the party. I invite your input, and I’m willing to listen. But I am bound by what God has laid upon my conscious.
I apologize, of course, for the late date for this cancellation (the day before the big game). I’ve thought about it all week, and was deeply bothered, but only this morning in prayer did I get real clarity as to what needed to be done.
I also apologize for not going through proper church channels (elder, deacons, staff). I respect and submit to these church authorities, as they all well know, but there are times when a pastor needs to do what a pastor needs to do. I’m sure there will be time for discussion in those groups about future events.
Finally, please know that this decision comes as a conscious desire to honor God as a church family and organization. What we promote organizationally says much about who we are as a body. This cancelation is not meant to impose rules and regulations on individuals or families. This is a decision based on the TYPE of organization we are (church), and what our goals are (to make disciples who look up to God, in to the body, and out to the world). I hope you understand. Again, I value all input.