American Pastors wrestle with this question every February. Last year over 108 million Americans watched the big event. Here in Seattle, there will be a slightly higher than average interest in the game, as we have somewhat of a stake in it’s outcome. <– That last bit was tongue in cheek, for those of you suffer from irony anemia.
Churches have taken all sort of different approaches to competing with the Big Game.
I’ve attended churches and seen ads from some who invite everyone to watch the game at the church building together, complete with a tailgate-friendly potluck menu. Of course they’ll mute the audio during commercials and have a devotional at halftime instead of listening to Bruno Mars. And I’m pretty sure cussing out the officials (as some of us were wont to do in Seattle’s last Super Bowl appearance) is frowned upon. But you get the rest of the elements of the big event. It gets awkward sometimes – I was at a church-sanctioned home Super Bowl party the year of the “Wardrobe Malfunction” at halftime. That was…well..hilarious.
Some of the concern has subsided now that the game starts so late in the day and most churches have abandoned Sunday night services – unless you’re throwing a huge fiesta or actually flying to New Jersey, you can totally visit both of America’s favorite temples in one day. I’m thinking the sunrise services will do well this week. Of course there are still some outliers that meet in the evening – like The Table. The game starts at 3:30, and we gather at 6. So we have to answer the question.
Should we cancel church for the Super Bowl? Definitely not. But we are most certainly not having a gathering that night.
Church is not a service, or a gathering, or a building. It is the worldwide community of those who have surrendered their lives to Jesus, past, present, and future. We are the church. Everywhere we go, we represent Christ. We seek to embody and demonstrate the life-altering power of His death and resurrection. We are the light of the world, a city on a hill, the salt of the earth. We are those who have passed from death to life and now hold out the Word of Life.
When a third of our country gathers in homes and public spaces to watch a game together, should we abstain because it conflicts with our regularly scheduled meeting?
If church is a place, then we should. If it is a people, then we should do the opposite – we should open our homes or venture out of them. We should get to know our neighbors, bond with co-workers and complete strangers, and engage with our community. In short, we should be “in the world” (even though we are not “of” it). And what better environment than an NFL-themed party to demonstrate Jesus-esque virtues like patience, self-control, love for enemies, turning the other cheek, and so on (<– that was a little tongue in cheek, but it’s also mostly true).
We aren’t canceling church next week…
…but we are going to save some light and heat in the building we borrow, give the intern who has to lock up after us the night off, and be purposeful in making the most of this opportunity to live like Jesus during the biggest party our city has thrown in decades (maybe the biggest one of its history) by not having our six pm gathering. I think it’s the right thing to do. It’s also sort of a practical concern – I’ve been told I love the sound of my own voice, but it’d be a little ridiculous to give a talk when I’m the ONLY one there (and I’m including my wife – she’s made it clear she will be watching the game – and probably telling stories of the Steve Largent days).
I might get in trouble for this, but I encourage every believer (especially in Seattle) with this: If it comes down to a choice between accepting (or extending) an invitation to join the party and going to a church service, prayerfully consider skipping church for one week. If you can catch an early service, do that (and send in your tithe by mail or online – that’s important too). But if you’re faced with a decision to gather or scatter this week, you should work your way into some game day bash somewhere. Jesus’ first miracle happened at a big party. Who knows what might happen as you represent Him at one!
Also, GO HAWKS!