Super Bowl Sunday

Should this annual sporting event be used as an outreach tool to win souls for Christ?

Jim Allen

"Do you enjoy a relaxed atmosphere at church? How about an extra dose of excitement? Or maybe you would like to have some extra snacks around the facility conveniently placed for you to partake in as you make your way from your class to the worship center. What if you could experience this and much more on the same Sunday? If this describes something you have been waiting for then Tailgate Sunday 2013 is FOR YOU!" [1]
The preceding excerpt is part of a "church invite" to the community. The invite continues by saying the church will have its regular worship service followed by an exciting encore, beginning with the traditional tailgating snacks, decorations, and fanfare. The invite continues by promoting the "excitement and pomp of Super Bowl Sunday" that will be an event enjoyed by all. Making plans now to attend the gala happening will ensure an exciting opportunity for family, friends and community alike. The author concludes with the following verse, "O taste and see that the LORD is good" (Psalm 34:8).

While there is nothing wrong with attending or watching a sporting event, keep in mind that it is an idol of the world. "Idol" may sound like a strong word, but by definition, an idol is anything that captures the longing of the heart. Many born-again believers enjoy sports with family and friends without ever allowing it to command their fondness for things in the world. However, should a church really be hosting a Super Bowl event? Certainly, this particular sporting event has captured the hearts of many Americans. Athletes devote their entire lives to sports in hopes of attaining fame, wealth, and recognition for their athletic prowess. Fans do the same but in different ways. To focus so intently on a sport or other worldly, lifelong endeavor is idol worship (Galatians 2:20).

In the letter to the church at Pergamos, Jesus told John to write, "But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel..." (Revelation 2:14). The doctrine of Balaam, simply put, is the disregard for the word of God mixed with the false teachings of men (2 Peter 2:15). The Pergamos church began to mix the things of God with the idols of the world, yoking themselves to worldly enjoyment and unbelief. Is the church at enmity with God when it promotes the idea that we can have fellowship with God while partaking in the ways of the world, then credit this work to God's goodness (James 4:4)?

Since football is an idol of the world, it would appear wrong for the church to use it in an attempt to win souls for Christ. One insightful, online commentator quipped about the Super Bowl that he could not find one instance in the Bible of the Apostles inviting their "lost friends" to the Circus Maximus in ancient Rome . These well-intended outreaches may have debatable success at best; at worst, they become votes of no-confidence for the Gospel (Romans 1:16). What message does the church send to unbelievers by inviting them to worship their idols in God's House?

Jesus said, "And I (if I be lifted up from the earth) will draw all men unto me" (John 12:32). To glorify a sporting event in church is to lift up not Christ but the big screen—a powerful high-tech tool for viewing the most famous sporting idol of all time instead of the most powerful, most high, Almighty God.

Have some churches replaced the golden calf with idols, one of which is sports? How many athletes have given their entire lives pursuing the promises of achievement through a sport only to discover later they worshiped at the altar of a powerless god with empty promises? Super Bowl Sunday, or any sport taken to the extreme, has the potential to invite idolatry into our hearts. Idols have no place in the church or in God's plan to redeem men (2 Corinthians 6:16).

Our modern idols are many and varied. Even for those who do not bow before a statue, idolatry is a matter of the heart manifesting as pride; idolatry is a passion for something other than God; it comes in the form of greed, gluttony, and love for possessions and wealth. Ultimately, idols separate us from God. Is it any wonder that God hates idolatry? And is it any wonder why God made idolatry the first among His Ten Commandments to observe when He said, "I am the LORD your God...You shall have no other gods before Me" (Exodus 20:2-3). [2]

While watching the Super Bowl with family and friends is one thing, using it as a tool to carry out the work of the Great Commission is quite another (Romans 1:21-23) . Mixing the holy with the profane is the sin of Balaam, an invitation to receive the rebuke of Christ (Revelation 2:14).

Genuine believers will treasure the message of the Gospel with the understanding the Ten Commandments are principles of Godly behavior to help define daily priorities. We honor the Ten Commandments not because we must but because we are new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 John 2:4, 5:3).

Perhaps a better "use" of Super Bowl Sunday would be to leave the church walls behind, meeting unbelievers where they are cheering on their teams, and begin friendships that could eventually lead to conversations about Christ. The Great Commission is a command to go out and deliver the Good News (Matthew 28:19), not to entice unbelievers into the church by dangling their idols before them.

[1] Tailgate Sunday 2013, North Richland Hills Baptist Church (Blog)
[2] What is the definition of idolatry?, (Paraphrased)

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Published 1-8-13