catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 2, Num 2 :: 2003.01.17 — 2003.01.30


The Church vs. Football

For nearly three decades, the American church has been losing yardage in a contest with a most unlikely adversary, the National Football League.

Looking back, we should have recognized the potential conflict the moment football was born—on a Sunday afternoon. And someone should have suspected that Super Bowl Sunday would eventually interfere with evening worship services. But who knew a game could cause such dilemmas for the church and its traditions?

An increase in football’s popularity has produced a variety of odd predicaments for the church. Most of the confrontations involve scheduling conflicts: people choosing to stay home for a football game instead of going to church. Or a mass exodus of believers skipping out before Sunday school to see the game on TV. In other areas of church life, wives report that their families become possessed by football during Sunday dinner. The table often erupts into brutish noises as husband and kids boo and hiss at the television overtop of the mashed potatoes.

Though none of these conflicts require an emergency meeting of the synod or a declaration of Holy War against one of America’s favorite games, something ought to be done. Most attempts to stop the rush of football fever so far have been uncreative or ineffective. Fighting football with sermons on the 2nd Commandment has done little to discourage football-worship (those who need to hear the message are at home watching the game). Condemning people for enjoying football does not help to maintain church attendance on Super Bowl Sunday, either. And making iniquitous the human desire for sport will not exorcise the demons of football frenzy at the dinner table. The church’s response to football requires a creative solution steeped in a spirit of solidarity.

In this spirit of accord, some have suggested bridging the gap between church and football. They propose organizing a Super Bowl Sunday party instead of an evening worship service. Or having a potluck after the morning service while presenting the game on a big-screen TV. According to these visionaries, the church should make the event an opportunity for communal celebration, a joyous occasion combining fellowship with football.

Such suggestions may seem silly or sinful to some, but a conflict so peculiar as the one between church and football requires strange solutions. So it is with this realization that I present my modest proposal for bringing church and football into right relation with one another.

The church must have its own football franchise.

Though establishing an NFL team seems a risky investment, the church will surely reap the benefits. Number one: evangelistic opportunities. A football team owned and operated by the church will put God’s body in a position to show the world how sporting events are to be done Christianly. The church will not be viewed as the irrelevant institution with an inability to compete with football. Instead, believers will be known as the vital members of society who can pass, punt, tackle and block as well as any other team on the field—better, in fact.

Many steps must be taken to make this dream a reality, of course. A collection must be taken to raise money for equipment, players, coaches, etc. Important decisions will have to be made about uniforms, player purchases, mascots, the team name, stadium location and managerial matters. Building the NFL’s very first church football team will take some work, but every hour of labor will bring Christianity that much closer to the Super Bowl.

Imagine the joy that will be shared among all believers when our team takes the field on that Sunday evening, the night of the Super Bowl. In church buildings everywhere, people full of potluck and pride, will huddle around the television to cheer for their team, a football franchise they can truly believe in. For many football fans who have battled the guilty feelings resulting from skipping church to see the game, such a scene seems like a foretaste of heaven.

But much work needs to be done before such a vision can be realized. The modest proposal I have put forth for bringing the church and football into right relation with one another requires the creative, expanding labor of others. Only the imaginative work of the body will free the church once and for all from its enduring conflict with the National Football League.

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