Thinking Out Loud

February 5, 2017

A Blog Post No One Will Read

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 2:44 pm

Church and SportsI’m later posting today, and I’m writing this knowing that this will largely go unread in North America, as everyone is preoccupied with a major sporting event, the one Internet Monk referred to yesterday as the Superb Owl, because there is an obsession with not trespassing on the event’s trademarked name.

I’m also listening to a delayed broadcast of this morning’s service from North Point as I type. I was late for that one as well, but I can tell that their game-related “opener” ran about nine minutes. That’s a lot of time to subtract from a worship service for the purpose of creating a visitor-friendly welcome or setting a relaxed atmosphere for regulars. I mean, try explaining this part of the “liturgy” to an Episcopalian. There isn’t a section in the Book of Common Prayer that says, ‘the officiant will pause and do a stand-up routine about the closest state college football team.’

At risk of offending a whole lot of people, I don’t think sports commentary has any place in the worship service. Ditto comments about the weather. From the call to worship to the benediction, the service should focus on God, Jesus, confession, forgiveness, the body of Christ, the resurrection and commissioning to leave and take the good news into the world.

I don’t want to be a curmudgeon, and I’m all for seeker-friendly services (though seeker-targeted is another subject) but I just think we overindulge the sports enthusiasts and alienate those who came for the purpose of connecting with God and getting what they need for the 167 hours in the week to follow.

To everything there is a season: A time for sports and a time for worship. But that worship hour is precious and let’s not squander a minute of it.

…Okay, now go enjoy the game.


  1. I am not offended by your comments regarding the contents of a worship service, but I do feel the need to offer my perspective. I and most of the people I do church with now did not come to faith in Jesus through a traditional Sunday worship service as practiced by most denominations over the last couple of generations. There was too much insider language and customs and practices we didn’t understand. If anything it created a barrier to faith. We all came to know Jesus through relationships with people we knew or worked with, or through churches that presented the Sunday service in a way that was open to outsiders.

    I am not knocking the more traditional approach – it’s great for people that understand church history and all of the “rules” of how to worship – but it makes it difficult for a lot of people to actually connect to Jesus. My exerience has been that folks in traditional worship settings connect first with a tradition and set of cultural rituals, and maybe down the road they actually encounter the living God. There are times in history and in certain cultures where that has been just fine, but I feel in our increasingly secular and multicultural world we need to be open to other ways of doing things, I think that the elements of the service you mention are foundational, but if presented in a way that is steeped in 20th century western culture that assumes a high level of Christian literacy, you might be spinning your wheels.

    Comment by jeffrey jenkins — February 5, 2017 @ 5:51 pm

    • Thanks for your comment. I have for years been a proponent of some of the modern methods of doing church, starting with the day a friend returning from Chicago gave me a copy of Bill Hybels “Philosophy of Ministry” cassette. (Yes, a cassette.) I also love the quotation, “The problem isn’t that some churches are seeker-sensitive, the problem is that some churches are seeker-hostile.”

      Maybe I wrote the piece in a bit of a hurry, but my issue is a rather constant obsession with sports. Maybe that’s just an American thing. One time I was invited to a high school basketball game in Fairport, a suburb of Rochester, NY. It amazed me that the stands were full and I think the students had paid a nominal admission charge. There were cheerleaders and a band. In my Canadian high school, a basketball game against another school might have attracted 75 people and people would come and go in the middle. We do have sports franchises that work well — The Toronto Maple Leafs aren’t the most successful in the NHL but are said to be the most profitable — but we don’t have college football to the same degree as in the U.S. and our CFL isn’t the big deal that is the NFL.

      I’m all for “churches that presented the Sunday service in a way that was open to outsiders…” but I think there are various possible points of connection with mainstream culture besides sports. Further, I think that once we’ve made that point of contact, and it’s clear we’re normal, everyday neighbors; then it’s time to get to the heart of whatever spiritual felt-needs that culture has. They’re coming to church for some kind of God-connection, for sports there’s ESPN.

      I’m not Anglican or anything close; I’ve just seen a lot of time squandered with improvised skits and games; time that could have been spent addressing the lack of Biblical literacy among the general populace. Though I need to note that many Millennials are choosing to go an Episcopalian or high-church direction.

      A church service should be different from comedy night at the community center. If the big game (state college team or Superb Owl) is the elephant in the room, by all means address it, but then move on.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — February 5, 2017 @ 7:16 pm

  2. I’m here and I’m reading.

    here in Denver, this town is Bronco’s crazy. And that includes our pastors.

    I’ve heard cheerleading from the stage by the pastors, the worship team, the announcement. I’ve heard benedictions including blessings for the team. It’s sickening and I totally agree.

    Comment by davidrupert — February 5, 2017 @ 7:48 pm

  3. You are right. The pastor has one hour to get His message between the ears of the joe in the pew. It’s not going to kill the congregation if he stays on message with the Gospel. And it won’t hurt the pastor if he quits worrying about entertaining or making reference to the big game throughout the liturgy. Every service has a few minutes dedicated to church news, requests and stuff. Do it during that time.
    Thanks for the time and effort you put into your posts. It shows.

    Comment by The Purging Lutheran — February 5, 2017 @ 9:40 pm

  4. Haha, read this post… but I’m in Japan. I was flying a mission during the big event, but I couldn’t care less about sportsball. To each their own hobbies, and hobbies can be healthy outlets… but yeah, unless it directly ties into the message (story of some athlete’s courage or perseverance), I don’t care.

    Comment by sonworshiper — February 6, 2017 @ 4:35 am

  5. The church should maintain the ability to speak into, criticize and call culture to Jesus, and that must at least begin with recognizing it. My hometown city of Atlanta was IN the superbowl…people all across the city were wearing jerseys, and dare I say football even led people to forget about their differences and stop complaining about politics. And while there’s certainly a time for seriousness, the church should also be able to have fun when corporately gathered.

    Comment by michael lukaszewski — February 21, 2017 @ 7:14 am

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