I have three great passions in my life. First is God, second is my family, and third is sports. Being a sports fan, there are some great times of year. Number one, of course, is March Madness! The men’s college basketball tournament happens every March, the undisputed best sports time of the year. But there are others: the World Series (over which there is much controversy right now), the NBA playoffs, the entire college football season (GO MICHIGAN!), and then of course the Super Bowl! As most I’m sure know, the Super Bowl is in a couple of weeks, and millions of people will watch the San Francisco 49ers play the Kansas City Chiefs. Now, no one cares, but I believe that the 49ers will emerge from this game victorious even though I am cheering for the Andy Reid led Chiefs!
I’m not going to spend time here breaking down the reasons why I believe defense wins championships or how good the 49ers defense is this year, because I want to spend some time talking about the halftime of the Super Bowl. All over our country, there are going to be churches having Super Bowl party potlucks or catered meals or chili cook offs in the fellowship halls or gyms. Your church will have their members invite their friends and neighbors to the event, and the first half will be very entertaining as the game is expected to be the best offense versus the best defense. At half time, many churches will not watch the halftime show. Many will mute it or turn the screens off for a short worship service or a speaker to get up and share the gospel with all who attend. Then when the second half starts the game will be unmuted or the screens will be turned back on. I have attended similar experiences in my life, and I believe that they are egregious.
I am in no way against sharing the Gospel. I am pro-evangelism. I am pro-sharing your faith with any one. I also understand that this may be one of the major outreaches your church does every year. But most of the time, these events are often presented as Super Bowl watching parties/chili cook offs or fellowships, etc. They are rarely marketed as including “a short gospel message shared at halftime” or “sing with our worship team during half time.” If they are advertised that way, then I have no issues with those things happening. But if they are not clearly stated on any material advertising the event, you have pulled a “bait and switch” on your community and lost some influence and respect with them.
Imagine that you were invited by a friend to a free Chris Tomlin concert at the local concert venue. You, of course, go because free Tomlin doesn’t happen very often and it will be a fun experience and you know you will get your worship on. You arrive at the venue, have fun and fellowship, and then Chris Tomlin takes the stage. You get your aforementioned “worship on” for a solid hour. Then Chris steps off stage for the next act to come up and it’s Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus singing Old Town Road and a few of their other songs. How do you feel in that moment? Surprised? Shocked? Maybe a little annoyed? You went expecting one thing and it turned into something very different. Usually when people experience the bait and switch, they come out feeling uneasy, maybe even angry because expectations many times shape our feelings. When they go unmet we get angry. And we lose trust in the source. In the example given maybe we lose trust in the friend that invited us to the concert in the first place.
I am not saying that churches should not do Super Bowl parties. I believe that the events can truly be a great outreach to your community. Watching the big game on a big screen, eating good food, and having fun are all things I believe can be a blessing to them. The event is a great opportunity for your church to get to know people who may not normally come to your church and establish or nurture relationships with them. What I am saying is if you have other motives, make them known before people come to the event. If this is just a big evangelism opportunity for your church, make sure that has clearly been communicated.
Far too many times in the past the church has “baited and switched” folks and it has become harder and harder to get them in the doors. I have found that people are much more appreciative of honesty and are more willing to hear or participate in activities when there is no deceit. I have also found that bringing your community in the doors for an event where instead of having the gospel sung or spoken to them it is lived out in front of them, relationships are formed, lives are changed and true discipleship happens. In 2020 I hope that churches stop pulling a “bait and switch” and start being fully honest with people and see how God blesses and moves in our communities.