The Sunday Sports Dilemma
This Sunday is perhaps the biggest holiday in America. More than 100 million people from the United States alone will be tuned in to watch the Super Bowl. During the game Americans will eat over 2400 calories of junk food during the game. The Super Bowl has always been played on a Sunday. It’s just a part of our culture and it’s super fun! This year my New England Patriots will once again be defending their reign as a true football dynasty. In the midst of this hubbub it’s easy to forget about another thing that tends to happen on Sundays. What’s it called again? Oh yes, church.
The rise of both youth and adult sports that play on Sundays has created a strange new conflict for Christians. Suddenly a decision must be made. We are forced to decide between sports and church. Increasingly, sports win that decision.
Here’s the deal. I think we can all agree that consistency is very important to build relationships with our church family and to grow as disciples. With this focus on consistency we have all probably made decisions to say “no” to other things so we can be in church on Sundays. And, yet, for some reason sports can be its own ball game (pun intended).
Now, I’m not saying that one missed Sunday will derail your spiritual growth but you have to admit that our society is set up to undermine the discipline of regularly attending church. Unless you are very vigilant to protect your church commitment, you can quickly find that one Sunday missed has become many Sunday’s missed. If you allow this process to continue the “church habit” you once possessed will likely be replaced.
Please keep this in mind: church attendance is not the goal. The church, however, is the way that God has provided for people to grow in their knowledge and love of who God is and build redemptive relationships. Basically, church is not just a good idea - it is God’s idea.
This brings us back to our predicament. We can hopefully acknowledge that church is important but at the same time the Super Bowl begins at the same time as most Sunday evening services. In addition, this Sunday will probably not be the only time this year that a sporting event happens at the same time as a church service. Whether it’s the Super Bowl or your kid’s peewee football game, there will likely be a time where you are forced to choose between church and sports.
I’m not here to tell you not to watch the big game this Sunday. I will likely be wearing red, white, and blue all day on Sunday and you can be sure that as soon as the closing prayer is over on Sunday night I will be headed straight to my car so I can get home without missing much of the game. I’m not here to knock churches that use the Super Bowl as an outreach event. That is certainly their prerogative and if they feel it helps reach their community with the Gospel then “where Christ is preached I will rejoice.” My only purpose in writing this is that we may evaluate our motivations. The sports/church conflict is a big issue facing families today. It is, therefore, vitally important that we make every effort (both for ourselves and particularily in the training of our children) to set the precedent of placing spiritual things before temporal things.
Maybe this Sunday you could allow this “sports dilemma” to be a time to consider how you prioritize your faith. Part of your process of maturing in your faith is allowing moments and people to challenge and examine your heart. That includes the importance you place on sports.
On Super Bowl Sunday, most Americans will be watching the game, and thousands of Christians will likely be doing the same. Regardless of who takes home the Lombardi Trophy the question still remains: What is most important in your life? This Sunday I’ll be rooting for the Patriots but my happiness does not rest on whether or not they win or lose. I also will be making the purposeful decision to place church as first priority on my calendar even if it means I will miss the first quarter of the Super Bowl (DVRs are pretty great, by the way).
When we consider the criteria for prioritizing one event over another - value, importance, duty, etc. - the one criterion that often wins out in our own thinking is desirability - which one do you want more? If choosing sports over church is a "no-brainer," perhaps it's time to reevaluate how much you love the church. Am I saying that missing a church service is a sin? No. But your motivation for missing that service certainly could be.
Caleb Phelps graduated from BJU with a BA in Bible and an MA in Theology. After graduating from seminary Caleb traveled in evangelism which took him across the country to many different churches and camps. While he was traveling Caleb met the love of his life, Rachel. They got married and moved to Indianapolis, IN where Caleb now serves as the youth pastor at Crosspointe Baptist Church. You can check out his youth group's website at www.crosspointeyouth.com.
1/31/2018 10:02:41 am
This is a non-issue for me. When the NFL allowed its players to dishonor the flag, I chose to tune out. The NFL doesn't exist anymore as far as I'm concerned.
2/4/2018 12:35:05 pm
Thank you Caleb for a good, balanced, thought provoking look at this increasingly problematic situation that believers are challenged by. May the eternal rewards ever win out over temporal gratification.
2/8/2018 07:41:39 am
Is preparing to rush out the door as soon as the benediction is complete any better than just skipping the service to watch the game? It seems like both cases prioritize the football game over being with God's people. But attending while planning to rush home so as not to miss too much of the game treats the service as a chore to be checked off a to-do list, does it not? From that perspective skipping the service might be preferable, unless we're willing to really focus on bring with and ministering to God's people, no matter how much football we miss.
2/8/2018 08:59:07 am
It's dangerous to assign motive. One could be attending church and then rush home because he sees it as a chore OR, because he truly loves and values the church, but also is excited that his team is in the Super Bowl. Is it ok for a Christian to both love the Church and enjoy watching sports?
2/8/2018 02:40:48 pm
I think your question answers itself. We love the church, but we enjoy sports. These are not equivalent by any stretch of the imagination.
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