What Kind of Church Would Cancel Services for a Football Game?
I'm continuing this series on "What Kind of Church Would..." to let you know about some of the decisions we've made recently as a result of our 2016 Vision. Yesterday I told you we recently decided to begin meeting in a Casino as we prepare to launch a new campus. Today it's all about football. For years we have had a dilemma during football season. You see, our Granger campus is 4.9 miles from Notre Dame University where the Fighting Irish play football. And many Saturdays, these games happen at the same time as one or both of our Saturday services. And each fall, we continue to pretend like nothing is happening as we hold services and have about 3 empty chairs for every occupied chair. It's not that everyone in town is at the game (the stadium only holds 80,000), but those who aren't are home watching the game, and those who hate Notre Dame are home watching Michigan or Purdue or Ohio State.
We live in South Bend, and this town lives and breathes football. Why? Because there isn't much else to do.
So, when in Rome, do as the Romans, right? This year we decided we will work with the system instead of against it. We will no longer pretend that a football game isn't happening. Instead, we will encourage people to attend. Here is how we are doing it:
We are launching a series on September 8th called Play Like a Champion. That is one of the most well-known motivational phrases in football, and has a long history at Notre Dame. We will be playing off this phrase, using a sports-related theme, but focusing it toward the discipline and work of the spiritual life. The series will culminate with an opportunity for people to cross the line of faith and even be baptized in the services on the final weekend.
Each Saturday of the series we will be customizing the services around the biggest football games of the year...
- September 8th -- Notre Dame plays Purdue at 3:30 in the afternoon, and we are inviting everyone to the church to watch the game on the 48'-wide high definition screen. We will cancel our 5pm service and hold one service at 7pm after the game. During half-time we will have some kickin' live music from our band.
- September 15th -- It is Notre Dame against Michigan State at 8:00pm. We will have normal services, but will guarantee that the 7pm service ends before kick-off. Then the game will be projected on the big screen again. The entire family will be encouraged to stay and enjoy the game on the big screen with the live band again during half-time.
- September 22nd -- This may be the biggest game of the season. It's Notre Dame versus Michigan at 7:30 in ND's stadium. We will again hold normal services, but our 7pm service will be very short (about 30-minutes). We will switch to the game for kick-off at 7:40pm and again have a party in the auditorium.
- (It should be noted...I predict Notre Dame will win all three of these games).
- September 29th -- This is a bye week (no game). But we will continue the fun and invite thousands to tailgate in the parking lot all afternoon before the 5pm service.
So, it is true. We are canceling a service for a football game. But we believe this direction will draw hundreds of people who would not normally be interested in church. We think it's possible that scores of people will come to church for the first-time ever during this series--and they may be some of the very people who will make a decision to follow Jesus and then get baptized on October 6th or 7th.
Have you read what Paul said in I Corinthians 9:19-23?
Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Irish I became like the Irish, to win the Irish. To those who love football, I became a football fan (though I myself don't even like the game), so as to win those who know every word of the Notre Dame Victory March. To the weak (i.e. the Michigan Wolverines) I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
I may have taken some liberties with the translation, but you get the point.
What do you think--are we selling out? Or are following the example of Paul to do what it takes to reach people with the gospel?