Let me start by saying I have no ecclesiastical authority to be giving pastors advice at all. And God’s servants who minister to their local flocks should be esteemed for their service in a holy calling. So I begin this post with the humility of a member of the universal body, under the authority of the elders of a local body, encouraging pastors in the global body in the care of their flocks.
I know some churches will have their normal Sunday evening services tonight, and that’s great. And others will cancel their normal Sunday evening services tonight to provide space for their congregations to engage in their communities, and that’s great. And some churches don’t have Sunday evening services at all, and that’s great.
Mark Driscoll will be preaching this evening and TIVOing the game. CJ Mahaney will be watching the event and bringing an eternal perspective to a temporal game. Thousands of other pastors whose names are known only to God and their congregations will be preaching tonight to smaller-than-normal gatherings because they love the word of God and know preaching to be one of its most powerful expressions.
But there will be some pastors who tell their congregations today that they need to choose between the Super Bowl and church, and I suppose a minority may do it with the right heart. But there will be others who pose the choice as a false choice of faith—do you love Jesus more than football?
I call it a false choice because today is not the day to be asking this kind of question. Every day is the day to be asking this kind of question. Every sermon you preach is an opportunity to ask your flock this question—do you love Jesus, or do you love the world?
We as the church need this kind of question, this kind of preaching, every time we sit to hear you speak. We need to be constantly reminded that “whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake…will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul” (Mark 8:35-36). We face this choice—Jesus or the world—every day as we rise, and work, and eat, and drink, and talk, and we need you to constantly point us to the superior value of Christ over anything the world can offer.
If you only ask this question on Super Bowl Sunday, you are likely going to be teaching your people to feel one of two things—either moral superiority, which will lead them straight down the path towards pride, or guilt, which will lead them straight down the path towards shame. And pride and shame won’t encourage your people to value Jesus as their greatest treasure.
So maybe the best thing to do is to preach if you are scheduled to preach, and don’t preach if you’re not scheduled to preach. And encourage your people to love God more than a game, even if they choose to watch the game.
And as the breathless victors lift up the Lombardi Trophy this evening, may we all be reminded of the victory gained on our behalf when the Son of God was lifted up and drew his final breath that beautiful evening centuries ago.