Picture of Church with Big Goalposts Behind ItThe Pack is back.  And so is the Steel Curtain.

Probably a hundred million people will be watching Pittsburgh and Green Bay in the Super Bowl, with the Steelers hoping to upend the favored Green Bay Packers and gain their seventh championship ring.  Some will watch for the game, others for the halftime show.  Expensive, slick and sometimes funny commercials will be at center stage. A few viewers will be intrigued by the controversy surrounding quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger.

Where will Christians be sitting when they watch the extravaganza?   One church in Dallas, where the big game will be held, canceled services so it could rent out its parking spaces for $82.50 a piece to tailgaters and game attenders. While more and more churches cancel services on Super Bowl Sunday, probably millions of other Christians will trade away the worship of God for fellowship together at church-run Super Bowl parties.

In an earlier day, few American churches thought it wrong to schedule games on Sunday, as long as they were played after church.  It was a friendship made, if not in heaven, at least not in hell.

I remember the first time I saw sports come into conflict with church services.  I was a pastor of a very small Assembly of God church. The service was very near its end, as it was approaching noon, but I had not yet prayed to close the service.  Suddenly two families got up from the back row, waved sheepishly at me, and rushed out the door. Today, in most mega-churches they would hardly be noticed.  But in a congregation of 20 or 25 people, six is a mass exodus.  I was hurt.  I was offended.  I later found out they were headed to a major league baseball game.  I didn’t say much.  But I am sure the look on my face showed them how I felt.

For most evangelical churches there is no conflict this week, they have fit the Super Bowl into their schedules.  And how has the world responded to churches accommodating its “holy day”?  Has it responded in kind?  No. Fox Sports has refused to run a commercial with a simple message asking viewers to read John 3:16:  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Other advertisements with vulgar and offensive messages will no doubt be welcomed, but Christ will not.  “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4,5)

I am sure now I unfairly judged my parishioners for leaving early. I think I overreacted out of pride.  When I was a kid in Byesville, Ohio, I had showed up every time the church doors were open and the pastors and youth pastors had to use a broom to get me to leave.  I loved God’s house and still do.    However, like most Christians, after church on Sunday, I headed out to eat with friends at the local restaurant and then squeezed in an NFL football game or two between morning and evening services, especially if my favorite team, the Steelers, were playing.

I now see why I was wrong as a pastor.  The problem wasn’t missing five minutes of a service.   People miss that much service just going to the restroom.  No. The problem was bigger and more insidious.  It was that I thought and taught that once we put in our time at church, the rest of the day was ours to do with as we please.  I had neglected Isaiah 58:13-14a:

If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth.

When will pastors learn that compromise and appeasement with encroachments against God’s commandments will never be enough for the enemy of their congregations?  Am I saying football is inherently sinful?  No.   But from the beginning professional football has been in competition with the Sabbath by scheduling its games on Sundays.

Meanwhile, Chick-fil-A, a wonderful fast-food company that has refused to open on the Lord’s Day since its inception, has been taking heat for supporting groups that want to protect the God-ordained family.   They have clarified their position so as not to offend homosexuals, but I can assure you that unless the company renounces Christianity and or otherwise pays off the lobby, the boycott will continue forever.  Our local Culver’s restaurant, on the other hand, will close this Sunday at 4 pm so that its employees can what?  Go to church?  No, watch THE game.

There is a battle going on for the souls of men, and the life of the church.  The seed of the serpent is at war with the seed of the woman.  Christ’s enemies will not give an inch until Christ comes and overthrows them with the breath of his mouth.   Puritan John Owen pointed out how every sin wants to destroy us and will never be content with sharing our affections.

The Sabbath was made for man, some will argue. Indeed. The apostle John said “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.”  But it wasn’t the spirit of the age or a heavy dose of team spirit; it was the Spirit of God.   How are we to use this day, then?   It is to be a day of rest and spiritual refreshment.  It is to be centered around the Word of God, and the worship of God, not halftime shows, funny commercials, and football.  I learned my lesson about pride, too.  Because it is my favorite team, and one of my hometown heroes will be coaching, it will be a little harder for me not to join the festivities this Sunday, even though I hardly ever watch football anymore.

But I must remember one thing.  It is the Lord’s Day, not mine.  I must “remember the Sabbath, to Keep it Holy”.  Who’s my pick this Sunday?  “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

29 comments
  1. I was raised in a “sports home.” My 84 year old mother still charts March Madness by hand. I spent many years wasting my time with such things. My question to Christians is: What is the allure? It is nothing but the glitter of our arch-enemy, the World, run by the Beast and the Harlot. Super Bowl Sunday, the World Series, movies, video games, all of it–what is it? Will it last? Will it be part of Christ’s Kingdom? The bigger question: Has Christ lost his beauty to you? Will you trade your birthright for a mess of pottage? If it is hard for you to pass up these things, if they are of vital interest to you, examine your soul–and run back to Jesus. Christ is so much more than all these things. If your eyes and affections were on Him, the Super Bowl would be seen in it’s true light. Please understand me. I am not setting for a legal principal. I am asking Christians, who and what are you living for? And Why?

  2. I was raised in a “sports home.” My 84 year old mother still charts March Madness by hand. I spent many years wasting my time with such things. My question to Christians is: What is the allure? It is nothing but the glitter of our arch-enemy, the World, run by the Beast and the Harlot. Super Bowl Sunday, the World Series, movies, video games, all of it–what is it? Will it last? Will it be part of Christ’s Kingdom? The bigger question: Has Christ lost his beauty to you? Will you trade your birthright for a mess of pottage? If it is hard for you to pass up these things, if they are of vital interest to you, examine your soul–and run back to Jesus. Christ is so much more than all these things. If your eyes and affections were on Him, the Super Bowl would be seen in it’s true light. Please understand me. I am not setting for a legal principal. I am asking Christians, who and what are you living for? And Why?

  3. Tim Tebow is a bad christian. How can he work on the Lord’s day of rest? Lemme guess. As member of the Fellowship of “Christian” Athletes (or bullies – at least in my high school), he is exempt from any part of the bible that is inconvenient for him to follow. ‘Cause ya see, he is special and the rules don’t apply to him, right? While at the same time, his buddies over at the Focus on the Christian Family demand that others follow their interpretation of the bible as public policy (even if they aren’t Christian)

    Chik-Fil-A does NOT have enforceable policies banning employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. They donate to anti-Gay political causes and still support discriminatory phony charities. They pay straight employees more in total compensation than they do their straight ones. Gay people have a right to publicize these policies and practices.

    Beyond that, I actually think that places like the Philadelphia Airport and college and universities should ban Chik Fil A as they don’t open on sunday (regardless of their anti-Gay policies). If I’m in the Philadelphia Airport on Sunday, I’d like to see all the restaurants in the airport open. People in dorms at Colleges need to EAT on Sunday.

    1. None of us are exempt from keeping God’s commands. And, of course, none of us have kept the commandments. That is why we need the Savior, Jesus.

      How does Chick-fil-A even know what “orientation” its employees are? Do they put in on their applications? Is is written on their foreheads?

      “They pay straight employees more in total compensation than they do their straight ones.”

      Really? I bet that is tough to do. What is the difference between straight employees and straight ones?

      Banned because they don’t open on the Lord’s Day? You are showing your hatred for God. Why should that matter to you? You don’t want to eat there anyway. If Chick-fil-A had contracted to be the sole provider of food for the college I would agree that they should provide food for students on that day, But, alas, I am quite sure they didn’t make such agreement, and I am also sure the students have other means of finding food to eat.

      1. Is that just a clarification or are you agreeing that Chick-fil-A should be open on Sunday? How about other restaurants or grocery stores, should they be open as well?

      2. Even without a meal plan, many college students don’t have CARS, so they need to eat on campus. Having Chick-Fil-A on campus just reduces the choices students have on Sunday. They don’t belong in Airports or College campuses or any ‘captive’ environment. If Chik-Fil-A wants to build restaurants out in the burbs and close on Sunday, that’s their business. But they should not be in Captive enviorments.

        And beyond that, consumers have the right to publicize Chick-Fil-A’s discrinimatory practices and ties to anti-Gay political groups. Fundamentalists do boycotts all the time of companies that treat their Gay employees fairly.

      3. Even without a meal plan, many college students don’t have CARS, so they need to eat on campus. Having Chick-Fil-A on campus just reduces the choices students have on Sunday. They don’t belong in Airports or College campuses or any ‘captive’ environment. If Chik-Fil-A wants to build restaurants out in the burbs and close on Sunday, that’s their business. But they should not be in Captive enviorments.

        And beyond that, consumers have the right to publicize Chick-Fil-A’s discrinimatory practices and ties to anti-Gay political groups. Fundamentalists do boycotts all the time of companies that treat their Gay employees fairly.

      4. If someone took away healthcare coverage for your spouse because they didn’t approve of who you married, you’d see that as discrimination.

        So if a Gay employee is asked by a coworker, “are you single”, or “what did you do last weekend” and answers it honestly, they can be fired by Chick-Fil-A without recource. By the way, it is illegal for a Gay business owner to fire someone because they are Baptist. Why should a Baptist be able to fire someone for being Gay.

        Chick Fil A should not be in any captive environment. Maybe students want more choices. Or airport passengers.

    2. None of us are exempt from keeping God’s commands. And, of course, none of us have kept the commandments. That is why we need the Savior, Jesus.

      How does Chick-fil-A even know what “orientation” its employees are? Do they put in on their applications? Is is written on their foreheads?

      “They pay straight employees more in total compensation than they do their straight ones.”

      Really? I bet that is tough to do. What is the difference between straight employees and straight ones?

      Banned because they don’t open on the Lord’s Day? You are showing your hatred for God. Why should that matter to you? You don’t want to eat there anyway. If Chick-fil-A had contracted to be the sole provider of food for the college I would agree that they should provide food for students on that day, But, alas, I am quite sure they didn’t make such agreement, and I am also sure the students have other means of finding food to eat.

  4. Actually there is no conflict for me as far as church goes since we worship in the morning. Now youth group we have shifted to do a Super Bowl party for the purpose of fellowship.

    I guess I don’t see anything wrong with that. I’ve enjoyed spending time with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ watching the game. Canceling morning services over it though… nope.

    1. My reaction to the post is similar to yours Shane. There is really no sacredness to the hour we worship. If the church’s leadership changes the scheduling of the evening service it is really none of my business.

      1. I fear my point has been missed. The fact that churches would even consider replacing a regular called worship service for a football game is evidence that we have already become worldly in our thinking. The problem isn’t really church vs football at any given moment, it is that we have foolishly thought that going to church is equivalent to keeping the Sabbath. But it is not a Sabbath Hour, it is a Sabbath Day.

      2. I agree it is a Sabbath day, not an hour. Jesus said that Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Some bemoaning how how we spend our Sabbath (and it doesn’t have to be on Sunday – as a Pastor I never experienced Sabbath on Sunday) can delve into legalism.

      3. My think thinking is that sabbath is not about a day or hour. Because of Christ we have a sabbath rest. It is finished. Rest is ours if we trust Christ. Now what days of the week we get off work and how we rest our bodies is not really important as long as we actually do it. And I do find that watching the Super Bowl can be a great way to rest.

      4. Just so I understand, Bob. Watching football IS keeping the Sabbath? So Monday Night Football is really honoring the Lord’s Day? Sleeping on the beach is no different than hearing the Word of God?

        There yet remains a Sabbath for God’s people (Heb. 4). Are we really longing for the Final Rest where we can watch eternal football?

      5. My thinking is that you spell sabbath with a capital “S” and see it as one day in seven. If that is your definition then it is never okay to watch football or go to the beach on that day you deem as “holy”. I do wonder, using that logic, what do you deem permissible to do on the Sabbath other than attending religious gatherings?

        Regarding sleeping on the beach and watching football, I think that, in balance, they can be good and restful things. On the flip-side, attending church in an unbalanced fashion can wear a man and his family out and be quite the opposite of sabbath rest.

        As for me, I enjoy a passion for Christ that is not limited to a Sabbath day. I enjoy studying the scriptures, prayer and fellowship as well as watching football, eating out, watching a movie and laying on the beach. But I suspect I might have a few years on you. 🙂

      6. ” what do you deem permissible to do on the Sabbath other than attending religious gatherings?”

        I believe one should devote the day to reading the word, prayer, fellowship with the saints, family worship, works of mercy (such as visiting the sick/elderly, feeding the poor). And, as I stated earlier, works of necessity would also be permitted (the work of police, nurses, prison guards, pulling people out of a ditch, putting out fires, etc.)

        I don’t deny that the beach, recreation, etc. can be relaxing or restful. But the Sabbath is primarily about spiritual rest. I understand your frustration with the Lord’s Day perhaps not being restful. So many churches today are filled with so much activity that they require scores of “volunteers” to keep up with all their programs. Much of this is contrary to rest, I agree. If our services were more simple, they would be less tiresome. I hardly find singing, praying and listening to sermons as tiring.

        “As for me, I enjoy a passion for Christ that is not limited to a Sabbath day”

        As you should. It is not either/or. One can serve God seven days a week, and still put an emphasis on the one day God has set aside. I think you misunderstand my position. As a Christian of 40 years (I’m now 51), I too enjoy many of the things you listed. They are not inherently wrong. But their time is the other six days of the week. Nevertheless, physical rest and spiritual refreshment are two different things. Also, you assume that God is neglected by me the other six days of the week. That is not so. For example, we have family worship every day, We have grown of late to call it our little heaven on earth. (I am not trying to paint a picture of piety here, I neglect much that I should do, both in spiritual disciplines and fulfilling my calling). I am saying that I love God seven days a week, but one whole day has been aside by God for preaching and corporate worship as well as undivided attention to the things of God. The other days have been given to us by God to take care of our other needs.

        Sabbath-keeping is relatively new in my experience (the last fifteen years). I can tell you that it is not a burden, but a joy. My wife runs a business from our home. If it weren’t for the Lord’s Day, she would probably work seven days a week. Keeping the Lord’s Day reminds me to focus on the things that last forever, not temporary things like sports, etc.. I love spending the whole day with the Lord..

      7. Thanks for the lengthy answer David. I appreciate your time in responding.

        Your definition of Sabbath seems to be pretty consistent with an OT perspective. It also seems inconsistent with most pastors who designate Sunday as a work day and take a week day off to compensate for it. Using your understanding of Sabbath all of these would be in error because they work on the Sabbath. Of course if the pastor is not compensated for work on the Sabbath then maybe it would not count as “work”. Guess it depends on how legal one wants to be in these matters.

        My thinking is that a Sabbath Day focus promulgates the idea that the Sabbath is God’s day and the rest are ours. I think that tithing creates a similar dichotomy. God owns every day and everything. Our obligation is to serve him every day with everything we have.

        My take is that we should, every day, focus on the things that last forever. I do not see a delineation between the sacred and the secular the way that you do. Every part of His body is needed and valuable. Whatever our calling in life, be it plumber or pastor, we should do it as unto the Lord and for His glory. And whatever our calling is we should live lives full of worship, scripture, prayer and love.

      8. “My thinking is that a Sabbath Day focus promulgates the idea that the Sabbath is God’s day and the rest are ours”

        This is a great point that needs to be addressed. It is quite consistent with other aspects of Scripture, that I believe are central to understanding the concept of holiness. Does believing that the tithe “belongs to the Lord” negate the truth that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof and that everything I own belongs to God? (Not at all)

        ” I do not see a delineation between the sacred and the secular the way that you do.”

        One of my professors addressed the notion with the simple observation that if everything is emphasized, then nothing is emphasized. If everyday is a holy day, then no day is a holy day. In fact, by forgetting the Sabbath, we have replaced it with other holy days (holidays): Christmas, Mother’s Day, Earth Day, Super Bowl Sunday. Try this with your wives and anniversaries and see how that works: Honey, I love you every day, I don’t need to remember our anniversary.

        Does believing that God calls ministers to a high calling of preaching, mean that other callings are not of God? We are holy, sons of God, set apart, people. Does that mean Christ is not THE Holy one of Israel, and uniquely THE Son of God? Does this mean there is no such thing as profanity anymore – certain words that should be used with great care? Shouldn’t all words be used with respect? However, God’s name is Holy in a way that no other name is.

        The implication from your comment is that under the New Testament, the Lordship of Christ changed. That the other six days were not God’s or the rest of the money was not God’s in the Old Testament,

      9. I later thought of other comparisons. We still believe in Holy Matrimony. What if a husband decided that since he is commanded to loave everybody that he should love his wife no different than anyone else? The New Testament says our children are Holy. Do you follow my reasoning, here?

      10. I am enjoying the dialog David. Here are a few responses:

        “If everyday is a holy day, then no day is a holy day.” – why should not every day be holy? You seem to embrace a holiness that is inwardly focused and only happens in holy buildings. Jesus’ holiness spilled out onto the streets and touched those in unholy places. If our holiness does not do the same is it really holy?

        “a high calling of preaching” – interesting that you did not cite the high calling of “hospitality” or “caring for the flock”. IMO preaching is no more of a high calling than anything else. Speaking of many years, both preaching and knowing those who preach, visible ministry is a seductress and many would do well to stay clear of it as many cannot handle the fame that comes with it. The truth is that the most holiest of callings are never seen by men but by God alone.

        “should love his wife no different than anyone else” – I hope that you are not saying that a husband loves his wife more on their anniversary. A husband should love his wife every day and this love should be one that grows over time. I guess I am not sure what this has to do with your belief that only one day a week is holy to God.

      11. The Sabbath being made for man has nothing to do with doing what we want to do. It is in the context of Pharisees who complained about Jesus healing on the Sabbath. This is where the principle that Sabbath works of necessity and mercy are always acceptable. Being paid to play football on Sunday hardly seems like a necessity to me. I don’t think the Bible contemplates a separate Sabbath day for ministers because the holy works of worship, preaching, etc. are perfectly acceptable on the Sabbath. Although it may include physical rest, the Sabbath is primarily rest for the soul. A rest from the cares of this world. It is not a hardship or legalistic. It is pure joy and a blessing. Puritans called it “the market day of the soul”. It is the day you attend to the needs of the soul.

      12. I don’t understand. Which day the Sabbath falls on is certainly a legitimate question if one intends to honor a Sabbath. It is irrelevant if one has already determined that he or she can do as they jolly well please as it pertains to the Lord’s Day.

        I would recommend to you the Sabbath portions in the Westminster Confession of Faith and works by J C Ryle, R L Dabney, Herman Hoeksema, BB Warfield, John Murray, Archibald Alexander, Thomas Boston to get started. They can be found at the link below.

        Graceonlinelibrary,org > Theology and Doctrine > Sabbath

  5. Let me tell you about Mike… Mike’s wife started attending our church couple of years ago. Years ago she & Mike had attended church together, but something happened and he stopped going. They are in the military and several moves later brought them to our community.
    Mike’s wife had been attending about a year and we had a Super Bowl party and Mike came. During the 3 or 4 hours of watching the game together Mike made connections with some of the other guys that were there. They made plans to go fishing that summer.
    Today, Mike is here for almost every service. He’s an usher. He’s a leader. He’s a faithful tither.
    So, what makes God happier? A roomful of already saved people worshiping him, or a lost child coming back to the Father?

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