Ok, so maybe you aren’t a professional football fan. Stick with me here.
In case you don’t know the teams included in this year’s NFL playoffs, they are the Arizona Cardinals (13-3), the Carolina Panthers (15-1), the New England Patriots (12-4), and the Denver Broncos (12-4). The Cardinals will play the Panthers and the Patriots will play the Broncos for a place in this year’s Super Bowl. At the time I am writing, the Patriots and Panthers are favored among betters. I don’t bet on sports, but I suspect those who do know what they are talking about.
A playoff series determines the best team in NFL football. The payoff is huge for the winners and the money spent by fans and advertisers is astronomical.
What does NFL football have to do with the Kingdom of God? Could it be God has a favorite team? I know followers of Jesus who pull for a team because a star player is a Christian. Although they may not believe their player’s team will win because he is a believer, they at least hope for victory because it can provide a stage for the gospel.
Are you still with me?
Here is why I believe NFL football is a kingdom issue: the whole world is watching! Last year’s game posted a record U.S. audience with 114.4 viewers. The Super Bowl matters to Americans, and anything that matters this much to people is an opportunity to share our faith.
This doesn’t mean we should be reckless in our approach. As a preacher, I would be foolish to support a team because I think they exhibit the most Christ-like behavior. With my luck someone on the team would commit the unsportsmanlike sin of the ages, or react to a fan with a flagrant vulgarity.
Besides, I am a Tampa Bay Buccaneer fan and they finished the season 6-10. So you won’t see me waving any Super Bowl flags anytime soon.
But I do think there are some things followers of Jesus can do to share their faith while over 100 million people’s attention is focused in one direction. Here are a few ideas:
Look for stories that catch professional football players of faith doing something right. Be sure to remember there are a lot of non-Christian players who share their lives in sacrifice to others. Yet, believers in professional sports are known to share in some incredible ministries that bless the lives of others. Do some internet searches on championship players and research their contributions to society. Then share their stories with others.
Use the Super Bowl as an opportunity to build relationships with others. Accept an invitation to a Super Bowl party or host one of your own. Keep an open mind, as some people’s idea of a party might be a little wilder than you anticipated. Be yourself, but be a friend. You don’t have to talk about Jesus. Your presence will speak volumes, especially if others know you are a believer.
Identify with other people’s fanaticism. If you aren’t already aware, for true fans, a football game is a spiritual experience and their favorite team is a like the twelve apostles. Alright, I know there are only eleven men on a football team, but let’s say Judas got caught selling team secrets and was kicked out of the locker room. I am not saying the worship of a football team is necessarily a good thing. I am only suggesting the way to a fan’s heart is through his team logo. Talk to co-workers and neighbors about their favorite team and buy them something that represents their team. Don’t do it as a way of purchasing time to share the gospel: “Now that I have given you a woolen hat with your team’s logo can you give me 10 minutes to share the plan of salvation?” Please don’t! Pray for an opportunity to share and God will provide.
There are many other ways to let Jesus speak through you as we near the Super Bowl. But then, this season in sports is really no different from any other, or any other interest in another person’s life. We start with a burning desire to see people come to Jesus and then we work on being a friend so God can work through us. We don’t show friendship just to win others to Jesus. Instead, because we know people need Jesus we become their friend. Then we pray, watch and wait.
What are the odds someone might come to know Jesus this year through the NFL playoffs? I don’t know. But if I were a betting man, I would say there is a Super Bowl party somewhere that is going to make an eternal difference.
Oh, and go Bucs!