October 24, 2017

Have I Got a Super Church for You!

football game

Why no one has done this before, I don’t know. But it only makes sense as one of the best ways ever to engage the culture of the U.S. for Christ.

Last year, the top four television programs in terms of viewership were: (1) the Super Bowl, (2) the Super Bowl (delayed broadcast), (3) the Super Bowl (west coast broadcast), and (4) the Super Bowl pregame show. That little factoid summarizes a truth that is self-evident here in the States: In U.S. culture, football is king. Nothing else even comes close to capturing the attention, devotion, and dollars of the American public like professional football.

Over the years, churches have dabbled with using football themes to reach out with the Gospel. For example:

  • Congregations have determined that joining the culture on football’s biggest Sunday is more effective than preaching against giving excessive attention to a sport. Super Bowl outreaches and parties are now commonplace. [By the way, if you do this, make sure you know the NFL’s regulations and stay compliant — here’s a ministry that tells you how to do that.]
  • This brother has some suggestions about how to use Fantasy Football in missional ways.
  • Here’s a church that holds “Team Sunday,” and encourages people to wear their favorite jersey or uniform, sit with their “team,” and listen to a football-themed Gospel presentation.

We love all these ideas and there are many, many more out there. That’s why we’ve decided to go the extra mile and make football the full time emphasis of our church.

Introducing First and Ten, the first football-themed church.

We can’t thing of anything more relevant to people’s lives than football. So, we’ve decided that football is the best way in our current cultural setting to share Jesus.

football playerWHY “FIRST AND TEN”?
We call our church First and Ten because in football, “first and ten” indicates a new start, which is exactly what Jesus offers you. Not only that, but “first and ten” is just the beginning. Once he signals “first down” and hands you the ball, there are always more yards to be gained, more first downs to be attained. There’s an End Zone awaiting! And what a celebration we will have when we get there!

So, get in the game! God wants players, not spectators!

At First and Ten we are always either moving down the field, making progress against our strong Opponent, or defending against his advances in our lives. Sometimes we get stopped for no gain, sometimes we get sacked, sometimes we lose good field position, but Jesus is always there to give us another first and ten. The key is: he wants us to follow his game plan. With divine wisdom he calls the plays, but we must execute them. Therefore, here at First and Ten we are always studying the Playbook (the Bible), always listening to the coach, always practicing, and always trying to play better in every phase of the game.

OUR HEAD COACH — SID “BUBBA” CARLISLE
Coach Bubba played and coached football at all levels, so he is eminently qualified to speak the message in terms we can understand. He has walked the walk, and he can talk the talk! He develops every sermon — or “locker room talk” as he calls them — around a football theme, speaking the common language of our day. Lately, Coach Bubba has given messages on:

  • There’s Only One Quarterback, and It’s Not You
  • Genuine Love Means Blocking for One Another
  • The Role of Women on the Team: How to Be a Great Cheerleader
  • Why the “Pick” Play Is not only Ethical but Essential
  • Sack the Devil!

OUR FACILITIES
At First and Ten we have designed our facility like a football field, with its turf gridiron stage surrounded by comfortable stadium seating. You won’t miss one moment of the action, thanks to our amazing multimedia scoreboard and sound system. During the service we invite you to enjoy refreshments from our concession stands, conveniently located, which sell affordable family fare (all proceeds go to church mission programs). Football themed decorations, banners, posters, pennants, and displays are everywhere, helping us keep our heads in the game. To keep it all top quality, First and Ten has instituted a revolutionary new tithing system modeled after the way professional football franchises sell season tickets. Sign up early and get the best seats!

WHEN YOU ATTEND
When you come to First and Ten, we encourage you to wear your jerseys and team gear to the services, and hey, if you want to paint your face or wear something outrageous, go right ahead — we’ll know you have the Spirit!

Worship is loud, exciting, and participatory. Our band, Audible, keeps it fresh and is not afraid to change things up in the middle of the service when the Spirit leads.

We have something for everyone! Fantasy football fellowship groups, a whole Bantam league for kids, Friday Night Lights ministry for teens, and team-themed Playbook classes for all ages. We have training that ranges from football lingo for newcomers (Playbook 101) to Advanced BT (Belichick Training) for those who feel called into coaching.

The annual church calendar is built around the schedule of pro football. In “off-season” we follow the NFL combine and draft and plan for our teams’ future needs. This is the time of year when we evaluate where we are and where we want to go, then develop effective strategies for going forward.

During training camps and preseason, we go into full preparation mode, gearing up for mission. One of our most popular training events, for example, is our series for married couples called, “The Holy Huddle.” Holy Huddle is all about helping couples renew passion in their marriages. Last year, Coach Bubba’s series, “Making Spectacular Moves Routine in the Bedroom” was our best ever. At First and Ten, our training and preparation comes to a climax in late summer.

And then it’s football season! Are you ready for some? At First and Ten every week is built around Sunday — game day. Churches used to have “all-day dinner on the grounds.” We are re-imagining that with “All-Day Tailgating at First and Ten.” We have a license to show all the pro football games on large screens with amazing sound, and we encourage individuals, families, and friends to enjoy fellowship all day long on Sundays watching the games and sharing activities as they tailgate in our large parking lots and fellowship spaces. We offer special Monday and Thursday night programs as well.

Rather than celebrating the usual Christian holidays, which no one really understands anymore, our “holiday” season is during the playoffs. The annual cycle builds to a holy hysteria during these weeks, leading up to a great celebration of our Victorious Lord on Super Bowl Sunday.

First down

FIRST AND TEN!

THE FIRST AND TEN WAY
At First and Ten, we have developed a unique ten-point summary of the way of discipleship. We encourage everyone who attends to set themselves on the following course:

  1. Get in the game.
  2. Find your best position.
  3. Learn the Playbook.
  4. Practice! Practice! Practice!
  5. Listen to the coach.
  6. Play within the lines.
  7. Play as a team.
  8. Knock the snot out of the Devil.
  9. Keep moving the chains.
  10. Keep your eyes on the goalposts.

You are always welcome at First and Ten.

So get in the game and get your game face on!

Isn’t it time you had a new set of downs for your life? It’s yours for the asking at First and Ten.

Comments

  1. The only thing surprising about this idea is that no one’s already doing it. Yecch – I’ll stay home, thanks.

  2. LOL. Okay, okay…good satire. But…but…some of this actually works for me!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Watch when the next Edgy & Manly wanna-be Megachurch actually does this FOR REAL.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      P.S. As someone who was an Omega Male through four years of High School (where Football was the State Religion), I find this whole posting VERY disturbing.

      The attitude CM is trying to parody sends the clear message that God is God of the Quarterbacks and Cheerleaders, NOT all the rest of us. And that God hath fixed that High School pecking order for all eternity.

  3. The genuine art of the sport can be a useful teaching tool. I used to have a religion teacher who translated parables into football-ese as none of us knew anything about farming. It is the sale of everything remotely marketable that is scarey. I can’t imagine Jesus with corporate sponsorship. I also hate to think of the Holy Relics that would be available – as in the Church of the tooth Dick Butkis knocked out. We humans are a silly lot. It’s a good thing our Father has infinite patience.

  4. I think I’m going to vomit.

  5. Alas, poor Alypius…

  6. Well, that’s depressing…

  7. What a line about “The Huddle”–“Everything comes to a climax at the end of summer.” Bet Ed, Mark, etc. wish that they had used that in their “Get It On” series.

    Very humorous and perceptive post 🙂

  8. One glaring problem with this though…it will have limited “global missions” appeal – outside the US, the rest of the world knows real football, aka soccer…so I doubt the ‘missions’ program will bear much fruit.

    • Don’t worry, we can have soccer missionaries. When they come home they can try to explain this strange foreign sport to us.

      • Soccer missionaries? What you’re suggesting sounds like heresy to me, a satanic parody of the true faith. You liberals never change…

    • That’s why you have missionaries, Andrew. Sure, those benighted lands of Europe where I live may think we have ‘real’ football (or historic liturgical Christianity) but the Church of First and Ten will come in to shake us up and spread the word of the One True Way to kick a ball and deliver us from our corrupt mediaeval notions, which is obviously when the rot set in and the perversion of proper Gridiron to fancy-schmancy Soccer occurred.

      I blame the Papacy, myself 😉

      • Amen, Sister Martha!! Those crazy rules, colored uniforms, and failure to recognized the superiority of football are all a result of endless traditions that have no meaning, by clearly messy crowds of foreigners!! Soccer has been corrupted over the years, and only football is the REAl sport, without silly old rules and games played in ancient stadiums! 🙂

  9. “Omaha”…”Omaha”

    • I tried to work that in, RDavid. Just couldn’t do it smoothly.

      • I don’t think I heard “Omaha” once in this game… unlike two weeks ago…. too noisy… although I think I heard a few “Oh Sh@t” when the Seattle defense was blasting through the front line…. actually Peyton’s expression said it all on the first play of the game….

        …. As an aside… interesting Civil War trivia… one of Leutenant General James Longstreet’s staff was named Peyton Manning….

  10. Patricia Stewart says:

    Aside from the fact that I’m not crazy about football (I like hockey better), this is just another spectator event . . .nothing’s changed. We watch the players, we get excited about what they are doing and at the end of the time we jockey for position in the parking lot and go home to live our “boring” lives until next “game day.” First and Ten is no new church.

  11. Neukomment says:

    For most people life is being lived at the point of being sacked on 4th down and long…. I appreciate the satire…

  12. The sad thing is, I can totally see this happening.

    • Dr. F, I can too. I am actually a bit surprised that we haven’t seen some “theme” churches. I would have thought church growth philosophy, which is rooted in demographic marketing, might have kept up with the times better. I can’t look at a web page now without having ads show up on my screen reflecting products I have searched for or looked at on the internet. Why wouldn’t churches start trying to attract people according to their interests and hobbies and where they spend their time and money too? Not saying they should, of course, but expressing surprise that it’s not more common.

      • So you’re saying that in the future, the design of church websites will be individually tailored to individuals, based upon their browsing history? Interesting concept…

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Until you have an individually-tailored church for everybody.

          Each with a total membership of one.

          In its own way, the end state of a Gospel of Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation.

  13. Hey what about the church KissCam for those awkward wedding proposals? Or maybe you could use it to put people on the “Christian” spot — if you’re in the camera, you have to renew your commitment to Jesus is some insane and fervent way.

    Or . . .not.

    • Brianthedad says:

      You can see that now on the televangelist shows. They pan the crowd, looking for the member with the biggest smile, the closed eyes, the biggest laugh for the preacher’s joke. Wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

    • That’s just two of the good uses for our multimedia scoreboard. Lots of KissCamming during Holy Huddle season especially.

  14. This. Is. Brilliant.

  15. Brianthedad says:

    A Modest Proposal, eh?

  16. Tension and release. It’s what great music does, and it’s what happens in a great game. Catharsis. Except for some musicians, the church has not figured this out. In most churches, you can sit in a church thirty years and never have a genuine feeling except hunger for lunch.

  17. First and Ten’s summary of the way of discipleship is so true. The sad thing is not that this could be happening, or that no one is already doing it. I’ve seen people try to give reasons for not going to church, most having difficulty putting their intuitions into words. If that is the path, and who’s denying it’s reality in many a group, then empty venues( err, I mean churches) is an appropriate game-time decision.

  18. I think I’ll go back to Cuba.

  19. Since no one has mentioned it so far, my favorite line is, “so get in the game and get your game face on”.

  20. That Other Jean says:

    The church of First and Ten–just like football: exciting to watch, exciting to play, leaves you brain-damaged.

  21. The church of sports will be tough to overtake.

    We’ve lost a few families in our church because of Sunday sporting events that their kids must participate in.

    I mean…what is more important for the little ones?

    Waterpolo…of course.

  22. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Don’t forget…
    ONLY 364 SHOPPING DAYS UNTIL SUPER BOWL SUNDAY!

  23. Daniel Jepsen says:

    Perfect satire. Just on the edge of the realistic, and makes a great point.

  24. My second favorite line is the First and Ten Church’s introduction……”we can’t think of anything more relevant to peoples lives than football”…….nods and looks upward pointing finger to the Man in the sky.

  25. Brilliant, Mike! (And I could tell you had fun writing this one!)

  26. +1 on Daniel – – great satire!! And the link to the copyright restrictions was amazing. At evangelical churches we call on the name Yahweh all the time, but apparently S-p-r B-wl now is the name above all names, and that which cannot legally be named while in church.

  27. IndianaMike says:

    What would the second football themed church in town be called?

    Would Baptists start baseball themed churches being traditionalists who have unwritten rules?

  28. It’s all good until the worship team dumps a cooler of communion wine over the pastor’s head after a particularly thrilling sermon.

  29. Buffalo wings and beer for communion?

  30. Christiane Smith says:

    what a very strange religion we have,
    where the goal post is a Roman Cross upon which the Victor must suffer death in order to become the Risen Lord

  31. If I had not read the introduction and just stumbled upon reading this, I would have completely believed it was for real. I mean, it is already a practice to throw a little religion into football games (God let you win this game because you prayed harder than the other guy and as a reward for being a nice, moral person – in the popular mind that pretty much sums up Christianity). Why not carry it to the next step and have football as the centerpiece of your faith and try to sanctify it a bit with some churchy talk? Instead of bread and wine, some televangelist could say some “blessing” over beer and – I don’t know – pizza or something. If we are going to turn away from God and fashion gods of our own making, a proper American god would encourage us to consume stuff we don’t need and party. I should stop now. All of this has given me some thoughts, some very bad thoughts.

  32. Randy Thompson says:

    I just went out for a walk. I enjoy walking late in the afternoon, especially at dusk. It was dark, and utterly silent. It was striking how completely unreal the Super Bowl seemed as I walked in the hills here in New Hampshire.

    Silence, when we seek it, is God’s way of helping us see the trivial for what it is.

    I now feel ready to watch the Super Bowl, and see it in the grand scheme of things.

  33. In other news, during the communion service this morning I played Panis Angelicus.

  34. One of Coach Bubba’s sermon titles:

    “The Role of Women on the Team: How to Be a Great Cheerleader

  35. “The Role of Women on the Team: How to Be a Great Cheerleader”

    Best line in the piece for me!

  36. Marcus Johnson says:

    I believe they refer to prayer as “Tebowing.”

  37. Too late Mike. Already been done… sort of.

    http://www.foursquare.org/news/print/first_and_ten_do_it_again

    • Along with “Laugh or Else”, looks like Chaplain Mike now needs to add the tag “Stranger Than Fiction”.

  38. When I first read the title I thought, First as in Jesus is first, and Ten as in the Ten Commandments. That would cover both testaments as a good beginning. But that is a puny thought compared to your brilliant development of it. Excellent piece, albeit too close for comfort.

  39. Chaplain Mike, if you’re open to church planting in Texas, this idea would TOTALLY fly over there.

  40. Kenneth B says:

    This is the best "Poe", as in Poe’s Law, that I’ve seen since I got suckered into believing the "Creationist Science Fair" story. In my defense on the latter, I attended a fundamentalist elementary/middle school, and the Creationist Science Fair was totally plausible to me.

  41. Ya know… thinking back… I think those Promise Keepers events had this same look and feel….

  42. I was OK with the iirst “First and Ten’, made me think of the cross. Once we get into the game, it starts to look like the cross and resurrection never happened. A friend visits our church once a year and it is almost routine that he says ‘sounds like they are ignoring the cross ever happening.’
    The other thing that got me on this post was just how much of this I have heard in the last couple years. But we have a new lead pastor who seems to be heading a different direction, maybe a little calm and peace.

  43. Bad Super Bowl Sunday analogies:
    Jesus the coach.
    Jesus the quarterback who takes the sack for us.
    Jesus the color announcer. (Like a wise rabbi teaching the faithful)

  44. Elizabeth McEwen says:

    The bible does not support this kind of compromise with culture:
    “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.”
    I john 2:15

  45. The only thing missing is a reference to Saint Tebow

  46. I love the comments section of Shermans articles. Watching all of the Seattle fans show up on their white horses, with armor freshly polished never gets old. Listen, this dude writes articles from time to time on this website. When he does, people will comment. Some of those people will disagree with what he has to say. This doesn’t make those people a racist. Sherman DID beat a PED violation. And those who mention that are being fair in questioning his integrity. We’ve all seen many athletes over the years, from Bonds, to Armstrong, to most recently Ryan Braun cheat, and get away with it, often times, while citing their “passed tests” as “proof” that they are clean. Sherman is a very good football player, unfortunately many times, his mouth, and the fact that’s it always running, take away a lot of his appeal from those who aren’t Seattle fans. You’ll just have to learn to deal with it. I for one am looking forward to him getting torched again this postseason “Roddy White style” so that he may (even briefly) decide to stop flapping his gums.