half-time speech vs. game day

I’m a big sports fan. I love just about any sport–except NBA basketball. Sorry! I just don’t get into it. In my opinion, you could put 2 minutes on the clock, 100 points on the scoreboard for both teams and see who wins. That’s about as much time as I care to give to a pro basketball game! NFL football is definitely my favorite sport and I still cheer on my hometown team–the Minnesota Vikings. Since I spent 8 1/2 years in Atlanta, I also follow the Falcons and now that I’m in Detroit, I follow the Lions. It’s a little tricky because Detroit and Minnesota are in the same division!

In many sports, the half-time speech by the coach is a big deal. If your team is behind, it’s the coaches chance to address the weakness in the game plan and to boost the morale with a little “you can do it!” speech. If your team is ahead, it’s an opportunity to celebrate–a little–and pat the team on the back with a “way to go!” and “keep at it!” speech. The half-time speech can make or break the game. How many times have you seen the momentum of a game shift after half-time? It was probably due to a well-executed half-time speech.

I think it’s time to start looking at our worship services on Sunday as a half-time speech instead of game day. What do I mean by that? Well, I’ve been in ministry almost 20 years and for much of that time, I served in churches that approached Sunday as “game day.” Some even went so far as to say that every Sunday was like the Superbowl (no pressure!). Think about it–where are most churches resources allocated to? Usually, Sunday morning. From staffing and programming to budgets and buildings, Sunday is game day. We even judge the success of our churches by counting how many “fans” show up and how much money they put in the collection plates.

To take the analogy further, we have hundreds, sometimes thousands of people showing up to watch the paid professionals do what they get paid to do. They are the spectators and if their “team” isn’t performing to their expectations, they might find a new “team” to go watch. Or if the “team” on the other side of town plays cooler music during the “game” or has a nicer, newer “stadium,” that “team” gets their attention.

Unfortunately, most of our American churches are set up this way. There is a co-dependent relationship between the paid professionals and their spectators. The spectators are dependent on the paid professionals for their spiritual nourishment and the paid professionals are dependent on the spectators for their paychecks and position. This has created rockstar mega-church communicators who are idolized by their congregations. In the worst scenarios, this can lead to pastors with over-inflated egos who begin to believe their own press. When this happens, the situation can be extremely dangerous. All too often, a leadership failing is right around the corner–moral failure, embezzlement, abuse of power, etc.–and the church is decimated as a result.

That’s why we need to start looking at Sunday as the half-time speech instead of game day. The real work of the Kingdom comes as God’s people scatter serving as His Kingdom ambassadors where they live, work and play on Monday through Saturday. When we gather for the half-time speech, we can celebrate God’s movement in and through His ambassadors and be motivated to go out and do it again!

What about you? Do you look at Sunday as game day or as a half-time speech? How would it cause you to live differently if you viewed Sunday this way?

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