Another Look at Worship vs. Football

At a recent campus ministry seminar we were asked to imagine if some football commentators were giving advice to churches about how to increase their attendance. They might suggest the following:
  • Charge people $5 to $20 for admission.
  • Replace padded pews with hard, backless benches.
  • Take off the roof and make the people endure the elements—cold, wind, heat, rain, whatever.
  • Make the service last more than 3 hours.
  • Require that they scream and shout every few minutes.

I guess this comparison of worship assemblies with football games is intended to make us feel guilty about our lack of church attendance. But I wonder if this is really a fair comparison. What advantages does the football game have over the typical worship assembly? What accounts for the difference?

A football game is always a dramatic conflict. It is always clear which side to root for, who is ahead, and which side has won. In a worship assembly the conflict is there; in fact, it’s a much more vital conflict than the clashing line of scrimmage. But this conflict is often hidden. People may be unaware that it even exists. Even more difficult to discern is which team is ahead. And when the assembly is over, who has really won? In a sense, the game is not over then—it just goes on and on.

The most significant difference is in the degree of involvement. Someone has said that in football, thousands badly in need of exercise watch 22 players badly in need of rest. But a worship assembly actually has no spectators. We are all in the game, on one side or the other. If you arrive at an assembly thinking you are a spectator, how differently do you act than if you realize you are a player?

Imagine how many would attend a football game if all were expected to play. It’s your involvement that makes a worship assembly truly meaningful. Get up off the bench and throw yourself into the game.

—Steve Singleton