NEW ORLEANS, La. — Scores of Christians from across the country have touched down in New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII, excited about the upcoming game and its surrounding events. However, their excitement and fanaticism is for a much different reason than most, as they state that they can’t wait to fill the streets with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Over 100 Christians from states throughout the nation are expected to be in New Orleans this weekend for the sole purpose of sharing the Gospel with the hundreds of thousands of sports fans that will be attending the various Super Bowl events, as well as celebrating the start of Mardis Gras. Bill Adams of Sports Fan Outreach International, headquarted in Altanta, Georgia organized the massive evangelistic effort.
“The Lord has brought everybody together. He’s done it for the last five years,” Adams told Christian News Network, who first began evangelizing at the Super Bowl in 2004 and has attended every game since. “We’ve basically had over 100 people every year except one, and that was 80 in Miami a couple of years ago. … God is raising people up. It’s great. I love it, and I’m excited to see the Lord working corporately among us and individually in everyone’s life.”
He said that he looks forward to this year’s outreach, which begins today outside of the NFL Experience. Adams believes that the crowds this year will be the largest yet.
“We’ve got a great group of preachers,” he said. “Knowing that they’ve got their guys around them, and knowing that the Gospel is going out — that’s what’s exciting about it for me.”
Adams plans on spreading out the Christians into ten teams of ten people, so that there is an evangelist on practically every street corner surrounding the various Super Bowl events over the next three days. Some will be preaching, some will talk to attendees one-on-one, and others will distribute tracts to the enormous crowds that are expected to flood the streets.
“We’re doing a lot of sowing and watering,” he explained. “What’s exciting for me is when I hear, ‘Those Jesus people are everywhere!” You hear things like that where the preaching of the Gospel saturates 50 to 100 thousand people — we’re just everywhere. That’s what’s exciting personally as one who coordinates all of the people coming in.”
Andrew Rappaport of Striving for Eternity Ministries of Jackson, New Jersey will be one of the team leaders at this year’s evangelistic effort. He flew in yesterday to take part in the outreach, and to also spend time encouraging and challenging the brethren about taking the Gospel to the streets.
“They call us fanatics because we’re Christians out there sharing what we believe,” Rappaport said. “And yet, they’re going to promote who they’re a fan of. They’re going to be out there in 40 degree weather with no shirt on, painted with their team colors on their chest — and yet they call us the fanatics.”
Adams agreed. He said that the sports world is engaging in their own type of evangelism and discipleship.
“[The sports marketers] want to make people a disciple of their team and of the sport,” he stated. “And because of the technology, they’re doing it. … That’s how you have 100 thousand people going to a game and half of them will wear the same shirt. … They’ve created a machine to keep people plugged into the sport.”
Adams, who has ministered in New Orleans before, noted that the spiritual strongholds in the city will be especially challenging for this year’s group.
“We’re entering a definite spiritual battle, not only on game day or Super Bowl weekend, but just in general because of the demonic forces at work to turn people into idolaters to such an intense extent,” he explained. “In New Orleans, … they drink earlier, they drink more. They’re harder of heart about it. It seems to be a way of life. And I think … [that the] lack of Gospel preaching and this other French Voodoo witchcraft influence, along with the drinking, really make it a tough place.”
Nonetheless, the men are feeling very pumped up about this weekend because they have seen God at work before.
Rappaport led a team last year at the Super Bowl in Indianapolis, Indiana, which he states was a great experience. He shared one special story of a man named Chris who repented and believed the Gospel right on the streets.
“We took out a video camera and we were just interviewing people one-on-one, and were using the camera to start the conversations,” Rappaport explained. “Chris just started joking around, and his wife didn’t want to be recorded, but everything was fun and games and joking [until] we started going through the law. You could see the change starting to take place in that he became quiet and more thoughtful.”
“So, we go through [the law] and I explained the Gospel, and he was able to explain it back to me. And I asked him, ‘When do you think you should get right with God?'” Rappaport continued. “He said, ‘Right now.’ I said, ‘What stops you?’ and he said ‘Nothing.'”
Right then and there, Chris turned to Christ on the streets of Indianapolis. (Video below.)
“That’s probably the most encouraging thing to happen — to have someone who is thinking he’s just walking by having fun, and he ends up talking with us. And we have a great conversation and he hears the Gospel, and walks away possibly a new man in Christ,” Rappaport said with enthusiasm in his voice.
He explained that last year, some of the members that accompanied him to the Super Bowl didn’t anticipate personally being involved in the evangelism effort, but eventually got pulled into it — and loved it.
“We needed a bus driver. We had a bus but not a driver, and the driver was going to cost quite a bit,” Rappaport recalled. “The end result was there was someone who drives a bus, but was on vacation. … [So], he was there to drive the bus, but what was he going to do all day? He had never handed out a Gospel tract before.”
“Spending all the time out there, he figured he would just hand out tracts, but people came up and started asking questions, and so now he’s starting to answer. … He’s almost mimicking some of the answers from all of the preaching he was listening to all day,” he continued. “And after a while, he was like, ‘I can do this!'”
Both Adams and Rappaport stated that it is a great encouragement to have so many brothers and sisters in Christ out on the streets with them and seeing a unified spirit for the sake of the Gospel. Even the local Christians are blessed to see others sharing their faith with the masses.
“People who know the Lord are excited to see us, and because they see preaching so infrequently, rarely or perhaps even never, it’s exciting for them,” Adams said.
“Every street corner has preachers. Every street corner’s got a dozen people handing out tracts and talking to people. And so, you feel more comfortable. You feel more emboldened,” Rappaport stated. “And that’s why something like a Super Bowl outreach or an event like this — where you have 100 – 200 believers that are all out at the same time — makes it easier. It makes it encouraging.”
The evangelists stated that they would strongly urge Christians to use the local sporting events right within their own community as an opportunity to share the Gospel.
“Most people live by a college. College football and college basketball are everywhere, and they generally draw thousands of people,” Adams advised. “And so, all you have to do is go down and stand in a public place and you can begin by distributing tracts that talk about Jesus.”
“By your continued presence, opportunities to minister to the people and talk to them begin to blossom that you wouldn’t expect,” he added. “Because you’re there, it begins that process of you being an evangelist to minister as a chaplain to that world. I think everybody would be surprised at what would happen in their life if they would just go out and be consistent. And sports presents that opportunity because they’re consistently hosting events.”
“God doesn’t say everything is going to be comfortable. He just says to be obedient and we’ll be blessed,” Rappaport said. “And why wouldn’t we be obedient? Our sin is so serious that we deserve an eternity in the Lake of Fire, and God was so good in that He died in our place to offer us eternal life so that we could be with Him forever. How could we say, ‘I’m sorry, Lord. I don’t want to be obedient to You.”