A number of churches across the country have decided to cancel, move or substitute their Sunday night services as the Super Bowl presents a conflict with their regular service times.
NewSpring Church in Anderson, South Carolina, a megachurch with five campuses, held services last night as it anticipated that most members would skip Sunday services to watch football. “We’re moving service times for the big game,” the church writes on one of the main banners on its website.
NewSpring also produced a special Superbowl video to make the announcement about the time change, which features two men watching the game, one of whom talks about his love for Super Bowl commercials as his friend insinuates that he is just hurt that he is not in the game.
“We all love watching the big game, so for one weekend only we are moving our Sunday night service to Saturday night,” the ad announces, “so that you don’t have to miss a single play.”
Lead pastor Perry Noble stated that he has attempted in years past to hold Sunday night services in spite of the game, but to little avail.
“I’ve been in church work for over 20 years, and the one thing I can say is that attendance on Super Bowl Sunday night in church has always been awful!” he wrote on his pastoral blog. “We’ve tried different approaches to remedy this, but nothing has worked. People just have not come to church.”
Noble pointed to fellow megachurch pastor Andy Stanley of Georgia, whom he stated once advised that churches should not be as focused on making a point as they are on making a difference.
“We want people to come to church, and we think church should do whatever it takes to get people in the doors,” he said.
Barnabas Piper of World Magazine also recently discussed the topic in an article entitled Separation of Church and Super Bowl.
“To go or not to go, this is the question facing thousands of churchgoers on Super Bowl Sunday evening. Of course, all sorts of moral expectations and qualifications underpin that question,” Piper writes. “Is it wrong to skip church in favor of a Super Bowl party?”
He asserted that it was not, stating that those who believe otherwise are being legalistic.
“No church should make its people feel guilty for missing a service in favor of the big game. This is as much a church culture issue as it is a scheduling one,” Piper stated. “Those churches that have created an environment where attendance is mandatory and ‘skipping’ is shameful have missed the point of gathering to worship … And to judge those who miss a service in favor of gathering with friends and family to enjoy each other’s company and, hopefully, a great game, is legalism.”
However, some disagreed.
“I do not think that sincerely seeking to obey out of gratitude for so great a salvation is ‘legalism’ as this author suggests,” wrote one commenter. “In fact, I think many times when one smugly accuses another Christian of ‘legalism’ it is just a defense mechanism for an underlying ‘antinomianism’ that seems to be rampant in modern Christianity.”
“It is sad to see our idolization of sports in general and Super Bowl in particular. It has become one of the biggest holidays of the year. We wait for the commercials and click our tongues at the immorality, but keep on watching so we can participate in office discussions on Monday and be titillated by the content with an excuse,” opined another. “The best place for us would be sincere worship.”
In addition to canceling or moving services, some churches have organized special charity events with Super Bowl themes. The Centerport United Methodist Church in New York invited its members to wear clothing in support of their favorite team to services today, and the pastors reportedly dressed in team jerseys as well. The congregation was urged to bring canned goods to church, which would be used to help feed the hungry.
Not far from Centerport, the United Methodist Church of Huntington hosted a “Soaper Bowl” today, as it is collecting hygiene products such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste and other personal toiletries to donate to charities. A number of other churches across the country from Virginia to Indiana to California are hosting a “Souper Bowl” tonight, where members will be operating a soup kitchen to assist the needy.
It has also been reported that some churches have canceled worship services altogether and will instead show the game on the church’s big screen for the congregation.