What Auburn’s loss taught me

Well, it’s looks like Arkansas put the hurt on Auburn’s chances for a national championship–maybe even an SEC championship. It’s been exciting to watch the Tigers play the last several weeks, but no such sentiment last Saturday. At least some folks were happy around here, as Tennessee chalked up a big win against the Georgia Bulldogs. One person came up to me Sunday, hugged my neck and said, “Sorry about the Tigers, but what about those Vols!” They weren’t sorry at all, and I could sense the glee in their voice. They didn’t say a word about the sermon, the singing, or Bible Study earlier that morning. It was all about the game.

Talking about football on Sundays isn’t a new phenomenon, as we all have our favorite teams to watch. It’s amusing in a way, as an example of this was hearing one of our church members suggest we sing “rocky top” as our choral benediction. This was a joke (I think). I’ve laughed more than once as the talk on Sunday covers what takes place on Saturday. When Auburn loses, in particular, I can expect more than one person to seek me out and let me know about it.

It’s really amazing to see how much Saturday football influencs how people feel the rest of the weekend. Actually, I have surprised myself at times at how much I care about the outcome of a football game. We’ve said “War Eagle” more times than I can recall and are teaching our children the value of beating Alabama every year. But, all this emotion for football and other sports too have gotten me thinking about our church enthusiasm. There is no way I can measure this statistic, yet I am observing the behavior of the people in the pew (and some pastors). I have come to a few conclusions about it.

First, football is important to some people. Here in Tennessee, the focus is not so much about what’s up with the CBF or SBC but with the SEC (southeastern conference). That might be the way to go and the course of least resistance. Who doesn’t enjoy spending a Saturday at home watching your favorite teams play while sucking down a large pizza and a diet coke? Maybe this has something to do with Baptists being the most obese denomination– but that’s another subject. Even now, I’m writing this blog while watching the Saints and Bucs go at it. Reggie Bush just scored a touchdown!

Second, football isn’t the most important thing. I’ve heard some folks tell me that they have missed church because their team lost and they didn’t want to face verbal abuse at church. This is really going too far, as the outcome of a game has influenced the attitude of folks throughout the rest of the week. We’re not talking about eternal issues here, but rather a compilation of points scored during a three hour period of time. Yet, many folks treat football as a religion and could call a particular stadium a “house of worship” on Saturday. Some of us are very loyal with our attendance, regardless of what the weather is like. And I’m not talking about church attendance. I’m not dismissing the sport, and believe me I enjoy it like everyone else. But, when our attitude on Sunday is dependent on what happens with our favorite team the day before, we’ve gotten things out of whack.

Third, we need to keep the main thing the main thing. I haven’t heard anybody say otherwise, but there are times I wonder what is more important to us: a football score or reaching a missions giving goal. To ask the question is to answer it. We need to consider carefully how our conversation on Sunday reflects what we care about. I won’t stop responding to folks who ask about a game, and it at least gives folks another reason to approach me. And I will joke about football with the people in the pew because it hits home to them. I will keep cheering for my favorite team and enjoying the distractions Saturday football brings. But, I will do my best to raise the level of dialogue to eternal matters. The church has a lot of work to do, and my job is keeping our people connected to our mission and ministry.

Of course, it would have been nice to have had the win. I don’t plan on doing another one of these after the Florida game.

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