Reflections on Super Bowl LI

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” (1 Corinthians 9:24 ESV)

imageSuper Bowl LI is now in the history books. While I am disappointed that my home team, the Atlanta Falcons, fell short in their quest to capture the Lombardi Trophy, I must readily acknowledge that this year’s game definitely lived up to Super Bowl hype. As I reflect on all the related activities that always surround the game, there are several applications for gospel ministry that come to mind.

Time Investment: I am struck by the immense volume of television coverage devoted to pre-game analysis, opinions, advice, predictions, and post-game analysis as compared to time spent actually playing the game.

Ministry Application: Many of us, myself included, sometimes tend to over-prepare and under-minister. Churches devote a lot of attention to offering program after program, Bible study after Bible study, and multiple leadership/teacher/discipleship training opportunities. These are worthwhile activities designed to help us grow spiritually and equip us for the mission field outside our walls.

But all too often, rather than being a means to an end, they become an end in themselves. We can develop the false notion that somehow our participation in these activities defines us as a strong Christian or a devoted follower. And yet, the time we spend in hands-on ministry, being salt and light to the world around us, often pales in comparison to the time spent in preparation.

Jesus said, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:17 NIV) In his teaching, our Lord emphasized the kind of people we ought to be and the kinds of things we ought to be doing. Clearly, he was more interested in our actions, rather than the depth of our knowledge. Paul famously said, “We know that ‘We all possess knowledge.’ But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” (1 Corinthians 8:1 NIV)

Distractions: The Super Bowl is the ultimate football game. But we surround it with distractions as if the spectacle of the game itself isn’t enough. Inevitably, there is tremendous media buzz over the commercials, pointing to just how consumer-driven our society has become. (Although I must admit, this year’s commercials were exceptional!)

Then there’s the halftime show – this year with Lady Gaga. Widespread speculation concerning how outrageous her performance might be or what political statement she might make prompted Fox to televise her show with a five-second delay. Ignoring those concerns, she delivered a jaw-dropping, energetic, and acrobatic performance.

But can’t we just enjoy the game? After all, this was the Atlanta Falcons vs. the New England Patriots – the epic battle of good versus evil. (As to which is which probably depends on where you’re from.)

Ministry Application: As witnesses, we have been commanded and entrusted to go into all the world and share the greatest story ever told – the life-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ. While doing that, we must be mindful of avoiding the distractions the enemy employs to take the focus off of that message. To name just a few, these include: “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men“, (Mark 7:7 ESV) Christian celebrity, commercial concerns like book royalties and TV exposure, and worship services that feel more like Gaga-style rock concerts..

All these things tend to take our focus off of Christ, cause divisions within his church, elevate man instead of God, and needlessly dilute our message. Look no further than the Corinthian church for a Biblical case study on this.

Great Comebacks:  In sports, the most exciting and memorable games involve great come-from-behind victories. Last night’s game was a classic example. After being down by a score of 28-3, the Patriots scored 31 unanswered points to win what many are already hailing as the greatest Super Bowl ever. Certainly, it was the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.

But it is not the greatest comeback in human history. That occurred on an Easter morning 2,000 years ago when our Savior cast aside his grave clothes and left an empty tomb behind. And he has one more comeback to pull off still. Like the first one, it too will change history. In fact, it will make all things new. And the audience for that comeback will exceed that of all the Super Bowls combined.

“Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all peoples on earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’” (Revelation 1:7-8 NIV)

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