Football Church

I’ll admit it.

Recently I was in Phoenix, AZ visiting my daughter, and we decided to attend a different church. A very different church. It’s called Buffalo Wild Wings—during football season.

On Sunday morning, the faithful gather early, and church lasts ALL day and night. There are 3 services, each about 3-4 hours long. I quickly discovered that I was dressed inappropriately. I wasn’t wearing a team jersey, hoodie, baseball hat or even a team T-shirt. The worship was energetic, boisterous and deeply passionate—even more so than I’m used to. The trash talk was good-natured and face-to-face. Not delivered a day later by email.

Yes, the NFL is working through some issues. Every church leadership group does. But the line from the movie Concussion still rings true: “Football owns a day of the week.” Frankly, between youth leagues, high school, college and pro football, I would venture to say it owns entire weekends from September through January.

The point here is—whether it’s football or something else—we are all created to worship something. And the sad fact is, many people who used to gather and worship Jesus no longer do. They even have their own demographic: they are known as “The Dones.” If you Google the term, you’ll quickly get a feel for what they’re about.

All this to say—the time that we as church leaders spend reflecting on what we’re doing seems even more crucial right now. Are we truly meeting people’s needs? Or have our worship services simply become predictable routine? That may be harsh and way too blunt, but many people have already answered by their absence.

One of my must-read book recommendations is The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey. Philip has a lot to say about what church currently is—and could be. Should be. He observes, “The more unsavory the characters, the more at ease they seemed to feel around Jesus… In contrast, Jesus got a chilly response from more respectable types. How strange this pattern seemed, since the Christian church now attracts respectable types who closely resemble the people most suspicious of Jesus on earth. What has happened to reverse the pattern of Jesus’ day? What would it take… for church to become a place where prostitutes, tax collectors and even guilt-tinged Pharisees would gladly gather?”

More specifically, as worship leaders, how do we approach what we do with purpose and intentionality? What, if anything, needs to change in our mindset and world view? My close friend, Jennie Lee Riddle who wrote “Revelation Song,” is an incredibly wise lady. In a recent interview I asked her, “Jennie, if you could, what would you say to every worship leader?” Her answer was pure gold. Please watch and listen for yourself.

My purpose here is to raise the issue. Real answers to all these things can only be found in the Truth. The Source. As you reflect missionally on what each of your churches should be, it’s the Holy Spirit that needs to be your sole guide. Pray. Listen. Follow. Obey.

As a songwriter, worship leader and a member of the marketing team, Paul is connected to CCLI in every possible way. Paul serves as CCLI’s Content Creator in the U.S. Service Center in Vancouver, Washington. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from George Fox University and has served as a marketing/communications specialist and a worship leader for a number of churches and ministries.


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