Posted by Jon Moore, pastoral intern, Manchester Creek Community Church

Well, as Ken is excitedly crowing, the Super Bowl is fast approaching, and the excitement is building for one of the major party opportunities of the year. Sadly, I’ll be at Starbucks, but many of you will be participating in a Super Bowl party somewhere, so I wanted to share some thoughts from author/pastor CJ Mahaney. I love Mahaney partly because he is an unashamed sports fan, and encourages people to take redemptive pride in enjoying sports for God’s glory. Below are his suggestions on how to watch the Superbowl for God’s glory, with a few less profound ones of mine thrown in.

1. Strategically assign the remote.
Some prefer to turn off all the commercials; other prefer to just keep an eye on it and turn off the offensive ones. Either way, be proactive about what shows up on your TV screen. One way to do this is to assign one person (someone with both discernment and quick reflexes) to remote-control duty.” This cannot be just anybody. Throughout the game viewers are assaulted with commercials—immoral commercials, commercials that assault and offend one’s intelligence, and commercials with immodestly dressed women (which both tempt men and belittle women). These are as much a part of the Super Bowl as the game itself.
This one is no surprise (every year GoDaddy shows the only thing they really know how to sell is the single entendre), but it also may be the most tempting advice to ignore. If you don’t care about the game, the unveiling of new commercials is one of the most exciting aspects of the Super Bowl, and it’s tempting to be lax with “bad” commercials because we don’t want to miss the “good” ones. That’s bad priorities, but it’s also a lie… you won’t miss a good commercial because they’ll be replayed ad-infinitum online and on your TV for months to come.
When choosing who holds the remote, let me recommend finding someone who is sensitive and discerning enough to know what needs to be turned off, not only for themselves but for sake of the room. This often works well if it is a person who doesn’t care about the game. Commercial time is when they’re focused on the TV, whereas for the football fan, it’s downtime meant for conversations, and their attention may be prone to wander from the task. 

2. Watch proactively.

I encourage fathers to watch actively and discerningly, never passively and superficially. There is no doubt that throughout the game you will hear one superlative after another attributed to the skill of the athletes. The accent throughout the game will be on skill, not character.
Nowhere is the word great mentioned more often in our culture than in the context of professional sports. If you watch any game this weekend and listen to the announcer’s commentary, then like a mantra you’ll probably hear the word great repeated throughout—great, great, great. Yet it may well be that nowhere in our culture is the absence of true greatness more evident than in professional sports. So be careful about cultivating an excessive love for professional athletics in your child.
Without minimizing the skill as a gift from God, I want to direct my son’s attention to character as theologically defined. So as Chad and I watch the game, I will draw his attention to any evidence of humility or unselfishness I observe, as well as any expression of arrogance or selfishness. I will celebrate the former and ridicule the latter.
This isn’t just a message for father’s and sons either. In your conversations, you have the chance to hold up truly great values not only by observation of the game, but by commending and praising how you have seen God at work in your life and how you see it shaping and transforming the life of a friend.

3. Foster fellowship.
We need to make sure a room full of people are not simply passively watching the Super Bowl. Commercial time can be time redeemed with the right leadership and by a simply changing of the channel to C-SPAN.
Don’t misunderstand. It’s perfectly legitimate to watch and enjoy the game. I’m not advocating that you invite those who have no interest in the game and who want to distract your attention from the game. You can arrange to meet with those people at another time.
No matter who we invite to our homes on Sunday, let’s not just stare at the TV, paying little attention to our families and our guests. Watching the game should involve building relationships.
 Even if you don’t turn off the game at certain points, there are still plenty of ways to make the game more social. Telly has started printing up “football bingo” cards, so that even those who don’t care about the game can learn more about football and enjoy themselves through the competition. Even more important than finding creative means of being social is being intentional about relationship building during the party. One simple way to do this is to enter the room and choose out at least one person (preferably not someone whom you already know well) upon whom you will focus your attention and make sure you know them more than when you arrived.
4. Draw attention to the eternal.
Sometime after the game—that same evening or the next day—it’s helpful for a father to draw his child’s attention to the game in light of eternity. It’s also helpful for us as fathers to be reminded of an eternal perspective.
Apart from those few who listen excessively to sports talk radio, this game will be quickly forgotten. Let me ask you this—who won the Super Bowl even five years ago?
The day before the 1972 Super Bowl, Dallas Cowboy running back Duane Thomas said, “If it’s the ultimate game how come they’re playing it again next year?” Some players seem to get it. Sadly, many fans don’t.

More recently Tom Brady, quarterback of three Super Bowl championships, is quoted in a 60 Minutes interview saying,
Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there’s something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, “Hey man, this is what is.” I reached my goal, my dream, my life. I think, “God, it’s got to be more than this.” I mean this isn’t, this can’t be what it’s all cracked up to be.

I anticipate that in a week or two, after the Super Bowl has been won, the champions will experience this same dissatisfaction. As Augustine said, “You [God] made us for yourself, and our hearts find no peace till they rest in you.”
We must impart this eternal perspective to our children.
This is a brilliant observation, and it reminds us to make Super Bowl gatherings an opportunity to spend time with those who may not know the Lord. We will have chances during the event and following it to springboard from the game and gathering to deeper issues of their lives and impart this eternal perspective, laying a foundation for the Gospel message.

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