We had a lot of fun this weekend as Rick Shurtz and I went head to head in our first annual Super Bull Smackdown of Preaching. We had a lot of fun, lots of laughs, as we taught through Hebrews 12:1-3 on Winning the Game of Life. And yes, the random phrases we had to work in were a surprise each service! If you missed it, you can watch it at www.Gatewaychurch.com/podcast. You might have wondered or been asked, why would Gateway do a service like that? I think it’s important to understand our heart and how we think it reflects God’s heart.
God loves laughter
“Every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17). “We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy…the Lord has done amazing things for us!” (Psalm 126:2-3). Laughter and fun are gifts from our Creator. Some people think it’s illegal to laugh or have fun in church, but I’d argue that misrepresents our Creator. Yes, there’s a time for mourning and seriousness too, but people need to see that God does not rob us of life; he makes it full to overflowing (John 10:10). Evil tricks people into thinking sin is the path to fun and life, yet it destroys life in the long run.
God wants His church to care about all people
Jesus knocked heads with the Pharisees because they cared more about proving they were right and righteous than they cared about hurting, broken people far from God (read Matthew 23 if you want to see Jesus tongue-lash religious people). Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). Jesus didn’t think they were righteous (they were going to kill him!), he was pointing out how much they were missing God’s heart for all people.
So Jesus went out of his way to meet people where they lived, and invite them into a better way of living with God. Notice that every recorded sermon Jesus gave was directed to ordinary people struggling with life, not to esoteric scriptural nuances the Pharisees loved to debate (the Talmud is full of them). The result—Jesus was misunderstood and accused of compromising God’s ways. Jesus noted this about himself, “The [Pharisees] say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds” (Matthew 11:19). If you want a full Biblical understanding on the ways of Jesus, read Unshockable Love.
All things to all people…
So what does this have to do with the Super Bull? The reason we would do something like that has everything to do with God’s heart for people far from him. Paul understood God’s heart and said, “When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ…When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ…Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone…I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:20-23). Paul basically says, “I do everything short of sin to help people discover life with God.” We do too! We don’t ever want to cross the line of doing things God does not approve of for the sake of getting someone to hear the message, but we’re not afraid to meet people where they live to help them understand God’s message.
Gateway is organized in Life Groups where we can grow to maturity spiritually (like Jesus taught his small group of 12 to understand the scriptures—Luke 24:44). Through Networks, we go out to where people live to love and serve them like Jesus did. When we do something like we did Sunday, it’s a great opportunity to invite people who might not come to ordinary church, but would come to a fun, funny spoof on the Super Bowl (like when Paul taught the Athenians). It’s a team effort—all of us loving people far from God and providing ways to help them learn of God’s invitation to life.
Speak their language quote their prophets
Paul demonstrates how to build bridges to where other people live. In Acts 17, he goes into Athens where idol worship was prevalent. People who complain that we water down the truth would have hanged Paul. Paul finds common ground not by starting with the Bible; he starts with the little bit of truth he finds in their idol worship. “I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God’” (Acts 17:22-23). Paul says, this unknown God is the One I’m going to tell you about. Then Paul quotes their pagan prophets—things their prophets and poets have said that are still true of God, he uses those to build a bridge to the message of God through Jesus.
In our culture, the language is music, movies, TV—our prophets and poets Paul would quote, if he were here, are songwriters and screenwriters and Super Bowl athletes. Where we find truth, we can build bridges to the Greater Truth about God’s heart for people. We don’t fully endorse everyone we quote (or all the songs they sing) any more than Paul fully endorsed Epimenides (the pagan prophet/poet he quoted). So that’s why we did Super Bull Sunday, and hope that when we do it again, you’ll invite all your friends to come laugh, have fun, and hear a very straightforward message from the scriptures about following Jesus. Coincidentally, right after Paul says he does anything short of sin to reach people, he says “Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!” (1 Corinthians 9:24). That was the Super Bull message!