As I sat at the Titan’s game on Christmas night, trying not to freeze my keister off, I had a lot of time to think about the dynamics of attending an NFL game versus participation in a community of faith (Lord knows, the game was so one sided that I didn’t have to think about football). Certainly the aspect of spectacle is present at the average NFL game. Here you are gathered with some 50,000 other screaming fans seduced by flashing lights, colorful uniforms, large screens on each end, and upbeat music that creates a mood. The team scores, and fireworks erupt from the end zones. Throughout the game an announcer cues you into what’s happening and local celebrities spring forth from the Diamondvision Screens to urge the fans to cheer louder.
One particularly important aspect of the game is the feeling (both real and perceived) that fans do affect the outcome of the game through their participation. By cheering louder and urging the team on the congregation imparts energy to the team which can make or break the games. This sense of participation is one reason folks show up week after week even though one can really have a better sense of the game on one’s large screen TV in the den. In a real sense, the fans become co-creators with the team in acheiving a goal.
The NFL sensibility seems to me to be part and parcel of the megachurch sensibility. The desire to do worship as spectacle, to use music and images to create a mood is at the heart of the contemporary mega movement in Christianity (be it in a congregation or at the latest Promisekeepers convention). There is a certain competitiveness to these expressions of faith, be they battle against evil or battles against the complacency of existing churches. This movement toward a specific goal with a specific payoff is very appealing in that it makes the practice of faith more accessible, and leads folks to invest in the programs of the church which help them meet that goal. The downside of this is that they can reach the goal and think that they can coast forevermore.
There is more that I want to say, but I keep falling asleep at the computer, so I better hold off tonight.