It appears New Zealand is still adjusting to all the attention that came with its Lord of the Rings fame. Whether or not the beloved Kiwis are seeking more attention is unclear, but this story from the NZ Herald is certainly sporting echoes of strategic swagger.
Greerton Bible Church is replacing its Sunday morning services with Sunday morning sports, beginning November 6. So as not to eliminate all of the religious underpinnings the church holds to, its religious, um… errr… regular, service will be moved to Friday nights. “A lot of people are going to watch the [games] on Sunday morning, so we figured if we can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” said senior pastor Russell Embling.
The cool thing about this approach is that the church has invited sports celebrities to come and share their story. Says Embling, “Each of our guest speakers will also share their story of how their faith has influenced their rugby careers and life.”
I like this idea as a way for churches to reach out and attract more people. I only have one concern, and its a concern I have with nearly all of these kinds of approaches.
If the Church is more concerned with getting people in the door than getting Christ into hearts, I think we have more than a marketing issue at stake here. We have a problem with understanding what it means to be the Church. I’m not against Sunday morning sports or church buildings that provide an environment to watch them. Unique approaches like this are nothing new. Kevin has written stories on churches using everything from bikers and cowboys to dodgeball and lingerie.
I am concerned with activity or promotion that clouds the concept of what Church really is. To me, Church is a committed group of disciples in pursuit of becoming more like Jesus and demonstrating this compassion and love with those who need it.
If Greerton Bible Church is able to pull this off in the context of their sports Sundays, great! Otherwise, they walk a fine line between putting method before message. If sports (or any activity) is perceived to be more important than outreach and discipleship, we have a problem.