That Old Time Religion(s): College Football and Church

The southern part of the United States has two old time religions-college football and church. Our neighbors homes are currently adorned with different flags from about fifteen different teams. The truth of the matter is that in the fall, a large number of people spend their time doing two things on weekends, attending football games and going to church. When one says, “give me that old time religion” in this part of the country, they mean two different religions. So, what’s the connection? Right off the bat, I see these four connections.

Tailgating and the Table- All are welcome. True on both Saturday and Sunday. Tailgating is central to the game experience. The communion table is central to an experience of Jesus. One of the things I love about the tailgate is you never know who might show up and be welcomed. Some weeks its a big crowd and other weeks its smaller. No matter, there is always enough for all and all are welcome. Sounds just like the communion table in my church.You never know who might show up. There is always enough and all are always welcome.

Connection and Fellowship- I see people on Saturdays in Athens that I only see once per week and many who I only see during football season. Yet, there are all like old friends. Football brings people together, many of whom have a special bond through football. The church, at its best, brings people together, many of whom have a special bond together through Jesus. A shared experience, such as a football game or a week at church camp, gives people a lifetime relationship. The relational power of both is amazing.

Shared Passion– This is one where the church can learn from football. The passion of 80,000 people cheering for the same cause, united around one team. If we can get that excited about a team, surely we can be that excited about continuing Jesus’ ministry in the world.

Ecumenism- Both, at their best, play well with others. In between the lines, we may have certain disagreements about which is the right team, but at the end of the day we recognize what we have in common and how we might work together- no matter if we are a different team, conference,  denomination, or faith. We even allow Tennessee and Florida fans at our tailgate.We can certainly work with Presbyterians and United Methodists.

Jimmy Buffett once said wrote, “there’s a thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning.” That line might not be as thin as you think.

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