Last night was the NFL Pro Bowl, not that you watched it. I didn’t. I’m a rabid football fan, and the thought never even crossed my mind. Couldn’t remember where it was on tv. I looked at ESPN’s website, the (theoretically) go-to site for all things sports. There wasn’t even a link on the main page. NBA, NCAA basketball and the Australian Open were apparently more important events to cover.
What makes the Pro Bowl so forgettable and the Super Bowl so memorable? They’re both football games. They’re a week a part. They’re both in the same venue. Cities pay tens of millions of dollars for the privilege of hosting the Super Bowl. The Pro Bowl was on the brink of cancellation a few years ago. That’s how few people care about the Pro Bowl. So what makes the Pro Bowl so forgettable and the Super Bowl so memorable? And what’s the application for the church today?
1. The Pro Bowl doesn’t count for anything. The Super Bowl counts for everything. The Pro Bowl is a way to highlight the best individual players at each position, but the game itself doesn’t count for anything. Everyone knows that. The Super Bowl, however, counts for everything. It’s the one prize that 32 teams are vying for each season. For the church: What’s at stake when your church meets each Sunday? Do people get the sense that eternity hangs in the balance, or is it just another Sunday routine?
2. The players aren’t playing for real at the Pro Bowl. The players are playing for keeps at the Super Bowl. The number one concern of the players during the Pro Bowl is ‘don’t get hurt.’ They play it safe, not wanting to put their salary in jeopardy for a meaningless game. The fans see that instantly. The Super Bowl is the polar opposite. You can’t keep the players off the field. They’ll play through pain, through sprains, through broken bones if need be. They’re playing for keeps. For the church: Is there a fire at your church? Is your church playing offense, taking new territory for the Kingdom, pushing back the darkness and actively spreading the hope of the gospel? Or is your church playing defense, keeping things the same, keeping the big givers happy, not rocking the boat?
3. Pro Bowl teams are nothing more than a collection of individuals. The Super Bowl contestants are teams that have been through the fire together. The Pro Bowl players are all-stars, but they’re not a team. They play like a group of players wanting to make the highlight reel and display their individual talents rather than win together. The teams that make the Super Bowl have been refined by the fire of the regular and post-season and play as one unit. Their teamwork, in fact, is what got them to this point. For the church: Does the church staff play as a team? Do they put the greater good ahead of their individual ministries? Are they more concerned with sacrificing for the good of the team or building their individual resume for the church down the road?
If you’re part of a church that meets weekly, be sure that it looks more like the Super Bowl than the Pro Bowl.