Should Churches Change Their Service Schedule for Seahawks?

Those of you not on the West Coast can’t totally appreciate this question.  Pastors all over Pacific Northwest face this “dreadful” moment when the Seahawks have an early away game. Time zone differences “gift” us with a 10:05am start Sunday morning.

When the Seahawks have an away game….do churches adjust their services to fit into the football phenomena or preserve the core of the Sabbath and encourage people to put God first?

And it’s even more problematic if they are in the playoffs!

Here is the problem with this question.  People think there is an answer. There is NOT.

The problem is everyone likes to build sides. For some reason, within the church we get deeply emotional about the side we take. We build walls between churches.

We pride ourselves with: “My church holds the line and doesn’t compromise for football,” or “My church shows the game and will even cancel a service for football.”

For decades I have lived my life by this quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald, an American novelist and short story writer. This insight from him changed my life: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

Think about it. People with first-rate intelligence have the ability to hold two opposing ideas in their mind at the same time – and retain the ability to function.

I believe two things deeply:
1.    Followers of Jesus should honor the Sabbath and not let meaningless “stuff” get in the way of celebrating with the people of God.
2.    It’s awesome to like football.

I hold these two seemingly opposing ideas very deeply in my heart and mind…and, I believe in both statements 100%.

Jim Collins talks about the “Tyranny of the OR.”  He says the tyranny of the “or” pushes people to believe that things must be either A OR B, but not both.

Collins says,  “Instead of being oppressed by the “Tyranny of the OR,” highly visionary companies liberate themselves with the “Genius of the AND”— the ability to embrace both extremes of a number of dimensions at the same time. Instead of choosing between A OR B, they figure out a way to have both A AND B (Built to Last, kindle location 1105-1107).

Your ability to hold two opposing views and think in terms of “and” – not “or” – shows your emotional and intellectual depth.

I believe wholeheartedly in:

  • Sabbath AND Football
  • Free Will AND Providence of God
  • Contemporary Worship AND Timeless Hymns
  • Attractional churches AND Missional Churches
  • Sacred Marriage AND Restoration After Divorce
  • Creating a Culture of Continuous Recalibration AND Preserving the Core. (I write about this in my next book releasing in April 2016. Be one of the first people to get a free copy HERE.)

I am able to hold these opposing ideas in my mind. I embrace the genius of the “AND.”

So back to my question:  Should churches change their service schedule for the Seahawks?

I respect churches that don’t adjust their schedules…AND I respect churches that do. You may think I am being political. I’m not. It is the genius of the “and;” the ability to hold two opposing ideas in the mind at the same time and being able to function.

Every pastor has to reach deep down and answer this question for their congregation.   They have to look at their particular environments, culture, and people groups – then make a decision.

There is NOT a right or wrong answer! It is an issue of personal conscience and of the leadership philosophy within a congregation.

The apostle Paul spoke of personal convictions and conscience in Romans 14:12-13 and concluded, “each of us will give an account of ourselves to God”. Then Paul clearly instructs, “let us stop passing judgment on one another.” He is referring to issues of personal conscience not clear scriptural convictions.

On a personal level:  I am one of those pastors having to make this decision. I take it seriously. I don’t always call it right. But I can honestly tell you—I always am trying to hear what God is saying for New Life and hold NO judgement for those who make different decisions than me. I respect the process leaders have to go through.

This is why I love Saturday night service and why we are changing to 9am this Sunday and then watching the game together.  Our goal is create an environment where people can honor the Sabbath AND cheer on the Hawks.

Comments 17

  1. I appreciate your examination on this subject and agrèe with the decision….a decision that was not arrived at lightly! Thank you pastor for your honesty and your heart for God and his people.

  2. Not buying it.

    Not all choices here are equal.

    Not everyone in your church (or any church) agrees that “it’s awesome to like football.” Hard as it is to believe, there are people in your church who couldn’t care less about football. Even Seahawk football.

    Among those people there may well be elderly, handicapped or otherwise disadvantaged individuals who don’t have their own transportation and have to rely on buses or other means of getting to church. There may be people who have work shifts or family activities on Sunday afternoons that are scheduled around your usual church service time. There may be people who care for a disabled relative at home, and have a standing appointment with a professional in-home caregiver so they can come to church, and are unable to reschedule that appointment on short notice.

    You evidently have no idea how many non-football fans attend your church. What if they constitute 50 percent of your congregation? Or even 30 percent?

    Changing the schedule for the convenience of football fans may well INconvenience people who aren’t football fans and aren’t asking for any accommodation other than that you stick to service times that they’ve already planned for.

    If you have a group of church members whose priorities are so far out of whack that they’d skip church for a football game, is it fair to cater to that group while screwing over another group whose priorities AREN’T messed up?

    That being said, perhaps there are ways to make both groups happy. One person discussing this post on Facebook mentioned that his church records Sunday playoff games on DVR and then shows them in the fellowship hall after the service, along with pizza. This strikes me as a great way to encourage football fans not to miss church while not upsetting the schedules of non-football fans.

  3. Thanks Pastor Troy for clarifying your dilemma in making such a decision regarding two opposing ideas. I fully support your logic and theological stance towards such issues. You were very clear and I salute you for your position on the issue.

    Your friend and co-wporker,


  4. When we were in the States for both superbowl years, I was amazed at an “openness” in the community. Excitement, silliness, and crazy “fan-itis”, but there was also this openness, a desire to share with strangers, an “I-don’t-know-what” that joined people [even non-football fans] together. As I looked at this window of openness, I wondered how we the church, followers of Christ should respond to it. I also saw this kind of unique moment in cities that host the Olympic games. Even if we are not football fans, [I confess, I am a total Seahawks fan since the 70’s] why in the world would we miss an opportunity to reach out in this rare moment of connectivity? I’m not sure what I might want it to look like, but of this I am certain; ignoring it is a lost opportunity. [And…Go Hawks!}

  5. Thanks for this article. I really appreciate the part about not judging.

    It really does come down to your congregation and leadership style. As John Boener said, “A leader without followers is just a guy walking around.” For our congregation, attendance is down more than 60% when conflicting with a Seahawks game. If we want to “compete” with the NFL, the people have spoken and worship has lost. While we’ve not held a scientific study to confirm the causation, last week and this week services were rescheduled and members were encouraged to fellowship during the game. This worked well last week and I hope it does again. I’m sure this is hard for people that really like schedules and routines, but as far as I know it seems the Bible talks of the church meeting for communion on the first day of the week, but it doesn’t say if they met at the exact same time and place reguardless of any other cultural events that may have fallen on the same day.

    On the other hand, perhaps it is worth exploring “Is it awesome to love football?” As we come to learn how dangerous the sport is to play, as so much tax payer money funds new stadiums for the NFL and NCAA coach salaries, as it plays into regional tribalism, as its fundamentally a metaphor for infantry war and vicious violence, is it worth its entertainment value?

  6. I know this is difficult…But people do want to worship and watch the game…Your a wonderful Pastor, Pastor Troy and I know you pray about every decision you make for the congregation. I know you do whats best for everyone and pray for the best solution… this is why I love this church …I am in the “and”…

  7. Thank you for tackling an issue courageously that few are able to discuss maturely. Brilliant, articulate and scriptural. I too want to live in the “and”. Love it!

  8. When the euphoria from a cultural event drives adjustments to worship schedules, there are theological and philosophical problems. Theologically it diminishes the value of the Lord’s Day. Philosophically it reveals a man-centeredness in worship rather than a God-centeredness.

    Being a native Seattleite and big Seahawks fan, I am excited about the playoffs, too. However, my love for God supersedes my love for football. Go Hawks!

  9. I really don’t judge those who go for either “Or” or “And”. Can’t do that, and have’nt sorted out a firm personal opinion.
    However, I really don’t think NL Seahawks fans could be called “Rome” , as in ” When in Rome do as the Romans do!” It would be interesting to see how many congregants ore not 12’s. I most certainly am!
    The majority of those who attend the 9:15 Gathering will be there at 9, I suspect, except those few who may have situations that Francis The Mule outlined.
    It would be a great testimony to what is “first” if all those who attend the second Sunday gathering showed up at
    9 AM. It would not be a spiritual “test”, but a true measure of “Who/What” is first on that particular date.
    It seems unlikely that the cheers of all who show up at 10 AM are primarily going to be hooray for
    J E S U S !! A great venue for fellowship, but that’s pretty much as far as” Neglect not the assembling of yourselves together” goes.

  10. Show of hands: How many of you, as the clock ran down in the first half with the Hawks down 31-0, looked at each other and said, “We rescheduled church for THIS?!”

    1. I did 🙂

      Just as a point of reference…we did church on Saturday night and Sunday at 9…full house…between three campuses we did 6 was a good weekend.

  11. I’m from the old school and didn’t like the idea at first to change church services. But I also love the Seahawks!!! So I went to 9:00 church service and still watched the Seahawks kick off. Thanks NL for making that decision, and I know God still loves me. Sometimes we have to change in this very busy world. I didn’t like that we were taken out of play-offs but there will be next year.

  12. Good philosophers and theologians can put forth perspectives that challenge people’s doctrines or opinions; to make them think. That is what you did here Pastor Troy. You clearly put forth deep thought, sought wise counsel, and prayerfully considered all angles before coming to your conclusions. Decisions like these require the wisdom of the Lord and isn’t as simple as some would prefer to portray it. It’s sure a good thing that God is more reliable than the Seahawks!

  13. Good afternoon Pastor Troy,

    I just found your blog and really enjoyed reading this. After atending New Life now for five years with my husband, every Sunday, listening to your preaching and your ideas, we fully supported your (or the churches) decision to change the service due to the game. I know we are way past this issue date wise, but after reading this I wanted to let you know, we supported your decision. We’ve always DVR’ed the game, so it has never been a big deal to us if service interfered with game time. But, we did understand that it’s not the same for everyone. We trust and stand by your decisions. We feel you do an amazing job. Keep doing what you’re doing. Just wanted to let you know that our family appreciates you and all that you teach us. See you this Sunday.

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