Church and football

My friend and mentor, Steve Elzinga, started a church near his home when he lived in Illinois. He called his church Halftime.

At the time, I thought that was a stupid name for a church. I mean, I get that he was trying to speak the language of the guys in his neighborhood, and I get that he wanted to sidestep stereotypes about church and start something fresh. But the name didn’t really do anything for me.

Now, years later, I think it’s perfect.


A name like “Halftime” sends a message about this weekly meeting. It lets people know that the actual game is outside of these doors. Yes, halftime is necessary. But it’s not the game! The point of halftime is to get us ready to play again.

  • It’s a time to celebrate our successes—the high-fives and back-slaps give us energy to take into the next quarter.
  • It’s a time to analyze our errors, so we don’t repeat those fumbles, sacks, and stupid plays in the second half.
  • It’s a time to regroup and rethink and rest up. We need to scrape the turf out of our cleats and put our shoulder pads back into our shirts.
  • And it’s a time to get instructions from the coach. Usually he’s not teaching us something new; he’s just reminding us of the plays we’ve been practicing all week.

No one leaves the locker room after the halftime meeting and says, “That was a great meeting. Thank you, Coach. I’ll see you next week!” No! There’s an inherent expectation that we will all go back on the field. That’s where the game is!

Where the game is

The church game is not at the building where we meet once a week, any more than the football game is in the locker room. The church game should be happening in my neighborhood, in my workplace, at my school.

Yes, I need Sundays. I need instructions and pep talks and rest. But I need that so my next Monday–Saturday can be better than my last Monday–Saturday. That’s where the game is.

Better halftimes

So, what I’ve been wondering is, How would Sunday morning services look different if the assumption was that we were sending people back into the game? What changes do the players need to make? What skills do they need to sharpen? And what’s the best way to develop those skills in the short time we have on Sundays? Is it even possible, or is that asking too much of halftime?

More practice

If Sunday services are the equivalent to halftime, what is the equivalent to the daily football practice? Is that what’s missing from our churches? Where is the place where we are doing drills and learning skills? We seem to have plenty of opportunities to study the playbook (the Bible), but most of this “study” is passive. Where do we get to practice actually running these plays?

I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I think it’s really important to start asking them. The church cannot be the church if its members are so used to spectating they no longer know how to play the game.

6 thoughts on “Church and football”

  1. From someone who sat through many many games, although they were basketball games, this post really sounded the buzzer for me. I was a spectator and there were only a few players. Do we have more spectators than players in the church? Has the half-time buzzer sounded for all of us?

    • I hope you’ll join me in sharing those questions and thoughts, Nancy. We don’t have to have the answers, but we can discover them together if we keep asking questions. :)

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