An interesting church dilemma. Our midweek meeting clashes with the England World Cup Semi Final. And if England get to the final, then that will clash with our Sunday service. So, during our church service yesterday Jonny Miller (one of our elders and a passionate sports fan!) took some time to help us think through some principles. Here is a (slightly edited) transcript of what he said...
If you've come to The Globe Church for any length of time, you'll know that meeting midweek is really important to us. We love spending time reading the Bible, praying, building relationship together. Each Wednesday (and Thursday during term time) at 7pm we gather on Borough High Street to do these things.
And if you've been anywhere other than under a rock over the last month or so you'll know that 7pm on Wednesday presents something of a logistical challenge; England are playing in the semi-final of the world cup at 7pm on Wednesday!
As a church we want to think through how we respond to what is (whether you like it or not) an extraordinary cultural event. There is a choice to make here. On Wednesday we now have a choice between football and meeting as a church family. So I want to share with you three things that will help us to think about the World Cup, and other points when our attention maybe divided.
Principle 01: We are free because we have a gospel of freedom
The amazing thing about Jesus, the amazing thing about this gospel that we believe, is that we are free. When God looks at us he sees the perfect righteousness of Jesus and is pleased with us. That is our status. Our standing before God does not depend on our performance. That gives us true freedom to make decisions according to what we think is best. We are free because of the gospel.
Principle 02: The World Cup presents a massive opportunity
To give you an example of this opportunity, I was sitting on the tube the other day minding my own business and someone I didn't know spoke to me! They said something about "it's coming home". That doesn't happen! I engaged with another human who I didn't know before, that is astonishing. If you've been in London only a short time you'll know that the tube is a pretty quiet place! 87% of people who were watching TV on Saturday were watching football.
Millions of people are excited about the World Cup. Some of your friends and family are probably excited about the World Cup, this week does present a massive opportunity to spend time with people and build relationships. So let's try and make the most of this opportunity as a church.
It might be that some of your colleagues at work are going out to watch the football, or some of your friends, or some of your neighbours. That is a great opportunity to go along with them, to start conversations, to begin to point them to Jesus.
Principle 03: Jesus is so much more important and so much more exciting
This principle means that we're not going to be cancelling anything. Globe Focus, our midweek group will still be happening. Our church service on Sunday at 4.30pm will still be taking place. We're not shutting down. Nothing takes precedence over Jesus.
The football is exciting (I am very excited about this), but Jesus is so much more exciting. Football is good but not ultimate. We must be careful not to idolise football. That for me is a massive reminder, when I was watching England vs Colombia and I was with my friends and we were singing… it is easy to get carried away. But when I think about what Jesus has done for me and what we'll experience in the new creation when he returns, it is millions of times more exciting that that. That has got to focus my heart on Jesus.
As we're thinking about the world cup let's remember those three things; we're free so we can choose, it is a massive opportunity to spend time with friends and family but Jesus is so much more important. It is possible to make decisions that please or displease our Heavenly Father.
We might displease Him by choosing to watch the football, or by self righteously attending church. We might please Him by choosing to watch the football and seeking to engage with our friends or we might please Him by choosing to forgo football and choose to prefer Jesus instead.
Let’s not condemn and judge one another. Rather let’s pray for one another as a church family that we would make it our goal to please Jesus.