Twice in the past two years I’ve preached in a sports jersey (specifically a sports team shirt for the New Orleans Saints, can I get a ‘Who Dat’?). The idea of a preacher preaching in a sports jersey would have elicited a mixture of awkward laughter and downright revulsion in the churches I grew up in. Many would claim that preaching in a sports jersey is sacrilegious, an affront to the reverence of God and disrespecting the upstanding folks who attend church every week. I hear those objections, but here’s why I did it anyways, and hear’s why I don’t think it’s sacrilegious:
1). Those Sundays were ‘sports-themed’ Sundays. I was very intentional when I wore a sports themed shirt. It was one two different Sundays when we were utilizing football as an overarching theme to point to greater truths from Scripture. Some might push back and argue that we should never pander to the sports crowd and use something as base as sports to tout spiritual truths. My counter to that would be: look at Jesus’ parables. Jesus used simple, relevant everyday examples to communicate deeply spiritual truths. He used what people knew: farming, fishing, human relationships. People today know sports, so I consider it fair game in an attempt to reach people with the gospel.
2). Our church is reaching a different kind of crowd. In a typical church, the preacher wearing a sports jersey would be deeply offensive to the cultural expectations of the membership. If I didn’t think I was offending God, at least I shouldn’t go out of my way to offend other people. In most churches that would apply, but my church is different on purpose. Without giving you the whole pitch, we are laser-focused on creating an environment where the unchurched (those who’ve never been to church) and dechurched (those who went to church earlier in life but walked away) can explore their relationship with God and be transformed by the gospel. Wearing a sports jersey plays to our crowd. Within a 10 mile radius of our church (this is the Deep South) there are dozens of other churches all going for the churched crowd. We’re going for the dechurched crowd, and that changes the expectations of what you’ll see on a Sunday.
4). Jesus declared judgment on those who were more concerned with appearances then reaching people. Look at Jesus’ interactions with the Pharisees and teachers of the law. Jesus condemned them again and again for putting external appearances above compassionately reaching and caring for all of God’s children. Anyone who would argue that the only respectable thing to wear in church is a suit or a clerical robe has to ask: is this strict adherence to tradition keeping my church from reaching the least and the lost, those whom Jesus ministered to himself? Is this attitude in danger of looking like the Pharisees?
All this goes to a much deeper conversation, one that we’ll discuss in future posts: who is church for? Believers or non-believers? Is the point of church to reach outsiders or edify believers? Is a church service primarily designed for evangelism or discipleship? Can it successfully do both? Great questions for future posts