NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- Last year, more than 111 million people watched Super Bowl XLV to see the Green Bay Packers defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers. That's a lot of people in one place at one time.
This year, the NFL has given its blessing for churches to broadcast the Super Bowl, relaxing a previously restrictive policy and allowing public showings of the big game on TVs larger than 55 inches. Churches can now legally have a Super Bowl party without violating the league's copyright.
As believers and church leaders, we should be asking questions like, "What is God up to?" and, "How can we use this opportunity to share the Gospel?"
Denver quarterback Tim Tebow, along with Focus on the Family's John 3:16 commercial, have increased the national conversation regarding the intersection of faith and football. One magazine reporter even asked his Twitter followers to tell him the meaning of John 3:16.
Other athletes and sports celebrities are finding themselves on The New York Times bestseller lists with books about faith and values. It would be safe to say that the opportunity to springboard the conversation from sports to the Gospel is at a zenith.
Many churches and groups will use their Super Bowl party as a launching pad for future men's ministry. Let me make a few recommendations on how to use some of the biggest names in sports to be strategic and successful.
First, do some thorough preplanning. Look for proven resources that your church or small group can show before, during or after the game that will challenge people to know Christ and grow closer to Him.
If you are truly looking for a way to turn the Super Bowl into an event that will have an eternal impact, then high-quality resources are the way to go. Keeping the Super Bowl vibe and experience going are important.
One resource I'd recommend is from Sports Spectrum, the top Christian sports magazine in the country. They developed a Super Bowl halftime video every year called "Power to Win." A long-time tradition, Power to Win helps the lost see Christ in a new way and provides great encouragement and hope to those who have been walking with Christ for decades.
For this year's Super Bowl on Feb. 5 in Indianapolis, Power to Win will feature professional football players whose stories focus on character and grace. As always, the video will finish strong with the plan of salvation.
Here are some practical things to keep in mind for your church's Super Bowl party:
-- Test your TV, DVD, microphones and any other electronics you plan to use prior to gametime. We've all been in that awkward silence in a Sunday School class or small group when the DVD doesn't play and the leader has to punt. It can kill momentum.
-- Ensure you have a strong Wi-Fi connection. Guys like to use social media to trash talk and have fun with their old high school teammates, college friends and workplace acquaintances.
-- Finally, announce a new small group, Sunday School class or off-campus meeting just for men. Use this event as a gateway to future men's ministry -- but know that you are not alone.
Three-time Super Bowl winning coaches Joe Gibbs and Tony Dungy can help. They have created impactful men's ministry tools that are worth a closer look.
Gibbs was inspired to write a book called "Game Plan for Life" that challenges men to use the Bible as their playbook for the game of life. He also uses the Game Plan for Life message as a platform to speak at ministry events around the country and to lead men to join together in small groups Bible study and implement the discipline of daily devotions with the Lord. Find them on the web at www.GamePlanForLife.com.
Dungy is deeply invested in a program called All Pro Dad. His program challenges fathers to build relationships with their kids that will honor the Lord. Dungy has also written three best-selling books that challenge men to be uncommon leaders. Find out more at www.AllProDad.com.
Men like Gibbs and Dungy provide the creditability for believers and churches to use games like the Super Bowl to reach the lost and gather together to glorify God.
Don't pass on this opportunity to host a creative men's event, share the truth, hope and saving faith of Jesus Christ and "call men up" to greatness.
Jason Ellerbrook is the director of LifeWay Men. For more information about the resources mentioned visit LifeWay.com/men or LifeWay.com/Article/mens-ministry-super-bowl-outreach.