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Can church tackle Sunday football?


3:00 P.M. EST October 22, 2010

A UMNS photo illustration by Kathleen Barry.
A UMNS photo illustration by Kathleen Barry.

Recently I heard a pastor refer to “The Sunday Ticket” in the sermon. Coming off a full day of University of Michigan football, I was intrigued enough to Google “The Sunday Ticket” and discovered a completely new world!

Evidently, American satellite provider DIRECTV advertises a subscription where you can watch any Sunday afternoon National Football League game – even those not available on local affiliate stations.

I had no idea. No wonder it is difficult to get people to come back to church for Sunday evening activities! You can sit in the comfort of your home and watch any football game you want all afternoon and evening.

This year DIRECTV introduced a service where you can watch the games on your mobile phone. Anywhere you go, including church, you can watch your favorite football team.

The church has a lot to learn from “The Sunday Ticket.” Of course, the natural connection for a preacher to make is to emphasize that no one needs a ticket for Sunday worship. We don't rent pews anymore. Nor do we need a ticket or a token for admission to Communion, as was the case in many Protestant denominations in America, the British Isles and Europe through the 1800s.

I am convinced, however, that DIRECTV is on to something with their NFL Sunday Ticket. So I propose a United Methodist Sunday Ticket. Maybe I’ll even put it in the form of a petition and send it to the 2012 General Conference.

U.M. Sunday Ticket brings the action to you

The U.M. Sunday Ticket would allow subscribers to view any Sunday morning church service they wish, including non-United Methodist churches for an extra fee. Moreover, the U.M. Sunday Ticket would include all the free add-ons you get with the NFL Sunday Ticket.

Add-on #1: All NFL Sunday Ticket football games are in High Definition. As the ad says, “See every bead of sweat. Feel every bone-crunching hit. Hear the crowd like you’re right there on the sidelines. Experience it all like never before in HD.”

Imagine watching worship with the U.M. Sunday Ticket. See every line of tension in the preacher's face. Agonize over every missed high note by Ann in the choir. Feel every collective sigh of the congregation when Mike finally ends his convoluted, incomprehensible children's time, and the kids are free at last to go to junior church!

Add-on #2: Why restrict yourself to one game at a time? The Game Mix channel allows you to watch up to eight football games at one time. The screen is simply divided into eight parts.

What a great way to worship! With the U.M. Sunday ticket Worship Mix Channel, you would have great flexibility. You could have a real preach-off by watching eight worship services simultaneously and deciding which preacher scores a touchdown with the lectionary text.

If you were church shopping, you'd save the inconvenience of visiting eight different churches and could compare them from your recliner. You could choose your new church without ever setting foot in it!

Here's another great option. You could divide an individual worship service into eight parts so you can be on top of everything.

  • Screen 1 - the preacher: Is this where the action really is during worship?
  • Screen 2 - the choir: Who's chatting with whom?
  • Screen 3 - the ushers in the narthex: Hey, where are they? Did they sneak down into the kitchen again for doughnuts?
  • Screen 4 - the nursery: Is your baby sleeping or screaming?
  • Screen 5 - the church entrance: Did your teenage daughter disappear from worship with a few friends?
  • Screen 6 - the congregation: How many people are “resting their eyes” this week?
  • Screen 7 - the sound techs: How long does it take them to spring into action when the mic screeches?
  • Screen 8 - the balcony: Was that your son who just flew a paper airplane down to the main floor?

Still more options

Add-on #3: With the Red Zone Channel, you’ll never miss a play from inside the 20-yard line. This brings you the final yards of every drive.

The U.M. Sunday Ticket captures the high points of every worship service, including the climax of the choir anthem, the preacher's wind-up, Amos' inspired drum solo and Sam dropping a full offering plate during the doxology.

Add-on #4: With the Shortcut Channel, you can watch an entire football game in 30 minutes.

The U.M. Sunday Ticket edits for you. Now you can watch the worship service without endless announcements, the 10-minute “digression” of the pastor who obviously wasn't prepared and Jack's painful solo.

Add-on #5: With the Player Tracker channel, you can monitor up to 18 players in real time on your screen.

With the U.M. Sunday Ticket, you can track how many times the preacher said “uh” or “you know” in the sermon and “just” in the prayer. You can track which band had the most repeats in a praise song. You can also track the whereabouts of your favorite parishioners, including Joe and Ethel, who are the only members who don't sit in exactly the same seat every Sunday.

Add-on #6: With Stats, Scoring Plays, Standings and Daily Quiz, the Sunday Ticket gives you every team and individual stat known to humanity.

The U.M. Sunday Ticket includes your favorite church stats ASAP: worship attendance (the real attendance, not the preacher's count), number of children in junior church, number of first-time visitors, number of people in the choir, how many fell asleep during the service and how many left during the last hymn to beat the Baptists to the buffet.

Add-on #7: With NFL Sunday Ticket on Demand, every day is Sunday. Relive the best plays of Sunday NFL football whenever you want!

Relive the highs—and lows—of worship. With U.M. Sunday Ticket on Demand, you can watch endless worship highlights.

Want to see Pastor Jim repeat that hilarious joke? Want to hear that screaming baby go on for 10 minutes until an usher timidly suggests taking the child to the nursery? Want to see Edna drop her bread into the Communion cup and try to fish it out with her bare hand?

As you can see, the U.M. Sunday ticket could be an incredible tool for evangelism. In fact, churches that offer live streaming of their worship services already offer a free U.M. Sunday ticket!

The U.M. Sunday Ticket has the potential to reverse our four-decade-long membership decline, for it would market what we already know. Every week amazing things happen in worship that can only be explained by the movement of the Holy Spirit. God takes our very real and human efforts at worship and transforms them into moments of glory where people encounter the living God, hearts are touched, lives are changed into the likeness of Christ and the world is transformed. Sign me up!

*Haller is superintendent of the Grand Rapids District, West Michigan Annual (regional) Conference.

News media contact: Barbara Dunlap-Berg, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5489 newsdesk@umcom.org.

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