For many Americans, September hosts a day they have been anxiously awaiting for seven long months. On September 5th the new NFL season kicks off, as the teams return to the gridiron. The most dedicated sports fans are almost fanatical in their devotion to their team. They have a passion for their team and that passion is a defining aspect of who they are. The most hardcore of sports seem to have a different approach to their love of the game or their team. I am not the only one to notice that the levels of devotion that the most fanatical fans have to their team is a little out of sync with the level of investment that others have. This has fascinated researchers and tons of social science studies have been done on the phenomenon of sports fanaticism. The studies go into a lot of detail but they can all be summed up simply: rooting for your favorite team makes you feel better about your life. Sports fans get a deep sense of connection. Cheering their team helps them feel they are being part of something bigger and better than themselves. If this is true, then the large appeal of sports across ages and cultures is that it taps into something deep within the human spirit. I think it is by God’s design that we have a desire to be part of something greater, to be fully invested in something outside ourselves, and to know we belong to something that lasts.
If that is true, then churches should be as high energy as a football stadium. After all, as part of the body of Christ we are part of something far greater than ourselves. As Christians we have the opportunity to be invested in God’s mission that is world transforming. Being a sports fan brings joy because the fans are swept up in something exciting, and as followers of Christ we should be swept up in the infinitely exciting, never-ending love of God. Given all of that, our worship services should be as enthusiastic as the pre-game tailgate parties. So why aren’t they? Why do we tend not to have the same level of excitement and enthusiasm about living out our faith and worshiping our Savior as we do about sports teams?
There should be a level of excitement when we gather as God’s people, and there used to be. Years ago someone pointed out to me a fascinating aspect in American Sign Language. In ASL, the sign for Methodist and the sign for enthusiasm are identical. When the etymology of sign language was developing throughout the 19th and early 20th century, there was a clear connection between being a Methodist and being enthusiastic. There should be that kind of connection, because we have a lot to be excited about. We are saved by grace, we are forgiven of our worst choices, death has been defeated, and Jesus has won the victory! As followers of Christ we have a lot of reasons to be full of enthusiasm.
So let’s reclaim our enthusiasm. When someone serves God sacrificially we should cheer that on as much as a fan cheers on their team getting a home-run. When prayers are answered and God works miraculously we should be on our feet just like there was third down conversion touchdown. When we gather to worship God, we should do so with as much as excitement as the true blue fans have when their team takes the field. May we be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, and may we be so enthusiastically.