According to Lifeway Research, “most of the faithful [83%] balk at skipping church for football.” When I read this statistic I just chuckled and thought, “I call BS.” Here are just a few reasons this was my response to the research:
- The survey itself means nothing to me if I don’t know how many of the people polled actually even like football. If you’re not interested in sports, it’s easy to say you “put divine revelation ahead of division rivalries” and sound quite pious when you say it. (This was an actual quote from the article – yet another reason for me to keep chuckling). But what if it was something you are interested in? Would you put divine revelation above shopping? Or a bar-b-cue? Or just the need for more sleep?
- Most church goers, even the faithful, have skipped church for far less than a football game – many not requiring any excuse at all. The methodology of the study said, “Responders were screened to only include those … who attend a religious service on religious holidays or more often.” Well, that’s a pretty large range. It certainly did not provide me with much clarity on who was answering the question, let alone how to apply these “startling” findings (as one article called them).
- This just smacked of Christians responding in the way they think they’re supposed to instead of truthfully. This is often referred to as the “halo effect.” According to the Hartford Institute of Religion Research, while more than 40 percent of people say they go to church every week, statistics simply do not show this to be true, with the actual figure being lower than 20 percent. And this is where I stop laughing.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those who believe you must be at church every time the doors are open. My beef is not with those who do not attend regularly (although, as a pastor who spends a lot of time preparing food for the table each week, it sure is nice when people show up for the meal). My real concern here is that Christians so often feel the need to pretend they are doing better spiritually than they really are. We should be concerned about a church culture where this is the pervading mentality.
And to broaden the discussion, why are churches hoisting up the banner of this “research” in an effort to say, “See, Jesus IS better than football”? Or, worse yet, as if to say, “See, if you skip church for football, 83 percent of us faithful think you’re a heathen and consider ourselves more spiritual than you.”