(Photo: REUTERS/Mike Segar)
NewSpring Church, a five campus megachurch in Anderson, S.C., is canceling its Sunday night services due to the Super Bowl this weekend.
Lead Pastor Perry Noble explained the reason in his blog. "I've been in church work for over 20 years and the one thing I can say is that attendance on Super Bowl Sunday night in church has always been awful! (and…the people who are there are pretending to be looking at youversion on their phone…but they are really checking the score of the game!)," he wrote.
Noble said the church has always tried to compete with the Super Bowl with poor results, so NewSpring made the decision to change its worship times from Sunday night to Saturday night. The megachurch's two Sunday morning worship services are still being held.
The decision, in part, also stemmed from something Noble said he once heard influential pastor Andy Stanley say. Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga., said that one of the things the early church was obsessed with was making a difference and not making a point.
Noble said NewSpring, in regards to the Super Bowl, was not going to "try to make a point, but rather make a difference. We want people to come to church, and we think church should do whatever it takes to get people in the doors."
Apologist Chris Rosebrough told The Christian Post that Stanley's statement doesn't have "anything to bear on whether or not it's appropriate for a church to yield to the Super Bowl."
He said that the people who don't care about the game, and would rather be at church, are basically being told that the Super Bowl is more important than their weekly church routine.
"Scripture teaches that the job of a pastor is to preach the Word. That doesn't matter if God sends two or 3,000 people, the job of pastor is the same," Rosebrough said.
Perry did address concerns over the move in his blog, saying that some in the congregation have said this move "could be viewed as some sort of "compromise."
But he said that "nothing could be further from the truth. There isn't a specific verse as to the number of services or service times a church has to have. And we knew that in making this move that people were more likely to attend church on a Saturday evening and bring their friends with them."
And more attendees means "people hearing about Jesus…which mean[s] more possibility for changed lives…which we're all going to agree is a major WIN!"
Many other churches in the Anderson area are sticking to their regularly scheduled services though.
Oakwood Baptist Church, located about 10 miles from NewpSring, told CP that they are having Sunday night services like always, though they might be a little shorter than normal.
At another local Anderson church, Capstone Church, said they will be combining their college services and home groups at a Super Bowl party.
A Capstone staff member told CP that they don't typically cancel services and haven't seen a low attendance due to big events. "People show up no matter the deal," the staff member said.
But Perry said in the blog that they are making a difference by changing the service because it "allows us to reach more people and in no way compromises any Biblical command or precept."
Plus, he added, "what's even greater is that this move allows hundreds of small groups across every campus to host Super Bowl parties, which is another on ramp where they can invite their friends and family members who do not know Christ to come and experience Christian community. Once again, that's a win."
"We will have more people at our church this weekend, more people hear about JESUS and more people meet Him as their Savior because we as a body of believers decided to not try to make a point but to make a difference…we did what we could to leverage what God has given us to reach more people for Jesus," the pastor stressed.
"And none of us will have to miss those awesome commercial[s]."
NewSpring Church did not respond to requests for an interview with CP for the article.
The New England Patriots faces off against the New York Giants for Super Bowl XLVI on Feb. 5.