MIAMI (BP)–The North American Mission Board and about 1,000 Southern Baptists are taking the message of Jesus Christ to the Super Bowl.
NAMB, the Florida Baptist Convention, Gulf Stream Baptist Association and Miami Baptist Association are partnering under the banner “Southern Baptists of South Florida” to serve as one of the official sponsors of the 1999 South Florida Super Bowl XXXIII Host Committee.
“It is an extraordinary partnership between NAMB, the local associations and the state convention,” says Tim Knopps, an evangelism events associate for NAMB. “Through it Southern Baptists will meet people they will not be able to meet anywhere else. It is a great opportunity to serve others and to share Christ.”
The partnership calls for Southern Baptists to provide at least 300 volunteers to the host committee. The volunteers, mostly from the Miami and Fort Lauderdale metro areas, will work with visitors during one four-hour shift each to a wide variety of Super Bowl-related attractions.
For the remainder of the time the volunteers will be involved with other Southern Baptists in a variety of evangelistic activities throughout the area. At least 12 churches will share Christ through community block parties, and about 100 churches will hold Super Bowl watch parties — most using the Super Bowl Half-Time Kit evangelistic video and party package. Members of the North American Mission Board’s Inner City Evangelism team also will be a part of the effort.
NAMB and south Florida Baptists partnered with Sports Spectrum, a national Christian sports magazine, to purchase 125,000 special Super Bowl issues specially crafted for south Florida. The magazine includes a clear gospel presentation from former Miami Dolphin and 1998 NFL Hall of Fame inductee Dwight Stephenson, who will be on hand to encourage Southern Baptist workers at block party training Jan. 21. The magazine also includes an offer of a free “Jesus” video to any reader who returns an enclosed card.
Sports Spectrum will be distributed from at least 40 official host committee kiosks throughout the area, including three major airports in south Florida and most of the major hotels.
Toby Frost, manager of event evangelism for the North American Mission Board, said the Super Bowl effort is a good example of what he calls the ABCs of event evangelism — a means of Attracting lost people, a Bridge to create a relational common ground and a resulting opportunity to Communicate the gospel.
“The Super Bowl in that sense, then, is really incidental to what we’re doing,” he said. “It’s just simply the bridge across which we share Jesus Christ. But because the Super Bowl is such a high-profile event, it gives us the opportunity to bridge to many more people than we might choose. Sports is the language of many segments of our society, and if we can use that language just like we use other languages, we can more effectively share the gospel with people that share that language.”
The opportunities also extend far beyond passing out tracts to spectators, Frost said. “The greatest evangelistic impact is that it is a catalyst for local churches to do intentional evangelism in their church field,” he said.
Planning for the ministry began last spring among representatives of the four major partners and a number of south Florida pastors. Knopps did similar work last year at the San Diego Super Bowl, but the effort has been greatly expanded in Miami.
Two interns and an additional staff person at the Miami Baptist Association have been added exclusively to work with the project. Also, Jonathan Driver, a Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary student with sports ministry experience, and Darnel Morales, of the Miami Baptist Association staff, were hired by the NFL as game managers with the ‘NFL Experience,’ an interactive sports festival attended by hundreds of thousands of fans in the nine days prior to the Super Bowl.
In preparation and anticipation of similar activity next year at the 2000 Super Bowl in Atlanta, a contingent of Georgia Baptist Convention workers and Atlanta-area based ministry leaders will be in Miami to observe and assist. In addition, the Florida Baptist Convention staff is using the Miami Super Bowl effort to help it understand how to do similar ministry effectively two years from now, when the Super Bowl returns to Florida (Tampa).
More information on the Super Bowl ministry is available from the Internet site www.miamibaptist.org/sbsf. James Dotson contributed to this story.