ARLINGTON, Texas (BP)–Super Bowl XLV, the world’s most watched sporting event, makes its first-ever trip to north Texas this week, venturing to a longtime football hotbed and headquarters for various Baptist and Christian-based ministries.
The massive $1 billion Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, where the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers will vie for the NFL championship late Sunday afternoon, is less than 15 miles from the headquarters of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention offices.
Plus, several of the convention’s largest churches, including Prestonwood, First Baptist Dallas and First Baptist Euless, are in the vicinity.
With the concentrated football excitement and worldwide attention, players and officials rooted in their faith as well as church leaders are planning to take advantage of the opportunity to share the Good News with thousands of visitors streaming into north Texas.
“Players have a great platform to share and a great spotlight to do it,” said Pittsburgh Steelers chaplain Kevin Jordan, who is accompanying the AFC champions.
The Steelers have several Christian players and coaches, led by head coach Mike Tomlin, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and tight end Heath Miller, hopeful to get the opportunity to share what is most important in their lives.
“All year long, players have had a spotlight, but this is a special moment,” Dallas Cowboys chaplain John Tolson said. “What people want to see is somebody who is consistent on and off the field. Not somebody who points to the sky when they score and then lives a different way off the field.”
While the hometown team did not make the big game this year, several current and former Dallas players will be involved in a number of faith-based events. Among them: Roger Staubach, North Texas Host Committee chairman, who often has spoken about his personal faith in the north Texas area.
A record number of nearly 5,000 press credentials have been issued to media from across the country and around the world drawn to the matchup by the space-aged stadium and the two longtime championship teams.
Players will have a chance to share their faith at the Tuesday media day at Cowboys Stadium, along with other interview sessions. Other faith-oriented events include a Friday night gospel music concert at Dallas’ Fair Park, which features an NFL players choir, and the Super Bowl Breakfast on Saturday sponsored by Athletes in Action.
With the strong Texas Baptist presence, several local groups have joined together for a “Reach 45” outreach initiative (the 45 referring to this week’s 45th Super Bowl).
Another key opportunity for involvement for NFL players is the “I Am Second” campaign, based in Plano, Texas. Founded in December 2008 as part of the e3 Partners ministry, it first featured baseball star Josh Hamilton but has since used Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten and rookie NFL quarterbacks Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford, a candidate for Rookie of the Year honors.
“We’re using the platform for people to see their stories,” said I Am Second director Mike Jorgensen. “It’s great to have the Super Bowl platform this year because a lot of people are excited about the game and a lot of people are coming here.”
In a “Million-Card Giveaway” in conjunction with the I Am Second effort, volunteers will engage fans by distributing small cards with NFL players’ testimonies. The outreach will focus both the NFL Experience in downtown Dallas on Saturday and the parking lots surrounding Cowboys Stadium before and after Sunday’s game.
“I’m very excited that so many people from different churches in the area are responding to this challenge,” Jorgensen said.
He is also hopeful that this week’s events will encourage other NFL players to use their testimony to reach others. Prestonwood Baptist already lined up a large men’s conference in March which will feature Witten and ESPN’s Craig James, along with Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, who has been involved with Prestonwood sports and is engaged to be married to Candice Crawford, who also attends Prestonwood.
A service blitz is slated in Arlington on Saturday along with a community watch party near the stadium Sunday. Various churches are also part of the Souper Bowl of Caring, dedicated to helping provide food for the needy.
First Baptist Dallas will cancel its regular Sunday night services to host a Super Bowl watch party with a Christian-oriented halftime featuring NFL players via video. The church is encouraging its members to do the same if they choose to stay at home Sunday night.
“We are not capitulating, but capitalizing on the Super Bowl,” pastor Robert Jeffress told the Dallas Morning News.
Sports Spectrum magazine and RBC Ministries have partnered to produce the annual “Power to Win” video, which can be played at churches and homes during the Super Bowl halftime.
This year, NFL players featured on the “Power to Win” video are Dallas Cowboys quarterback Jon Kitna, who started the majority of the season when Romo was hurt, and Philadelphia Eagles starting quarterback Michael Vick, a candidate for NFL MVP.
“God has taken it over,” Vick told Baptist Press last year at the AIA Super Bowl breakfast in Miami, and “now I am more at peace.”
Art Stricklin is a Dallas-based sports correspondent.