DETROIT (BP)–For football fans, the Super Bowl is the pinnacle of the season, the Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers clashing for this year’s gridiron supremacy.
For TV junkies, the Super Bowl is an entertainment event, replete with commercials to talk about at work on Monday.
But for Tim Knopps, a fulltime evangelist from Oklahoma City, the Super Bowl holds eternal significance. He sees it as a prime opportunity to witness to those who aren’t Christians.
“The Super Bowl is such a great catalyst that it actually has long-term ramifications,” Knopps said. “[Churches] can tandem off of the excitement…. [W]hat we’re doing is kind of riding the crest of that excitement.”
Since 1998 in San Diego, Knopps has been involved with Super Bowl host cities and local churches trying to capitalize off the spotlight on their communities.
He comes only at the invitation of host committees or local Baptist associations, helping with everything from coordinating street witnessing campaigns to raising volunteers for the game’s halftime shows.
“When we do a project we’re actually witnessing more to the in-town people than we are to the incoming guests,” Knopps said.
For example, at last year’s Super Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., half of the volunteers for the halftime show stage crew were members of Southern Baptist churches.
Knopps said using volunteers in this way opens doors for people to talk about their faith in Christ. He asks them to be the best volunteers they can be, and in their down time be willing to talk to other volunteers about their church and, ultimately, about God. His emphasis is witnessing in a non-confrontational way.
“If you can’t start talking about Jesus by talking about your church, then you’re going to the wrong church,” Knopps said.
The dynamics are different from city to city. In 2000 in Atlanta, the local churches seemed to have a heart for the media crews coming to town. Knopps helped them organize their efforts to assist the crews, and the churches also created welcome packages they delivered to the media trailers behind the stadium.
In most cities, local churches host Super Bowl watch parties on the day of the game, complete with lots of food, Gospel tracts and Christian booklets placed around the room.
Primarily, Knopps wants churches to see the Super Bowl as a way for them to get plugged into their communities.
“They realize that church members are just like us, but they have something we don’t,” Knopps said about unchurched members of the community.
He added that churches don’t have to be large to take advantage of opportunities like the Super Bowl.
“If you just use what you have, that’s usually a good thing,” Knopps said. “There’s no reason to do a big project if the resources aren’t there.”
Knopps also said such activities don’t have to be limited to the Super Bowl but can be used for other major events in a city, such as the World Series, NBA Finals or NCAA basketball tournament.
Knopps has written a “Super Bowl Watch Party Playbook” to help churches pull off a successful Super Bowl watch party. The guide is available on his website at www.timothyinstitute.org/WatchParty/index.htm.