I watched parts of both NFL playoff games last night. Both were great games! It reminded me that in three weeks is Super Bowl Sunday. It is a day when millions of people will gather in homes and taverns to party, laugh, cheer, connect and share life together. It is one of the few days of the year that you have an excuse to invite people into your home, or accept an invitation into another home, and share stories and life together. Super Bowl Sunday is a required missional outreach event for ODC. Everyone needs to preferably host a Super Bowl Party or attend one. If you were looking for an excuse to invite your neighbors, co-workers, work-out friends, classmates, and others over to your house, Super Bowl Sunday is that excuse. It is also an excuse to accept an invitation into another’s home for their gathering. I do not care if you do not like football! Watch the commercials, eat the food, whatever. Like going to the Laundromat, flea market, or prayer walking the mall, it is an opportunity to encounter and enter into people’s lives in a real way. Here is why.
“Storytelling is powerful because it has the ability to touch human beings at the most personal level. While facts are viewed from the lens of a microscope, stories are viewed from the lens of the soul. Stories address us on every level. They speak to the mind, the body, the emotions, the spirit, and the will. In a story a person can identify with situations he or she has never been in. The individual’s imagination is unlocked to dream what was previously unimaginable.“
– Mark Miller
“Story telling is powerful.” Obviously Budweiser has picked up on this in the last few years with their Super Bowl commercials. They moved from the comedic frogs of Bud-weis-er to the now infamous stories of their heritage and horses. Those are always popular each year.
The reason is not merely because people love stories, which they do, but because story hits the heart and not merely the head. And, because they know that the Super Bowl is a story on the biggest stage, if they can develop a story within the story, they’ll win the rigorous marketing wars between companies vying for your attention.
And, if they hit your heart, that’s what causes action. We can all watch commercials that have facts about how this pill has caused people to lose weight, or how many dentists recommend this toothpaste, but that doesn’t move us…what moves us, is story, because it hits us deep in the heart. This is why the Super Bowl is important, and this is what the Super Bowl is about.
This Super Bowl…like all others is filled with story and everyone wants to be part of it, talk about it, be around it because as football players will say, “The game is bigger than all of us.” Everyone wants to be part of a larger story, let’s use this opportunity as a door opener to the largest story ever told. How can we use the Super Bowl to simply point to the larger story of God without sounding like Westboro Baptist or the cheesy usher with a painted smile on his face?
“Story telling is powerful.” Obviously Budweiser has picked up on this in the last few years, Christians need to pick up on this as well.
1. Throw a Party
For our family, we’d rather throw a party than merely attend one. The reason is that it gives us plenty of ways to bless people and have them in our house. I feel like I can be like the Apostle Matthew and invite three people to my party: my friends, my Jesus and His followers.
9 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him.
10 Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. 11 But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?”
12 When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.”
When you invite others, you get to choose the crowd you hang with. Usually, for Christians, this is a bad thing as we over filter who we invite. But notice who was at Matthew’s party. Scum, Jesus, disciples. All mixed, partying like it’s OO31AD. The more this crowd, Jesus, followers and not yet followers hang, the better.
2. Encourage Story
Encourage story with everyone. Walk around asking people “story” questions, or ask people, “have you heard his story, it’s awesome…” Get your guests talking and listen. You learn so much about them during these stories. Be the story encourager at your party. Ask questions like:
1 How’d you and your spouse meet?
2 Why did you choose your career?
3 Who is your favorite NFL team and why??
4 What do you like most about living here?
Really, any open ended question will work. It’s not to bait and switch them so you can talk about how unless you eat Jesus’ body and drink his blood you can never be one of his followers. It’s so you can actually get to know them and their story so that when the opportunity comes, you know where their story needs redemption and who or what is their functional savior so you can point to the one and only Saviour who brings eternal redemption, now and forever. You’ll know how to serve them, love them and show them Jesus in the ways that will tell a story that will hit their heart.
3. Go Overboard with Food
You ever been to a party where there isn’t much food? Sucks. Don’t be that party…be a party that points to the Great Wedding Feast. Not only that, but take into consideration who is coming. Ask if any have allergies, or a special diet. When you take others into consideration, it shows you actually care and desire for them to be comfortable in your house. It also gives you yet another connection point to their story.
Don’t supply all the food though. Have people bring food. We are having people bring a main dish. The reason is that a main dish usually has a story behind it. Either of how they grew up, who taught them how to make it or nothing at all. But I usually simply ask, “Does this dish have any significance to you?” You’d be surprised how much story can come from chicken salad.
4. Ask the Spirit For Guidance
Who is pushing into you currently for relationship? Ask the Spirit to show you these people. Maybe for you it is your CrossFit gym. Invited all 400 members. You know that 95% of them aren’t going to come, but it gives you an open to invite them into a relationship with you, and is a personal invite.
Ask the Spirit for time with those people who are personally pushing into you and your family for relationship so you can ask them personally as well. For me, I don’t want them to merely get the Facebook invite, I want to ask them if they are coming and that it’d be great if they did. Everyone I have been given by the Spirit, I’ve asked personally and everyone one of them are coming. It’s awesome, even if one of them is a fan of my opposing team.
But, don’t stop there.
Ask the Spirit for guidance on listening to their story at the party and what you should say, or how you should listen or how to encourage further relationship. Remember, this isn’t about a football game, this whole day is wrapped up in story, so use this to learn other’s stories. Maybe you do get into a deep spiritual conversation, but maybe you don’t. Don’t beat yourself up. The Spirit will tell you when to speak, when to listen, when to keep it surface level and when to go deep. Just because you don’t present all of the Romans’ Road to them doesn’t mean you should feel guilted and shamed. The Spirit doesn’t guilt and shame you, that’s the devil’s game.
The more the devil can guilt and shame you the more you’ll have an agenda instead of listening to the Spirit on how to show off Jesus in the ways of Jesus in the power of the Spirit. Sometimes silence is the loudest witness. Don’t let the devil fool you into thinking you have to speak the name of Jesus at every party for it to be a “successful” party. But, always be thinking, how can I make this party be a shadow of our celebratory God that wants everyone invited to his party?
Take some time this week to ask, “Spirit, how can I ensure that what I say and do Super Bowl Sunday will be a shadow of your Story” (It’s a good thing to do everyday!)
Listen. Then obey what the Spirit gives you.
If you do that…no matter what happens, your gathering will not be a failure, but will have happened by the power of the Spirit to bring people along as far as he wants them to so they might know more about the only story line that ultimately matters. And who knows…maybe he’ll show you even more about his Story so you can marvel at how large his Story really is, yet how much he carefully and specifically loves and hears your specific “small” requests.
Please share your thoughts, reflections, and maybe other examples of what you use to invite other people into your story.