11 Differences between a College Football Fan and a Church Member

Warning: The article below is a bit of sarcastic humor. I am speaking in hyperbole to make a point. The football fan noted represents a very rabid football fan. The church member represents some, but certainly not all, church members.

Disclosure: I tend to be a rabid college football fan. I see my allegiance as an area of devotion that needs significant adjustments downwardly. So I don’t necessarily practice what I preach. For example, even as I type these words, I am reminded that the kickoff for my team’s first game of the season is exactly five weeks from today.

Caution: While I do write these comparisons with some humor and a lot of hyperbole, you might get just a bit uncomfortable reading them. That may indicate there is some truth in each of them.

  1. A college football fan loves to win. The typical church member never wins someone to Christ.
  2. A college football fan gets excited if a game goes into overtime. A church member gets mad if the pastor preaches one minute past the allocated time.
  3. A college football fan is loyal to his or her team no matter what. A church member stops attending if things are not going well.
  4. A college football fan is easily recognized by his or her sportswear, bumper stickers, and team flags. Many church members cannot even be recognized as Christians by people with whom they associate.
  5. A college football fan pays huge dollars for tickets, travel, and refreshments for games. A church member may or may not give to his or her church.
  6. A college football fan reads about his or her football team every day. A church member rarely reads the Bible once in the course of a week.
  7. A college football fan attends the game no matter how bad the weather is. A church member stays home if there is a 20 percent chance of rain.
  8. A college football fan invites others to watch the game every week. A church member rarely invites someone to church.
  9. A college football fan is known for his or her passion for the football team. A church member is rarely known for his or her passion for the gospel.
  10. A college football fan will adjust gladly to changes in kickoff time. A church member gets mad if his or her service time is changed by just a few minutes.
  11. A college football fan is loyal even if he or she never gets to meet the coach. A church member gets mad if the pastor does not visit for every possible occasion.

Yes, I admit I do enjoy college football. But I really love Christ’s churches even more. I need to demonstrate that reality more readily. Do you?

So . . . what would you add to my somewhat sarcastic list? Do you see the humor? Do you see some truth?


  1. David says

    Your words are so very true and very convicting. Just imagine if we applied the same passion to furthering the kingdom of God.

    • beth says

      Bowing your head in reverence with arms crossed or clasped hands in the presence of the almighty is something you would not see at a football game. All men will bow before God. Bowing and reverence at a football game wouldn’t happen and many are drunk.

    • Phil says

      Football fans get excited a traffic jam & about 80,000 people packed into a stadium but church members get annoyed if they can’t find a parking space at the door & someone is sitting too close to them at church.

  2. Mark says

    A college football fan screams uncontrollably when their team scores a touchdown. Many church members stand or sit with arms folded during the worship of the God of all the universe.

      • Chris says

        Worship isn’t a time of reverence. It’s a time of overwhelming and uncontrollable joy for your Creator and the grace he shows to us. Save the reverence for prayer and sermon.

        • says

          There are many forms and styles of worship. Being reverent is no less worshipful than showing much joy. Also, prayer is part of worship, is it not??? Simply talking with our Almighty God is the greatest form of worship. And being reverent is acknowledging who
          God is, no matter if you jumping up and down or quietly listening to the Holy Spirit.

  3. Paul says

    How about… A college football fan credits the great team they have when they are winning and playing well, but when they struggle it is the coach that needs to be replaced!

  4. Charles Teague says

    A football fan arrives early to tailgate and get to their seats…. A church member gets there on a “wing and a prayer” for a seat in the back.

    • beth says

      They are usually arriving early to get drunk. Christians arrive early to see brothers and sisters in Christ

      • Pam says

        Not all football fans drink. Not all go to the game early to get drunk even if they do drink. It is entirely possible to have a great time tailgating without alcohol. And some of us football fans even attend church regularly.

  5. Britain says

    A college football fan might argue with you if you insult their team. Christians rarely stand up for Jesus Christ when He is disgraced.

    • beth says

      But you won’t see a football fan fly to Africa or south America on a mission trip to teach those about football either. …

      • Becky says

        Or showing up at the food distribution, mission, pregnancy center, eyeglass give-away, shoe ministry & foot washing…after working a 50 hour week, and taking care of your kids, and the ones you have adopted and foster, and serving at VBS four weeknights – all with joy and a heart full of love.

        • Anna says

          Yes… Rabid football fans do little for society. But sometimes they do us a favor and get drunk and kill someone while driving home. Oh, wait, that isn’t a favor… Yeah, obsessive football fans are basically good for nothing drunken idiots.

          • Glen says

            Anna, not at all judgmental are you? Your statement would be the equivalent of saying that since some Christians have extra-martial affairs all Christians are adulterers. Yes, some football fans can be obsessive but many do it without being drunken idiots. Feel sad for you that you harbor such disdain for other humans that obviously need God’s love.

  6. Mark Dance says

    I’m so relieved you didn’t say “NFL football fan.” Whew… I was on the verge of conviction!

    • Dr Larry says

      We know the story about the wife of the new coach at Auburn/Bama (pick one) that comments that football seems more like a religion there. Of course, she is told with a straight face “oh no, it’s much more serious than religion”.
      By the way, I agree “Roll Toomers Roll”! 😉

  7. says

    A college football fan gives, supports and encourages the highest pay for the coach and his assistants if the season goes well; the average church member complains if the pastor or staff member gets a cost of living raise.

  8. Craig says

    A college football fan does not need to be encouraged to be excited or enthusiastic about their team. A church member desires for someone or something to “pump them up” on during the worship service.

    • beth says

      Jesus “pumps us up” all the days of our lives. Football doesn’t do that. We go to worship God. Worship is about reverence and loving God., not pumping ourselves up. It’s not about us; it’s about Him. Football is about secular things

  9. Larry says

    Dr. Rainer! Thank you for this post. I was thinking about what would be a good sermon series for August. Your blog would be a GREAT idea for a sermon series for the month. Of course, I would base it on Scripture (because Scripture addresses the attitudes you mentioned in some way). I would also give you the credit. I’m a relatively young (32 years old) and new pastor (first pastorate and in my second month at the church). We will be using Explore the Bible for our Sunday School, so my preaching will align with the lessons starting in September. I just didn’t know what I would do for August. Thanks for the insight.

  10. Lee Haley says

    A college football fan will let no excuse get in the way of attending the game. A church member will let any excuse get in the way of attending church

    A college football fan will readjust his budget to buy season tickets. A church member has little if any left in his budget for God’s work.

    Don’t get me started!

  11. Mark says

    I do see the correlations that you have written above. There is a fair amount of truth to them. However I’m going to look at it from the other side. So what can the church learn from the way the football team is managed? Periodically football teams have media day where speeches are given on the state of the team or the program and then questions are taken. When was the last time church leaders gave a state of the church address on more than the finances and then were open to questions from anyone? Also when a coach starts losing too often or loses control of the team the fans go to the athletic director and start mentioning to him that it may be time for the coach to go. The AD usually pays attention to these people because they support the program. That does not mean that he immediately dismisses the coach but it may mean that he has a meeting with the coach to discuss these issues and asked the coach what he plans to do. When was the last time that church leaders listened to ordinary people? Also when the entire athletic program is in trouble fans and supporters go to the university administration to get the AD removed. Since the AD is the equivalent of leadership in a church, when was the last time that a congregation got rid of all the church leaders and put in a new group who could run things differently? I have watched too many organizations, both secular and religious, be run into the ground by their leadership, and the people were basically powerless to do anything about it even though we knew the problems and had come up with potential solutions.

    Most athletic programs also pay attention to what is being said about them on blogs, message boards, and in the press. Sometimes they are forced to respond publicly to squelch a festering issue. When was the last time church leaders went searching the net to see what was being said about themselves and their congregation/denomination and then issued a response?

  12. says

    You felt that you needed to write a “disclaimer” before making any comments about FOOTBALL, positive or negative. If you had only written about CHURCH, no disclaimer would have necessary.

  13. says

    I’m with Paul (above) about what happens when the team struggles. If it referred to NFL (and I’m sure you’d lose readers if you’d made it thus) the coach (pastor), quarterback (Min of Ed), particular players (church members), trainer (SS Teacher), cheerleaders (choir), owner (God Himself) would come under furious attack and threatened with tar & feathers. In the church’s case, nobody EVER thinks the members in the pew (players) aren’t doing their job. Spectator sport, indeed, except the game is life, not football.

    • Mark says

      Even God started over more than once. The first was the flood which only saved Noah and his family. The second was the time the Hebrew people spent in the wilderness between the Exodus and the entrance into the Promised Land. That was to give time for the people who’d walked out of Egypt to die off. Even Moses was replaced. I’d say that was remaking the team.

      • BandGuy says


        Are you implying that God tried one plan and when that didn’t work, He went to plan B, C, etc…? If so, that is a very interesting view of God you have there.

  14. Steve says

    A college football fan knows that a winning team has a coach who maximizes his available resource potential, whether it be the players, assistant coaches, or even fans. A church member is all too often left wondering why they can’t participate and have their God-given gifts, talents, and abilities recognized or used for the good of the team

    • Mark says

      Some people are unfortunately of the wrong age, race, gender, marital status, parental status, political persuasion, are pro-choice, drink a little, and/or anything else that is used to determine who is good enough to do x, y, or z. When you carve off everyone who is deemed ineligible, you don’t have many left to do all that needs to be done.

      • BandGuy says

        If a college football coach has a bunch of whiny prima dona players who break the team rules or are cancers to their program, they suspend them, pull their scholarships and / or kick them off the team. Churches don’t believe in Biblical Discipline many times today and are, instead, controlled by power hungry people who will run the pastor off the first time they don’t get their way. And Churches are, certainly, not looking to Christ as the head of the Church and seeking to fulfill His purposes for the Church many times these days. They are, however, run by those who simply want to create the Church in their own images and have things their way and fight over their own preferences which are non-biblical. As the commercialize Church has gone, they want to have things their way.

  15. Kevin Bussey says

    A college football fan likes it when their team adjusts to changes in their sport. A church member says we’ve never done it that way before!

  16. Shawn says

    If you made a book cover for your Bible and wrote NFL on it, it could stand for NewFound Life and maybe more people would read it?

  17. says

    I understand the sarcasm, but I’ll present this, rewritten, as ways churchmembers are like football fans. “A college football fan loves to win. A church member loves to win someone to Christ.” I’d rather people get on the bandwagon, feeling left out if they are not doing Kingdom work, than for them to think “nobody else is doing it, so why should I?”

      • Mark says

        Then get out the gospel of St. Mark and the letter to the Romans and read them out loud in church. They were written for people who did, not people who sat around postulating, like Greeks. When the football coach, be it Bear Bryant or Nic Saban, gives the pep talk, it is not a 30 minute long speech. It is short and to the point.

        • Nathan says

          The guy who wrote Romans preached for six hours one evening. One of his audience fell asleep, fell out of a second story window, and died. Paul went down, raised him from the dead by the power of Christ, and went on to preach for another six hours. How’s that for a pep talk?

  18. Steve says

    A college fan knows the names of all the players and coaches in the team. An average Christian cannot name all 12 disciples of Christ.

  19. says

    College football teams have staff coaches, mentors, trainers, and counselors for every position. They understand the priority of developing each player into his full capacity as a player. They stay on top of the player’s training, exercise, memorization of routes, rules and strategies.

    The church’s Great Commission, it’s marching orders is much the same. It is to make disciples. Every disciple is a Chistian but not every Christian is a disciple. We need to creat a culture of mentorship where coaches develope young Christians into full disciples.

    • says

      I understand the sentiment here, as every Christian should be adhering to the great commission, but I think we should be careful distinguishing differences between ‘disciples’ and ‘Christians’, as there is no such distinguishing in the N.T. (c.f. Acts 11:26, etc.). To say that someone can be a Christian, but not be a disciple, and therefore not making other disciples (Christians), is a slippery slope away from the scriptures. There are not different ‘levels’ of Christians (i.e. Christians and disciples) presented in the N.T. other than mature and immature, but both would still be disciples/Christians/believers/people of the way/etc. All descriptive names represented one thing, a follower of Jesus.

  20. Robert says

    Dr. Rainer is my mentor from afar. I will be using this real soon on Sunday morning. Thanks for the sharing. By the way, at college football games, we like loud music from the bands but in church we will barely tolerate the praise team

  21. Charles says

    Let’s be honest, the church member you are referring to is mostly not a true believer. These characteristics don’t match with what Scripture describes as a true follower of Christ.

    • Dr Larry says

      Read the first paragraph – Warning!
      This is just a good satirical lesson to those that like college football (like me)!
      I think the Bible also says Judge not, lest ye be judged (of course He will judge us)!

  22. Tim Wright says

    College football fans never complain about the music the band plays…. Or if it’s too loud… :-)

    • BandGuy says

      If you ever read the sports media in Arkansas, you would know this is not true. If I had a penny for every time I saw a media person or blogger in Arkansas blame the fans for running off some recruit, well, let’s just say my tithe would be a lot larger this week… :-)

  23. Sam says

    College football fans know all the rules of the game and can keep up with the game play by play. Church members struggle with Biblical literacy and have a hard time keeping up with the sermon.

      • Sam says

        haha Maybe a little of both! My analogy may have been a little off. I was trying to show that we evangelicals seem to struggle with Biblical literacy. Pastors should for sure do their best to preach the sermon in a way that people can understand. But hes not the only one who should know his Bible.

      • BandGuy says

        It could be that the pastor is not feeding their congregation the Word of God. Perhaps, it’s a sign of a lazy Christian who does not want to grow as a Christian and wants to be bottle fed like a baby the rest of his life. Who knows? Eventually, a Christian should have to grow up a little and learn to feed himself a bit.

  24. Jonathan says

    Head coaches of major college football programs have a responsibility for taking raw high schoolers and making them top level college ball players and potential pro candidates. Sure, they have a staff to assist but this is a force multiplier, not a way to release the coach’s time so he can take a part time job to be a professor at the nearest coaching academy.

    Also, a coach who spends the majority of his time preparing and delivering lectures to the players on the fundamentals of the game (and the life disciplines that are that background of great play) and doesn’t spend time, daily, walking/running alongside his players to make sure they are properly learning the basics of his lectures…is going to end up failing.

    • BandGuy says

      If only the apostles had learned how to be a success from a major college football coach. How things might be different and less Biblical in our Churches today…

      Acts 6:1-7

  25. Ashley says

    College football fans begin taking their kids to games and teaching them about traditions at an early age “raising them right”.
    If only instilling the love of our Savior was so important…

  26. Justin says

    (a slight addition/variation of #9) a college football fan proudly supports their team in public, in the face of opposition or persecution; church members rarely speak of their passion or love for Christ for the fear of facing opposition or persecution.

  27. Sean Hollis says

    Back in 2007 the gospel coalition ran a story where they claimed that 26% of Americans attend church weekly. If you adjust that number down to say 20% and divide that by the number of Americans….310,000,000 you come up with the number of 62,000,000.

    Are there 62,000,000 people attending football games on a weekly basis? I think not.

    The “crisis” of football vs. religion has raged for years and as someone else wrote earlier, those running the church don’t want to upset their gravy trains for improvement of God’s church because it might impact their living and employment. That’s why normal church attendees have been frozen out of any decision making processes.

    But hey, that’s just my .02 cents worth.

  28. Kevin says

    This is very true and goes along with what I wrote back when Ole Miss played in the CWS .

    If you know me , you know I bleed Red and Blue. I can’t wait for Ole Miss Football, Basketball, and Baseball. I subscribe to the Rebel propaganda mag, have Ole Miss on my twitter feeds and several different Ole Miss sites on Facebook. For the last two weeks I have cheered and screamed at the TV during the Ole Miss baseball games. Last night Ole Miss lost a heartbreaker by what appears to be a bad decision by the coach. After the game was over I was not a happy camper. In fact I was probably pouting and really aggravated. Ginny told me “sorry we got beat.” The light bulb went off. I was being slightly  ridiculous. In the grand scheme of things , it was a ballgame. It was an important game but still a game. And I wasn’t even playing.
    It struck me how I cheered for Ole Miss when we were doing good and got down when we lost . That is when God dropped the rock on my head. Why didn’t I feel that way for what Jesus loves. Why don’t I have the same enthusiasm for His Kingdom as I do for Ole Miss Sports? What if everyone who calls himself a Christian treated God’s Kingdom work like we treat the teams we support ? Christian means “little Christ,” What if we treated being a Christian like a sports team . If we cheered when we see God’s handiwork, the same way we cheer when our team wins. What if we were full of grief and sorrow when we see a lost person, the way we are when our team loses?. What if we had the same grief and sorrow over our own actions?
    I have Christian emails I get every day, Christian twitter feeds, but do I really digest them the way I do Ole Miss articles. If I am honest I can say that sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. Matt 6:33 says Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness
    God has to have first place in our lives. The Bible says to love the Lord with all your heart, mind , soul and strength . It doesn’t say to love Ole Miss or any other person or thing. Love God first!!!! If Christians supported what the Bible says , the same way we support our teams it could literally change thousands upon thousands of lives.
    I am sure that I will still be upset when Ole Miss loses and happy when they win but I hope I have a different perspective about it and I hope you do also. Even for those that pull for other teams.
    I still love my Rebels, but I know that I need to love Jesus more than anything else in life . Jesus doesn’t want fans He wants followers.

  29. says

    A college football fan teaches their child their team’s war cry as soon as the child begins to talk. A church member depends on someone else to teach their children the Lord’s Prayer, simple scripture verses, etc.

  30. says

    A college football fan recognizes the grueling labor in training their players endure. A church member is content with spreading the Gospel with a flu-shot mentality known as the “sinner’s prayer” so they can quickly get on with other things.

  31. Lori says

    I think ‘beth’ & a couple others missed the humor side of this. Thanks for giving us all a few things to think about Thom, in a funny, encouraging way. For me personally, usually a more positive impact is made in my thoughts & actions through lightheaded encouragement rather than defensive badgering! While I definitely remember both experiences, generally change is only made when I feel encouraged. Take care.

  32. Kenny says

    College football fans don’t complain about a 3 hour football game.

    Church members will get frustrated and leave the church if the pastor can’t get it wraped up in 35 minutes :-)

    FYI I’m giving a lot of grace more like 20…lol lol

  33. John says

    How about this; college football fans see no difference in one another as fans of a team, they love one another.

    Church members point out differences and can’t get passed them, where’s the love.

  34. Tracy says

    Football fans talk about the game all week long; church members don’t even remember what the main point of the sermon was two hours later.

  35. Jimmy Marr says

    Dr Thom
    Your post funny and kind of true but reading some of the comments wow. You have poke a hornets nest. LOL. Seems like some Martha syndrome if you know what I mean.
    Peace out
    Jimmy Marr

  36. says

    Great word Thom. I am doing a sermon series in January 2015 based on your “I am a church member” book. Do you know of any good sermon bumpers I could use for that series?

  37. Lisa D says

    the above list is great but I’m disappointed at some of the comments that paint all football fans as loud, obnoxious drunks. There is no need to stereotype everyone into one category. I love college football and love my team but I do not drink or get drunk at games. And I’m very enthusiastic about my church and my faith as well. I volunteer at my church, tithe and volunteer in my community. I wholeheartedly take part in worship. I do agree that many Christians need to do a better job at living out their faith instead of being critical of people and acting self righteous. They will know we are Christians by our love.

    • aaron says

      Amen sister! I love pro ball …Colt’s! ! I am also a youth pastor and assistant praise and worship leader. Once, I heard someone say that they felt sorry for the people who went to the super bowl and not church if Christ returned that day. I asked him if the whole stadium was going to hell ! To which I got no reply. I am sure that some or these people spend more time online than some watch a ball game. Think about the religious people who condemned Jesus for places He went. We can still do His work in these places and have a good time! I love our God!!!

  38. Richard says

    I think the problem is we emphasize being “good church members” instead of growing in love and adoration for Christ. If the Gospel takes hold of your heart & entire life, commitment to the body of Christ & His mission becomes a non-issue. You can’t just muster up dedication, it has to flow from making much of Christ!

  39. Paul says

    So true! As a born and bread Cornhusker fan and life-long churchgoer I am guilty as charged. On a side note… I think it is interesting that you felt compelled to attach a “warning” before your post. I am not criticizing you for doing so and I understand that you wanted to guard yourself from potential blow back. Might this suggest that regular church folks — as a body — tend to be so sincere, stoic and sensitive that we don’t recognize sarcasm and hyperbole when applied to us? This could be one of the many reasons modern society —which is naturally wrapped in sarcasm — doesn’t relate very well to a traditional approach to church and church environment. I think Jesus and Paul used sarcasm to make a point. In fact, some comments in the Bible make more sense when read through the lens of sarcasm. Thank you for the challenging thoughts!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *