I love the fall football season. I like watching football on TV, listening to games on the car radio while I drive, and even going to a few games in person. I also watch Sports Center, I listen to ESPN sporting news, I read sports Web sites, and I enjoy talking football with other fans.

This is a great year for football in Indiana. The Colts are 4-0, Purdue is 5-0, Indiana is 4-1 and Notre Dame will win a game eventually. In our United Methodist-related schools, DePauw is 3-1 and the University of Indianapolis is 4-1. The University of Evansville has no football team, but I understand that both men's and women's soccer teams are doing very well.

Spectator sports are great for entertainment, however it is not healthy when we bring this spectator attitude into the church. Church is not a spectator sport, and following Jesus is certainly not a spectator religion. Sometimes when I get letters from people who are complaining about their church or their pastor, it sounds to me like they are only being spectators at church.

Rather than going to church to be a spectator who watches the pastor, choir or other people do ministry, church at its best is a preparation for all of us to go onto the playing field of life and to join the Jesus team. Church is not the place we live our Christian faith, church is the place where we practice our Christian faith. Our pastors and lay leaders are not the performers for us to watch, they are the coaches to help us prepare for the game of life. Our church buildings are not places for us to be spectators, our church buildings are practice fields where we hone our skills in being faithful Christians.

Whenever we turn church into a spectator sport, we have missed the whole point of being on the Jesus team.

This issue of Together is filled with stories of individuals and churches who understand that being a United Methodist Christian means being an active follower of Jesus who makes a difference in Indiana and around the world. Read those stories and see how some members of the Jesus team are being faithful.

Go ahead and enjoy the football season, but don't turn church into a spectator sport.

Bishop Michael J. Coyner
Indiana Area of
The United Methodist Church
Making a Difference in Indiana
and around the world.