HOUSTON?The team roster is just beginning to fill for the Super Bowl Evangelism Project and organizers are praying for thousands more Texans to suit up for what is arguably the most visible event in sports.
The goal is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the hundreds of thousands of people from around the world in Houston Feb. 1 for Super Bowl XXXVIII.
A kick-off rally was held Oct. 2 at Houston’s First Baptist Church to inspire interest in the project, coordinated by the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board and in partnership with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
“It is our hope and prayer that this will culminate in thousands of volunteers working throughout the venues to witness,” said project coordinator David Fannin, pastor of Nassau Bay Baptist Church in Houston, a church affiliated with the SBTC.
“The purpose we have for this effort is mainly to reach people where they are, at the Super Bowl,” said Tom Cottar, Sbtc youth evangelism associate. “We need literally hundreds of people for tailgate parties in church parking lots and other events beginning 10 days prior to the Super Bowl. The vision is to fish while the fishing is good.”
Working in concert with NAMB, evangelist Tim Knopps said the project truly is a grassroots effort that could reap thousands of souls.
NAMB has retained Knopps, president of the Timothy Institute of Evangelism in Oklahoma City, to help coordinate the volunteer effort in Houston. He has organized similar undertakings during seven previous Super Bowls.
Although only 73,000 people can actually get into Houston’s Reliant Stadium to see the big game, Knopps said anywhere from 200,000 to 300,000 people will come to the city just to be a part of the Super Bowl atmosphere. The event will not only attract football fans, but reporters and revelers worldwide. All of those people, in addition to the 4 million people who live in Houston, make for a huge mission field, Knopps said.
He emphasized the key to reaching as many people as possible with the gospel is to get Christian volunteers working in as many different venues as possible. There will be activities organized and manned by area churches and in addition to those sponsored by the Super Bowl Host Committee?church and secular opportunities in which Christians can involve themselves. The volunteer work won’t get anyone into the game, Knopps said, but the results of their work are far more rewarding.
That work, Knopps added, does not begin the day of the game but several days out as people begin to converge on Houston. Individual Christians and entire congregations can be involved in the church-sponsored ministries which will include street evangelism, block parties, family-oriented sports events featuring Christian professional athletes, food distributions, watch parties, and “stadium stuffing.”
The latter project is usually assigned to area college students. Their job will be to stuff the tens of thousands of gift bags to be given to every attendee of the game. Knopps said those students then get to place the bags in the stadium seats and as they do they pray for the person who will occupy that seat.
An S.O.S. prayer is sent up, he said. The students ask God for the salvation of the individual, for the person to be obedient to their newfound faith, and that they be given safety in their travels.
“Everything we do is geared to getting people saved,” he said.
Knopps emphasized the importance of the Christians involving themselves in all areas of the project. Coordinators for the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee are trying to secure 10,000 volunteers to operate the venues hosted by the Super Bowl. The “NFL Experience” exhibit will need 6,000 volunteers. This “1.5 million square feet of fun,” Knopps said, is a playground where kids and adults can put themselves through the rigors of mock football training in addition to other fun and games.
Organizers of the evangelism project anticipate volunteers from outside the city and state to suit up for the team effort. Super Bowl Evangelism Project Volunteer Coordinator Roy Guel said he has already received calls from churches around Texas and as far away as Virginia. One task of local churches will be to play host to those mission groups.
Guel said he is still in the process of compiling a volunteer database for the project, beginning with those who attended the Oct. 2 rally. Of the 100-plus people who came to the informational meeting, Guel believes at least half of them represented leadership from area churches. That, he said, is 60-70 churches interested in being a part of the evangelism project.
Once the database is complete, he said, more information and registration materials will be sent out. Preparation will then begin on the volunteer training due to take place in 2-3 months.
During the project, the city of Houston