I have always been a geek. From getting lost in a galaxy far, far away to being consumed by the latest exploits of super heroes, to finding my own adventures in tabletop games, I have long been drawn to geeky things. In some ways or another I have been regularly immersed in geek culture. For this entire time, the one area of fandom that was cast as the polar opposite of liking geeky things has been liking sports. I do not think this is accurate. I see a lot of similarities between die hard sports fanatics and fans of super heroes, science fiction, role playing games, and other geeky things. Geeks are deeply passionate and incredibly enthusiastic about the stuff they love. In the same way, those who really follow sports and have a passion for their teams and that passion is a defining aspect of who they are. The passionate drive to learn the Klingon language, memorize hundreds of pages role-playing rule books, or build elaborate cosplay is the same kind of passionate drive that leads sports fans to learn every detail of their team, memorize years of historical statics, and paint their body in their team colors no matter how cold it will be at the stadium. In both instances, these kinds of fans have a level of enthusiasm and devotion that goes above and beyond most people.
I am not the only one to notice that the levels of devotions set the most hardcore sports fans apart. This has led to a lot of research on the phenomenon of sports fanaticism. The studies go into a lot of detail but they can all be summed up simply: rooting for your favorite team makes people feel better about your life. Sports fans get a deep sense of connection. Cheering their team helps create feelings they are being part of something bigger and better than themselves. The large appeal of sports and geeky things is the desire to be part of something we enjoy that is greater than ourselves taps into something deep within in the human spirit. I think it is by God’s design that we have a desire to be part of something greater, to be fully invested in something outside ourselves, and to know we belong to something that last.
If that is true, then churches should be as high energy as a football stadium or a large comic-con. After all, as part of the body of Christ we are part of something far greater than ourselves. As Christians we have the opportunity to be invested in God’s mission that is world transforming. Being a sports fan brings joy because the fans are swept up in something exciting, and as followers of Christ we should be swept up in the infinitely exciting, never-ending love of God. Given all of that, our worship services should be as enthusiastic as the pre-game tailgate parties. It is a travesty they are not.
It does not matter if the subject of fandom is a super hero or a sports team, the biggest fans bring a lot of passion and excitement to what they love. The Christian experience should be marked by a similar level of passionate devotion. There should be a level of excitement when we gather as God’s people. Christian worship should be a bastion of joy and enthusiasm in our culture. There is evidence that this used to be the case. Years ago someone pointed out to me a fascinating aspect in American Sign Language. In ASL, the sign for Methodist and the sign for enthusiasm are identical. When the etymology of sign language was developing throughout the 19th and early 20th century, there was a clear connection between being a Methodist and being enthusiastic.
There should be that kind of connection, because we have a lot to be excited about. We are saved by grace, we are forgiven of our worst choices, death has been defeated, and Jesus has won the victory! As followers of Christ we have a lot of reasons to be full of enthusiasm.
So let’s reclaim our enthusiasm. When someone serves God sacrificially we should cheer that on as much as a fan cheers on their team getting a home-run. When prayers are answered and God work miraculously we should be on our feet just like there was third down conversion touchdown. When we gather to worship God, we should do so with as much as excitement as the true blue fans have when their team takes the field. May we be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, and may we be so enthusiastically.