Sowing seeds in Super Bowl city

by Joni B. Hannigan , Editorial Staff |

(Courtesy of AzEndGame)Daryl Bennett, a member of East Valley Baptist Church in Flagstaff, hands out a sports mini-magazine at the Pro Bowl in Phoenix for AzEndGame.

PHOENIX (Christian Examiner) – A daunting number of cardboard boxes chock full of mini-sports magazines lines the offices of the Valley Rim Baptist Association office.

At least for now.

But where some see a challenge, Tim Knopps envisions a sea of faces – and the opportunity to sow seeds at one of the world's largest sporting venues – the Super Bowl and two other major sporting events taking place this week in the Phoenix metroplex.

Knopps, head of the Timothy Institute of Evangelism in Oklahoma City, has coordinated big game evangelism efforts for 11 Super Bowls. This year he is working with AzEndgame, a network of churches, ministry groups and Southern Baptist associations across Arizona to bring the "Good News of Jesus Christ" to those who are enjoying sporting events – through friendship, some special mini-sports magazines, and all time favorite ball card of Christian athletes.

"I don't know if we have enough," Knopps said of the more than 150,000 magazines and ball cards that teams of over 100 volunteers will place into the hands of earnest sports enthusiasts and families in the next few days.

STREET EVANGELISM

Knopps told Christian Examiner Wednesday, teams will distribute materials at the perimeter of "Super Bowl Central," a major downtown venue featuring family-friendly games and outdoor fan activities where an estimated one million fans are set to gather between now and Sunday.

The 16-page mini-magazine features a 2-fronted cover with the story of retired NFL Pittsburgh Steeler Anthony Madison, and Ian Davis, a professional golfer who turned 23 last May after graduating from Oklahoma University. Inside is a map of the city, sports trivia, and the stories of two local athletes. A first-time effort, the 3 inch by 6.5 inch magazine with colorful graphics was created exclusively for this venue, Knopps said.

(Courtesy AzEndGame)Julie Bennett distributes materials at the Pro Bowl as part of AzEndGame ministries.

The trading cards, which can also be printed out from the ministry website, feature Madison, Sam Acho and Kurt Warner of the NFL Arizona Cardinals, and Aaron Baddeley, a PGA Tour golfer. They have testimonies, favorite verses, and a phone number for those interested in finding out more about Christ.

Knopps said over half of the magazines and ballcards were distributed at a Jan. 10 rally at Love Baptist Church in Phoenix and since then the association has been getting calls for more.

Lou DeBono of the Valley Rim Baptist Association drove around the state to make extra deliveries of the magazine and ball cards to people who wanted more to be able to share the Gospel with their neighbors, Knopps said.

(AZEndGame.com)AZEndGame.com and its partners produced a ball card and booklet featuring Madison's testimony, for distribution at Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona.

This evangelism effort is unique among efforts Knopps has been a part of, he said, in that at least one church from every local Baptist association has taken part in the effort – so this is truly a state-wide effort. It is also unique in that Super Bowl XLIX has been called the "Arizona Super Bowl" and not limited to just Phoenix.

"We are scattered throughout the state and it's an exciting thing," Knopps said.

FIGHTING SEX TRAFFICKING

Several weeks ago, AzEndGame partnered with a local ministry fighting sex trafficking and coordinated a "Laundry of Love" event, donating $500 worth of quarters and renting a local laundromat where they mingled with those who can feel the least loved.

"We let prostitutes and those on the streets and others who use the laundromat know they are safe," Knopp said, explaining how workers from the Dream House in Phoenix helped volunteer teams reach out to the hurting.

The Valley Rim Baptist Association used their block party trailer he said, and 300 came through the site in one day to not only use the laundromat, but to chat with volunteers, receive Gospel materials, and to eat hot dogs.

SUPER BOWL PARTIES

The ministry website also includes information on Super Bowl parties and how to host and minister during them, without breaking NFL rules.

"Churches provide that excitement and build that sense of community and I'm all for that," Knopps said.

WHY EVANGELISM?

With more than 100,000 visitors from around the world converging in the Phoenix area, Knopps says street evangelism – sowing seeds – is a natural way to get the word out about the love of God. And few resist.

"They are very open. We haven't had anybody get belligerent, and almost everybody that we attempt, they take the tract and they go on their merry way," he said. In this past week, he said, while teams distrubuted materials during the Pro Bowl, they found only one mini-magazine left on the ground afterwards, after inspecting the area.

"It's important from a scriptural standpoint that we do this. The Scripture says a sower went out to sow, reaping, carrying his bag of seeds," Knopps said. "Some of the seeds grow, and some don't, as a general rule, grow."

Knopps said the tracts, or magazines this year, include an intentional Gospel presentation, and include contact information for further discussion.

"What we are trying to do is to share God's Word and let people know Jesus is really the way, the truth, and the life and a lot of people will never hear the, never really confront what the Gospel is – and it could be that when they receive one of the booklets that it makes sense."