While Super Bowl weekend might be the least attended service for some churches, Crossroads in Cincinnati does a twist that makes it one of the most popular and anticipated services every year.
The XIV annual Super Bowl of Preaching (SBOP) took place at every physical campus Crossroads supports: Florence, Mason, and Westside. Uptown is soon to be added and there are many locations through Crossroads Anywhere that were able to Livestream the event at Oakley.
With the SBOP comes a few promises: laughs, loud music, and our two teaching pastors (Senior Pastor Brian Tome and Oakley Campus Pastor Chuck Mingo) going head-to-head with biblical teachings and banter. Both start with a 4-part outline of what would normally be a usual sermon at Crossroads; however, each of them take two parts, both having a quarter before and after the halftime show. Each quarter break also features a set list of irreverent commercials (one that I assisted with, the Fitbit Deuce, or the “Shitbit”) and features for events happening around Crossroads. The Pastors are also challenged in each quarter with a random phrase. The Florence Campus Pastor, Terry Phillips, is the Ref. A point is awarded when the phrase is used well, when the Pastor scores a “touchdown” by successfully delivering his message, or whenever Terry feels like. Points are deducted for disorderly conduct, not using a phrase well, or (again) whenever Terry feels like it.
This year I was given the opportunity to be a volunteer Photographer for the event. With such a large crowd and so many things going on, I was nervous. Especially when I discovered my friend could let me follow her onto the catwalk above the stage. This was particularly difficult for me, since a few years ago I witnessed a woman falling to her death during a production of Crossroads’ “Awaited” Christmas play. Since then, I get mild cases of vertigo in high areas where I feel unsupported. And while the catwalk is very secure and reliable, I found myself in another Crossroads auditorium standing above a sheet of metal that separated me from a 50ft drop onto the same kind of carpeted concrete.
I pushed through. Mostly sitting on my knees as I hunched over to take pictures between the bars supporting lights and equipment, I made it past the halftime show. The rest of the service being broadcast on a screen, there wasn’t much to take pictures of besides the tailgating party before service.
That’s right, hot dogs, popcorn, lots of music, and commentators energize the crowd before they go into a dark room to (mostly) sit and watch the service. Two guys run around in jerseys and giant heads of Tome and Mingo, pretending to fight and upstage each other, accompanied by an entourage of guys in full-body color suits with basketball shorts representing their team: Tome blue, Mingo Red.
The halftime show allowed the house band to come out and perform, extravagantly. The guitarist, one of the lead singers, and drummer started off in the aisles on platforms before continuing to the stage. Throughout the remix, a group of backup dancers joined them, choreographed up and down the aisles and on stage. Giant balls were thrown around the auditorium for the crowd to bounce around as they lit up in all the colors of the rainbow. The song list included shortened versions of “Shut up and Dance With Me”, “Uptown Funk”, and “Nay-Nay”. I can’t say I was happy about the last choice of song.
The event as a whole lived up to the previous years, but my favorite commercial will always be “Unpretentiousil”, and anti-hipster medication. The video was removed from Crossroads’ YouTube page due to some disagreement with the original owner of the footage, but it’s made its way around the internet.
And here is a playlist of all of the commercials on Crossroads’ YouTube:
In the meantime, remember to be brave.