About a year ago, I found myself tailgating at a Bears game with several others pastors on a Sunday afternoon. As we joined hundreds of other fans who were eating and drinking before entering the stadium, it occurred to me that what we were participating in was no less ritualized than the worship services we had led earlier that day. The content was certainly different, but the forms are quite similar: deep passion, responsive chants, music, table fellowship.

Sundays in the fall reveal a deep divide in our culture. Where I come from in the South, it is often said that football is religion. As Chad Gibbs says in God & Football: Faith and Fanaticism in the SEC, “Welcome to the American South, where God and football scrimmage daily for the people’s hearts and minds.”

Such cultural attitudes are not restricted to my home in the American Southeast. I know full well that such attitudes can be found in abundance right here in the Midwest among Big 10 and professional football fans. If anything, up here there is less residual Christendom religiosity to give football much of a serious challenge on any given weekend in the fall. When I drive past Soldier Field on a Sunday morning and can smell the tailgaters from miles down the road on Lake Shore Drive, there is no doubt who has won the hearts and minds of Chicago.

Yet this divide is an artificial one. According to our Reformed theology, God is Lord of all creation—including all aspects of human culture—and Christ is always present among us. Neither God nor our spirituality are confined by particular times and places.

So, as an experiment in post-Christendom church and as a public witness to these beliefs, my colleague Hardy Kim and I will be hosting a tailgating fellowship event and simple communion service before the Bear’s game this Sunday evening at the Waldron Parking Deck at Soldier Field. Beginning at 4:00 pm, there will be a tailgate gathering for church members and anyone else who would like to join us. At 6:00 pm, we will have a simple and brief celebration of the Lord’s Supper. All are invited to the table.

This is definitely going to be an experiment. It may fail miserably. Not everyone in our community is convinced that this is a good idea. Some are concerned that this will be an inappropriate venue for communion. If it turns out to be that way, Hardy and I won’t do it—it will simply be a tailgating fellowship. But I hope that it will all flow together quite naturally. The Lord’s Supper began as a simple witness to Christ in the midst of one of the most basic experiences of human culture: eating and drinking together. That is what we hope to do on Sunday.

Join us on Sunday and bring some friends! I’ll report back next week on how it goes.

Tailgate Church

  • Sunday, November 11, 2012
  • Waldron Deck at Soldier Field
  • Tailgating begins at 4:00 pm
  • Worship with communion at 6:00 pm
  • You do not need a game ticket to tailgate!


John W. Vest

John is a "church hacker" attempting to overcome the limitations of church as we know it. To connect with him and learn more about his work, please visit johnvest.com.

Reader Interactions


  1. Are there inappropriate venues for communion? I would have to think more about that, because my gut reaction is that no place is inappropriate….hmm.

    have fun!

  2. Wasn’t there an article in a recent Christian Century about attempts to take liturgy outside of the church walls? This seems to follow right along those lines, in a good way. If Luther could follow people to the beer halls, I see no reason why we can’t follow them to football stadiums.


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