Take a Pass On Primanti at PNC Park

What can food at the ballpark teach us about how we gather as God’s people?

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Bob Hiller, over at the Jagged Word blog, wrote an article recently entitled,You Can’t Get a Dodger Dog at Homewhere he looks at the trend of substituting sermon podcasts for church attendance through the lens of attending a baseball game. I happened to really like the article, though it may have been more for the baseball metaphor than anything, but I can’t say that I quite agree with his conclusions (though we are closer than most articles that would prompt a post).

I would like to borrow his analogy, but since my blood tends more toward the black and gold than Dodger blue, I would like to encourage you to take a pass on the Primanti Brothers sandwich the next time you make it out to PNC Park.

The first, and definitely least relevant, reason for passing up the culinary monstrosity that is the Primanti Brothers sandwich at the ballpark is that, to the best of my knowledge, they will not allow you to make it even more monstrous by placing a fried egg on top of it.

The second, and considerably more relevant, reason is that you can get a Primanti Brothers Sandwich just about anywhere that you might be if you are in or around Pittsburgh, with nearly two dozen locations in the region.

The third, and still relevant but more controversial, reason is that, as Primanti Brothers has grown in popularity over the years, nearly every bar in Pittsburgh seems to have copied the idea of a sandwich loaded with fries and coleslaw, and a fair few of them happen to do it quite a bit better.

Now to connect it to the Jagged Word piece.

The point of the article in question is that even though we could watch a Dodgers (or Buccos) game on television, and grill our own hot dogs at home, we miss out on the experience of the ballpark because we lose the community that the stadium experience provides. He says that church is very much the same thing. I can queue up some David Crowder, and follow it with a Tim Keller sermon, but in the end I have lost out because I have missed the community.

Agreed. Except not quite.

The Sunday worship model is moving (has moved) from a communal gathering of those worshiping God, to a select few in the congregation charged with entertaining an audience. If I were to attend a Sunday service looking for community, there is no guarantee that it would be an item listed on the menu (like the fried egg).

Once we have moved into the arena of entertainment, we have inherited many of the same problems that the entertainment industry is struggling with today. Sports franchises struggle with continuing to put fans in the seats because the experience that they can get at home, in your own living room with high definition television, is on par, or even better than what you would experience if you were pay for tickets and make the trek to watch the game live at the stadium.

The answer for our local congregations?

Stop trying to entertain me. Give me something that I can’t get sitting at home on my couch.

Give me community.

Don’t sermonize to me. Sermons I can get, and they likely do it better than you do (their fries and coleslaw are better, and they toast the bread in butter — oh man). Teach me the word of God. Don’t preach at me, converse with me… with us. Come alongside us, as a congregation, and teach us how to better follow in the footsteps of Christ.

You know what else I can’t get on my couch, listening to a sermon?


Don’t make me into a consumer.

Empower me to share my own gifting to serve others within the body, and reach out and serve others in the world.

These are things, among others, that you can offer me, that I can’t download from a website, or find for sale somewhere. These are the things that I need you for.

I can get a sandwich (or a hot dog) just about anywhere, but I would sincerely like to find a place where I can break bread.

4 thoughts on “Take a Pass On Primanti at PNC Park

  1. A buddy of mine just turned me on to this post. Thanks for reading my blog and responding! I like the basic response you give. I don’t think you and I are too far off on our frustration with worship services being entertainment centered.

    If I can, I’d like to give one response to what you have said and get your feedback…

    I didn’t check to see your church background so I am not familiar with your tradition and your view of preaching. I am a Lutheran pastor and for us preaching is the main event, alongside the sacrament. For us, when we talk about preaching the Word, we don’tean giving bible lectures, but actually speaking God’s word. Faith comes through hearing the Word of Christ. And he’s put that voice in the mouth of a preacher who confronts sinners with God’s condemning law and His saving gospel. That is to say, the sermon is where God interacts with us. He speaks, we listen and receive. We aren’t consumers here, but we are Mary sitting at the feet of Christ, receiving the better part. This, of course, is what creates community. The Word produces the church, preaching creates community. The Lords Supper is the same way as we who are many partake of the one loaf, as Paul says. My point being simply that the preaching of the Word is meant for the Christian in the community it forms.

    Anyhow, long response here. Love to hear your thoughts further. Thanks again for reading! I am pretty honored it got a response like this!

    • As you have said, I don’t think that we are very far apart on these things… and as I have found on many occasions with thoughtful brothers and sisters, we fairly infrequently are very far apart on the heart of the matter.

      My most recent conviction on preaching centers on a clear reading of the Scriptures that we have been given. If there were no contextual issues to explore, or nuance that has been lost in translation, you could simply read from the Bible, and you will have let the lion out of its cage to do its work in the people who are within ear range.

      It seems to me that this is something that could take a relatively short amount of time to unpack, and then the real work of having these words folded into our lives in a meaningful way takes place… and I think that works best when tackled in conversation and relationship.

      This is probably splitting hairs, but I’m not so sure I would say that the word (or Word) is what creates community, but the Spirit. He has not only made us a community, but he has made us family, brothers and sisters of the Word, and with those who have given us the word.

      I’m kind of a moving target at the moment. I’m working through some things to the degree that the perspective I am making the statements in this blog from aren’t even quite the same as I have today. That is not to say that I no longer agree with what I said initially, but my “reform” mindset isn’t quite the same now as it was a few months ago.

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