December 4, 2020

Good Works in the Shadow of the Big Game

One aspect of the Super Bowl that I had not fully realized until it came to our town this year is the emphasis the NFL and the Host Committee puts on partnering together to give practical help to the host city through neighborhood renewal. The following is from a local news story called, “More than a Game”:

Chase Eastside Legacy Center, Indpls

The NFL provides seed money for building a youth center in past host cities. But the local Super Bowl Committee’s visionary leaders wanted to do things the “Indianapolis Way,” to dream bigger and promise to do something no host city has done before: partner alongside a neighborhood already in the midst of transforming their own community.

Near eastside residents developed a strategy for economic and social change that led to the creation of the 2007 Quality of Life Plan, and the Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee advanced the community transformation with resources and support.

The astounding result – more than $100 million dollars of investments [$154 million at last count] in the near east side community, anchored by the new $11 million Chase Near Eastside Legacy Center, a fitness and cultural haven for kids and their families.

Click here to watch a half-hour program that was aired here in Indy — More Than a Game: The Indy Super Bowl Legacy,”  which chronicles the impact of the Super Bowl on the city, focusing on good works being done on behalf of the city’s near eastside.

Christianity Today also noted these efforts by featuring a story from C. Christopher Smith, a member of Englewood Christian Church, a congregation in that neighborhood. It’s called, “A Legacy in Indianapolis that Outlives the Super Bowl.” I commend Smith’s article to you. It talks about how churches can and should be involved in bringing renewal to their neighborhoods, regardless of special efforts and infusions of funds like those we have seen in connection with the big game.

To be sure, the Super Bowl has offered the Near Eastside a rare opportunity to showcase its work, which has translated into additional human and financial resources. But our experience tells us that when we commit to a place and begin to look at our neighborhoods with new eyes—not as under-resourced, but as full of diverse resources—we begin to see it become healthier and full of life. New and different resources are identified. Strong connections are made that serve the neighborhood well during hardship. This inside-out development is the key to healthy and thriving places. Churches, in whatever location they find themselves, can play a vital role in this sort of cultivation of places if they understand and follow their calling to mature together into a rooted and imaginative embodiment of the shalom of Christ, and simultaneously to work diligently with their neighbors in seeking the common good of their place.

I love the church’s slogan: “Seeking the Manifold Wisdom of God on Indianapolis’ Near-eastside.” They present themselves, not as people who know all the answers, but as those who are seeking and serving. So, read Smith’s piece and another article of his, “Before ‘Transforming’ Your Neighborhood, Talk to Your Neighbors,” and visit this church’s website to be encouraged that there are churches in city settings who care about their neighbors and are showing practical and sacrificial love to those around them even when the TV cameras are off.

Finally, Eric R. Ivie wrote a piece on Yahoo! called “What Indianapolis Hosting Super Bowl XLVI Means to a Hoosier: Local Fan Perspective” detailing many different ways that hosting the game is bringing economic stimulus and providing opportunities for good works in the city.

He notes how preparing for the big event has led to improvements in Indianapolis’s infrastructure. Nearly 3000 trees have been planted in the city (surpassing the goal of 2,012) that will beautify and benefit a wide variety of neighborhoods for years. In addition, special charitable efforts have been set up, such as the Indy Super Bowl Cure project, for which 700 generous women will donate breast tissue to assist efforts in fighting the disease, and Super Bowl Baskets of Hope, which will send out 7000 baskets of goodies to sick children in all 32 NFL cities. The story I’ve linked here about those baskets tells about a young man in our own community who benefited from this generous effort.

• • •

There are many, many other good works taking place around us in the light of this event coming to our city. I hope you will read these articles and rejoice that, along with all the hype and hysteria that accompany football’s grand championship, there are people on the streets, in the neighborhoods, in congregations, and in special organizations who are using the opportunity to love their neighbors and provide a bit of renewal and hope in this sad world.

A good number of these works are “seeds” that followers of Jesus are planting in faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit. The full harvest will only be seen and enjoyed when Jesus brings the Kingdom at the end of ages and all is made new. And each day we pray, “May your kingdom come, may your will be done; as in heaven, so on earth.” (Matt. 6:10, KNT)


  1. Scot McKight put up a nice review of Smith’s book, “The Virtue of Dialogue”, which tells more about the Englewood story.

  2. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Only 364 shopping days until Super Bowl Sunday…

  3. I know I’m a bit belated but just stumbled on this post tonight, and wanted to say thanks for your kind words about Englewood Christian Church and about my articles for CT and to commend you for the resources you’ve pulled together here. Together they give a really good picture of the work that has gone on and continues to go on here on Indy’s Near Eastside.

    Chaplain Mike, am I understanding correctly that you are here in Indy? If so, I’d love to connect with you at some point!

    Grace and Shalom,
    Chris Smith
    Englewood Christian Church /
    Englewood Review of Books