Basketball rivalry “engages” Hopkinsville congregation

Originally published on Western Recorder –

Hopkinsville—The combination of March Madness, former University of Kentucky basketball star Cameron Mills preaching revival services, and a desire to have his congregation sit up front led David Tucker, pastor of Second Baptist Church of Hopkinsville to get creative.

Tucker placed cardboard cutouts of coaches and players from Duke, University of Louisville and other UK basketball “enemies” in the back rows, along with “reserved seating” for rival team fans, during a March 11 service.

“The goal is obviously to move our folks forward. The further involved you are in church, the more joy you’re going to get out of it,” Tucker said.

“If you sit on the back row and never really engage in the service, you don’t get as much out of it than if you will just walk on in and get right in the middle of what’s happening.”

Tucker’s efforts to engage his congregation while “having some fun” has drawn the attention of television and print media, including USA Today and Sports Illustrated.

After Mills tweeted some of the pictures, the story started “trending” on social media.

“To me the best part of it all was he (Tucker) dressed them all in cardigans. I found out they were actually David’s cardigans, and he’s saying that cardigans are going to make a comeback,” Mills chuckled.

“A lot of pastors like to do fun stuff—little lessons, little reminders, but I’ve never encountered anything like this before,” he added.

Although this was not the first time that Second Baptist has done something like this, it’s the first time it ever went to Sport’s Illustrated, Tucker noted.

The last time, the cutouts weren’t there. But they did use the “reserved seating” method to get people to move closer to the front for a Wednesday night Bible study.

Each service throughout the revival week had a theme. Wednesday night was the last night of the revival, and was dubbed “UK night.”

The church was encouraged to wear blue and white, but the only thing they were told was that “there might be some interesting people in your pew.”

People responded well, even those few who were for rival teams. “The idea that we want to be up front, we want to see what God is doing, we want to get in the middle of what’s happening took hold,” Tucker said.

Some outside individuals accused the church of using this to draw a crowd.”I was surprised, but not shocked at the vehemence and anger that some folks had at what we did,” Tucker commented.

Tucker shared two lessons from this experience with his church: “Don’t be surprised when people get upset, and don’t be surprised if God takes something you’re doing and makes it so much more than you ever would have imagined,” he said.

“That’s what God does, and that’s what people do,” he concluded. “We have to get used to both.” (WR)