As we are quickly approaching Game Day for long-time college football rivals, Ohio State and Michigan, a local church finds itself divided against its pastor. Chris Daum at True Life Community Church (TLC) has been a Michigan fan for many years. When he came to pastor in Troy five years ago, he found himself surrounded by an abundance of rival fans not only in the community but also in his own congregation. This year, rather than downplaying the State Championship competition, the church has decided to capitalize on it.
Steve Dever is the layman in the church who came up with the idea to host a Game Day event at TLC. As a former Ohio State cheerleader, he brings passion for the sport together with a love for his church and for Troy. According to Dever, “This event right here speaks to what the church is all about and that’s reaching out to our community. We can have different opinions about what team we cheer for but at the end it’s all about God’s kingdom.”
Members of TLC who are helping to organize the event made a connection between the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry and the strongly held beliefs exemplified on a national scale with the results of the recent U.S. election. TLC was a church that held an Election Day Prayer Vigil beginning when polls opened on November 8 and concluding with their closing. They acknowledged the fact that there were members within their congregation that voted for opposing sides politically.
Dave Heisey is a member of TLC who travels extensively for a living but calls Troy home. He verbalized a broader, more spiritual context to some of the opposing beliefs that have hit close to home in recent days. “It doesn’t matter who’s president, who’s mayor, or who wins the football game; God is still king,” Heisey said. “Next year there will be a different national champion, there will be another president in four years. Victory belongs to the Lord regardless.”
Amanda McGowan is an administrator in the church office. She held loosely to any opinions on football rivalries but expressed strong views regarding the importance of relationships in the church and community. “We all respect the fact that we are told God puts people in places of authority and he uses people that are not always from the best backgrounds to do his work,” Amanda said. “We know if we respect that and come together in unity, we can do anything.”
Troy Middle School Principal, Dave Dilbone said that, for the most part, his school is full of red-blooded, Ohio State supporters from middle school “until they graduate from OSU.” However, he does not condone bullying or repression of support “for that school up north.” According to Dilbone, even middle school students are required to balance their ideals with the capacity to learn and work with those who think and believe differently from them. “It’s an important attribute of being a Buckeye, a Trojan, and an American,” Dilbone said.
Regarding the ongoing rivalry with their pastor, parishioners admit to loving him as a brother and being proud and happy to have him as their pastor “in spite of him.” Dever still questions Daum’s loyalty to Michigan football as a creative teaching tool.
“I’ve long believed that Pastor Chris was an Ohio State fan and that he’s been pretending to be a Michigan fan to teach us forgiveness,” Dever said. Daum responded that he still holds firmly to his earnest position in support of Michigan.
Despite the questions and curiosity of an outreach that capitalizes on rivalry, organizers at TLC agree that the event “encompasses the heart” of their church.
The Ohio State versus Michigan game will be played at TLC Church on Saturday, November 26. The church is located at 56 Foss Way.