Passion for sport, passion for God’s Kingdom, passion for reaching young people for Jesus: these can be assimilated and utilised in extremely effective missional ways.
While most of us mere mortals just dream of getting to the FIFA Soccer World Cup in Russia in just on two months’ time, mission teams across the world are gearing up for extra special evangelism and discipling programmes linked to this major world sporting event. Statistics tell us that approximately 3,2 billion of our fellow planet sharers watched the last World Cup in Brazil, and nearly 1 billion the final.
That’s a fifth of our world population, glued to a screen at the same time!
Some of the short-term missions to Russia will be well organised and co-ordinated by multi-partner organisations, taking very seriously the commission to reach every tribe and language with the gospel. Others will be much smaller, more focussed, targeted, often even by local church teams.
Whatever the event, local churches across the world are strategically positioned to use sport and sporting events to reach a world in need with the gospel! And this, in a way that takes the contexts, daily life realities, hopes and aspirations of people into account.
Local churches in our own country – in our case, South Africa – really became involved in the 2010 World Cup using big-screen events, but have also engaged in whole life coaching, or sports clubs (or whatever it takes). Some churches are keen to draw especially young, vulnerable, searching young people into safe spaces where they can enjoy a fun sporting experience, but also learn essential life skills and learn to trust a community that cares for them and their futures.
Yet, many local churches seem reticent to engage in these outreach activities. Reasons for this may include apathy, being overly introspective, fear, uncertainty, protection of assets or just being out of touch.
Have we become islands that are not approachable to the unchurched? Is there too much red tape to become involved in sports ministry activities, or do we feel incapable and fearful?
It could be that the answer lies not with our church leaders necessarily, but with us as concerned members, young and old. If we have a passion for sport and for people who don’t know Jesus, we are the agents God can and will use to reach out.
It may be that, in your hand, you love holding a tennis racquet, or a referee’s whistle, a jukskei baton, a curling rod, a surfboard, a chess piece or a volleyball net… God can use that!
God can use what you love doing, your passion for sport, to engage people as a local missionary.
The chances are good that your church has an indoor venue of some sort, or an open bit of ground like a carpark that can be temporarily converted to a court. And chances are your own pastor is actually super keen for you to speak up about your idea and will support you to get going.
I am personally challenged to get ready for action. Barry (a mate in my home group) and I are keen to start a table-tennis group at our church starting this new term each Thursday night. We hope to draw in young and old and combine a brief spiritual input with a rousing night of ping-pong, using the two tables we can muster between us, and hopefully build some key new relationships. Our pastor has given us the green light and is keen to play as well.
Watch this space for a progress report in months to come.
I pray that God will give you courage to engage in your own sports ministry initiative – which may be organising a big-screen programme over the World Cup or having a multi-cultured world supper prayer event, or whatever. Just do it!
If you’d like to connect on these matters, please shout – and maybe we can meet on the tennis court, one of my favourite spots. Gotta keep moving, cheers for now.