Personal Contributions of Time and Effort to a Local Assembly
One of the most overlooked aspects of the conflict between sports commitments and church participation is the loss to a church of the gifts, skills, passions and leadership of sportspeople who choose not to attend church functions when they conflict with sporting commitments. The Body of Christ is always negatively impacted when any individual and/or specific groups of people self-select to not be regularly involved in local church ministries, outreaches and activities.
One of the prime rationales given by sporting people for their commitment to sports is they have a goal to reach the sporting world by using their sporting gifts and positions for the benefit of the gospel. They should be highly commended and encouraged for this but I would challenge them to consider how much more effective they could be for the kingdom by applying their sporting gifts and position to a local church sports outreach ministry! Further implications of this are taken up in the Missiology and Soteriology parts of the book of which this is an excerpt and the following paragraph.
Communicating One’s Faith
As just mentioned, most Christian sportspeople want to maximize their sports opportunities for the glory of God and to encourage others to consider becoming a disciple of Christ. Therefore, it would seem counter-intuitive to ask these sincere people to consider forgoing participating in sport on Sunday. However, by participating in sporting activities on the Lord’s Day, especially when it clearly conflicts with traditional times for church worship services, may have the exact opposite effect of that which is desired by all outreach evangelists! By participating in sport on Sunday, athletes communicate church is not as important as sport itself. In addition, if the ones who call themselves Christians deem sport a higher priority than church…. Well, you can fill in the blank.
What does skipping church to participate in sport really communicate?
A far better argument can be made for someone who forgoes attending church to reach out to those playing sport on Sunday but not participating in sport so as to clearly communicate they are there for ministry, rather than arguing for playing sport for evangelistic reasons. To repeatedly show up at sporting events for the express purpose of reaching those who play sport is made far more powerful when the “evangelists” don’t participate, than when they do, especially if they are good enough athletes to compete! The reason is, their purpose for showing up at the sporting events is clear: They are there for spiritual reasons, not athletic pursuits! When participating in the sport, their motives are not clearly communicated. The validity of this argument is made obvious by seeing the result in the numbers of people who show up at a Sunday sport event to “evangelize” as compared to those who would come if they could “play.”
This blog is an excerpt from a future book "Surrounded by Witnesses" by Dr. Greg Linville. All rights reserved. For any reproduction right, including copying, computer reproduction, etc. contact:
Dr. Greg Linville at CSRM International C/O The World Outreach Center 5350 Broadmoor Circle N. w. Canton, Ohio – USA 44709 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Other blogs and articles on Local Church Sports, sports theology and ethics written by Dr. Greg Linville and other local church Sports, Rec & Fitness Ministers are archived at: http://www.csrm.org/blog/
Dr. Greg Linville was one of the founding members of CSRM and has served as the Executive Director since 2000. He served for 15 years as a local church sports and recreation minister and coached over 30 years at the junior high, high school and collegiate levels as well as 30 years in rec. leagues. Dr. Linville has consulted with churches from Australia, Africa, Asia, Australia, Caribbean, Europe, New Zealand and North America. He was awarded the world's first honorary Doctorate in Sports Ministry and holds an earned Doctorate as well. He is the author of Christmanship: The Theology of Competition & Sport. Dr. Greg has been married for over 35 years, is the father of two married children and the grandfather of a growing number of grandchildren.