“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching,
and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s
Supper), and to prayer.” - Acts 2:42 (NLT)
I grew up in an era where parents felt that if they had their children in church every time the doors were open, the children would never learn how to sin... So, we learned to sin from the people in the church!
Seriously, I developed much of my understanding of what the church is and how it functions through those early years of attendance...
Without realizing it, I learned about being in fellowship in Sunday school classes and being a part of a boy’s organization called Royal Ambassadors. My friends and I sat in classes and observed a group of Deacons each week out of our windows. I thought it would be ideal to grow up and be a Deacon because you wouldn’t have to attend Sunday school classes. Apparently, your job as a Deacon was to stand on the corner of the church property and smoke cigarettes during the Sunday school hour.
I was taught about ministry by many coat drives and food collections. I had the idea through those years that poor people must like Hominy because that would always be the item that people gave more than anything else. Mom made it once for us to eat, and I had a better understanding of why everyone was giving it away.
My involvement every Sunday in a worship setting taught me about how the church expresses adoration and praise to God. Our family was active enough that I was a teenager before seeing the entire presentation of The Wizard of Oz because it always came on television on Sunday nights. Don’t even ask me about the Wonderful World of Disney.
Bible Drill and Training Union was all designed to assist me in becoming more disciplined in my life with Christ. When I was a child, the Bible Drill program called the Bibles our “swords.” So, instead of “Present Bibles” before locating a verse, the leaders would tell us to “present swords.”I was much older before I understood that Paul referred to the scriptures as a sword of truth.
Mission giving and distribution of Gospel tracts gave me a good idea about the church reaching the world with a message of love and hope in salvation. Every year we had emphases about missionaries that served around the U.S. and the world. I became familiar with Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon. Our churches would host events called, “revivals,” which would attempt to bring in people that didn’t know Jesus.
I received a blessing with an upbringing that understood the functions of the church without the ability to call them off a list. Since that day, a lot of my involvement with the local church over the past forty years has been with the Sports, Recreation, and Fitness (SR&F) Outreach Ministries. In those years, I have seen the same functions of the church played out in the events and programs offered in people’s leisure time. Here’s a brief description of each function.
A group of ladies or men creating artwork or some creative craft project in a congregation's recreation ministry creates a bonding that is similar to that obtained in a church small group. A team in a church's Sports Outreach Ministry that struggles and practices together creates the “fellowship” of dependence upon each other.
A definition of ministry is meeting needs in Jesus’s name. So, conducting a fitness class for stay-at-home moms or a lunch exercise group for business people is meeting some health and wellness needs in people’s lives. Creating opportunities to meet new people and expand one’s network is another need met by placement in a class or on a team.
The apostle Paul tells us that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. So, when we get in better shape from participation is a sport or fitness adventure we are, in a sense, creating a spirit of worship. I know the hiker or the camper that feasts his or her eyes on new outdoor scenery is brought right into the throne of worship with our Creator...and of course an athlete can worship through their sport.
Being discipled is learning how to be like Jesus or in other words, living Jesus-shaped life. Most activities in sports, recreation, and fitness require discipline in diet, exercise, and rest. These disciplines also assist in creating habits for Bible study, memorization, and making good choices.
This function may be the “lob pitch” of the five functions. In a culture where people discuss leisure activities as much as career paths, sports, recreation, and fitness ministries have the best opportunity to share the love of Jesus with our world. If we are to reach our “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the world,” we need any and every opportunity.
If your church does not have an organized effort at using Sports, Recreation, and Fitness in assisting the church with the five functions, please consider contacting CSRM at email@example.com. We’d love to help you figure out how to impact your world using the passion people have for sports, recreation, and fitness activities.
Professor David Waddell currently teaches at Ole Miss and is CSRM's Executive Director. He had a long tenure as a SR&F Outreach Minister at a local church in Memphis, Tennessee and has authored three books. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
His books can be ordered at: https://csrm.z2systems.com/np/clients/csrm/giftstore.jsp