LAST WEEK’S BLOG POST ASKED THE QUESTION:
Is Sports Outreach Working? The conversation continues this week…
The Sports Outreach Movement that emerged in the mid 20th Century was touted as a most strategic tool for Evangelism, Discipleship and church growth. In addition, most Sports Outreach Ministers and many Lead/Administrative Pastors believed Sports Outreach to be the most strategic tool the church could employ to accomplish the Great Commission. Yet, many church leaders are now beginning to wonder whether it has delivered the promised results. Why? The following statistics combined with those presented last week paint a bleak picture of the local church.
A FEW MORE STATISTICS
Over the course of the next few weeks the question of whether or not Sports Outreach is effectively helping to grow the church will be addressed in this blog. The basis for this discussion will center on the following Six Sports Outreach Ministry Continuums of Tension and their impact on the current trends in Sports Outreach Ministry.
#1: CHRISTIANITY / SPORTIANITY
Christianity needs little definition. Conversely, Sportianity is a term unfamiliar to most. Christianity is one of five major religions in the world. Adherents commit themselves to be Disciples of Jesus, pursuing their faith in Christ above all else.
Sportianity is a term used to describe the ethos and value system of athletes, coaches and fans who commit themselves to pursuing sport above all else. For many athletes, sport becomes the highest priority in life and their involvement in sport takes on a spiritual essence and significance. It can be said, such athletes “worship at the altar of sport.” A life totally committed to athletic goals can thus be described as a “religion,” a religion called “Sportianity.”
From these brief explanations the plight of Christian Sportspeople becomes apparent and is illustrated by the 1st Sports Outreach Continuum of Tension: Christianity-Sportianity. What does an athlete who desires both spiritual significance and athletic success do, when the two world-views collide? They must choose which will receive their allegiance and subsequent involvements. There can be no true ministry within a sports ministry if the so called Christians in the sports world choose sport to be their God.
Subsequent blogs on the Six Sports Outreach Continuums of Tension will continue the discussion on the future of the Sports Outreach Movement. Next up: the four choices Christians make when their faith collides with their sport.
The Sports Outreach Movement emerged in the mid 20th Century touted as a most strategic tool for Evangelism, Discipleship and church growth. Most Sports Outreach Ministers believe it to be the most strategic tool the church can employ to accomplish the Great Commission but many church leaders are beginning to wonder whether it has delivered its promised results.
In western countries, fewer and fewer people attend church since the Sports Outreach Movement came into vogue in the mid to late 20th century:
U.K. AVERAGE WEEKLY CHURCH ATTENDANCE
NORTH AMERICA WEEKLY CHURCH ATTENDANCE
NEVER ATTEND CHURCH
IT’S WORTH ASKING…
There is no hard data on the decline of Sports Outreach Movement however, these trends are verified by Sports Ministry leaders who are growing increasingly concerned. The bad news is, these facts and trends are to a large degree true and valid. The good news is there are insights which can help to explain some of the facts and trends. In addition, for those willing to face facts and are open to change how they perceive and implement Sports Ministry, there are answers which can empower the Sports Outreach Movement to new levels of effectiveness and efficiency.
Over the course of the next weeks these trends will be addressed in this blog based upon an exposition and discussion of the Six Sports Outreach Continuums of Tension which are impacting the current trends in Sports Outreach Ministry.
WILL THERE BE ONE?
Last summer I presented seminars at a summer Chautauqua on the topic of Muscular Christianity and also to a Church on a related subject. Combined total attendance was over 200 people but less than five had ever heard of Muscular Christianity! It is likely you too have lived in blissful "non-Muscular Christian" awareness. What's amazing is, we live less than a century after Muscular Christianity's hey-day and yet no one recognizes the term that described a world-wide movement, shaped an entire culture and inspired the modern day Olympics! Could the current Sports Outreach Era be headed for a similar future? Sadly, many in the Sports Outreach Movement cite disturbing trends which could well spell a similar fate.
THE SPORTS OUTREACH MOVEMENT CONSISTS OF FOUR MAIN COMPONENTS:
A few are growing but most are static or declining. Since 2005, the Local Church segment of the Sports Outreach Movement has seen a decline in churches offering sports programs and the numbers of Professional Local Church Recreators and Sports Ministers dwindle. Why? Two main Methodological reasons - reliance upon a model of "personality, rather than presence;" and of "leading with buildings rather than building leaders."
PERSONALITY OVER PRESENCE
The “Achilles heel” of the Sports Outreach Movement is its preferred model: “Platform Proclamation.” “Platform Proclamation” seeks to provide a “Platform” for “Christian” athletes & coaches to share their faith. This methodology is flawed on two counts. First, it is rare to find Christian athletes adequately prepared to speak theologically and thus their “proclamations” are at best, unwise, and at worst, misleading or even heretical. Second, all too often the personal lives of the “proclaiming” athletes don’t match their “proclamations.” This results in an increasingly cynical world with fewer and fewer people willing to “tune in” Christian athletes who frequently don’t live in ways congruent with the Biblical faith they espouse. The motives of many athletes aren’t wrong. A better model is needed.