My Experience in Sport & Rec Ministry
I serve as an administrator of sports and recreation at a local church and as an adjunct professor for sport management and ministry. In addition, I have been an athlete, coach, spectator, and a parent. This means I have spent many hours watching games, observing practices, researching, and sitting in the stands. My roles and experiences have helped me come to understand the struggle of integrating the Christian faith within the sporting context.
Through my own personal growth and struggles, as well as research in the areas of integration of faith within sports, I have found this to be an area in which transformation and discipline are needed. Yet, for the Christian athlete, parent, or coach, there seems to be a struggle or a wrestling to integrate faith and sports. This struggle has led them to respond in a “compartmentalized” manner that adheres more towards our secular and global sports culture than that of Christian response and play.
Recently I have found myself in a number of gyms in which I witnessed contradicting behavior. While I don’t know every detail, and only God can truly know, it strikes me odd that coaches, parents, and leaders of recreation ministries and athletic teams believe they are developing and living out Christian principles of faith and honoring God, while at the same time, dehumanizing the referees, gossiping with others about the integrity of the other coach, and verbally abusing players for their performance. Why has this become the norm? How can someone speak of sports as an opportunity to teach character while behaving in a way contradictory to the gospel? How can one confess Christianity, but bear such un-Godly fruit within sixty minutes of athletic competition? This answer is compartmentalization.
Compartmentalization can be defined as the space in which an area is subdivided. Imagine a house diagram where each room is a “compartment” within the entire space of the house. Certain rooms hold certain belongings that are not integrated within the rest of the rooms or house.
Compartmentalization allows for putting the areas in which we are unsure of how to live in room, while behaving in the culturally expected actions of the activity. Compartmentalization allows for separation of actions while still believing we are living within Christian principles.
Compartmentalization is not a new concept. Ancient Greek philosophers spoke of compartmentalizing life into five realities: physical, mental, social, financial, and spiritual. Today’s psychologists refer to compartmentalizing as consciously separating life into compartments as a way of avoiding negative emotions. Business leaders suggest we even compartmentalize our work so that we are able to separate work issues from real life. While compartmentalization can be beneficial in certain areas, it is not a biblical concept.
The 3-Tier Paradigm
This series of blogs are excerpts from Dr. Linville’s yet to be released book. They explain and outline the 3-Tier Paradigm introduced in his book. The 3-Tier Paradigm is the organizational structure upon which Dr. Linville’s series of Sports Outreach Ministry books are based and serves as the guiding light for how the association of Church Sports & Recreation Ministries (CSRM) executes its equipping of local churches. This blog explains the Level #1 – Theological Truths part of the 3-Tier Paradigm
Some within the Body of Christ rightfully state the Church needs to be concerned and involved in efforts based upon other theological truths such as peace, justice and mercy but even the ultimate goal of peace and justice efforts is based upon redemptive activities and the ultimate goal of disciplemaking. This statement should not be misconstrued in any way to lessen the importance of enhancing temporal life on earth but rather it serves as a reminder to focus on keeping the “main thing the main thing.” Furthermore, the redemption of culture by bringing about peace, justice and mercy will only be attained by and through individuals living in the culture who have been “redeemed by Christ,” empowered by the Holy Spirit and living biblical lifestyles that honor and glorify the Father.
Therefore, the most important role of the Level #1 tier is to answer the Why question. Why does local church Sports Ministries do What they do? The foundational theological answer is: redemption; redemption through evangelistic-disciplemaking. This along with other foundational Level #1 Theological Truths will be discussed throughout this book.
There’s an old saying in sports outreach circles: “Christ is more caught than taught.” It is to this end, local church sports outreach ministries need to consider the ethical foundations of What they do. If the overall purpose of the sports and recreation outreaches is redemption, then envisioning, planning for and implementing the ministry upon loving Theological Truths is vital. Participants in a local church sport or recreational activity may not remember the final score of all their games but they will remember how they were treated and how they felt. One of the major goals of this series of blogs is to equip and mobilize local churches with the concepts to create environments in which Jesus Christ is “caught.” Ethics are the foundation for this environment and Christo-centric ethics are based in Theological Truth.
Congregations desiring to base their Level #3 Methodological Models in Level #1 Theological Truths need to understand what these truths are, and more importantly, how they are to shape their sports and fitness outreaches. These truths include such theological categories as ecclesiology, missiology and soteriology as well as other issues needing theological foundations such as worship, Lord’s Day principles, competition and others.
Why we do, What we do, begins with Theological Truths which serve to shape the biblically-based Philosophical Principles…
Next week’s blog will explain the second part of the “3-Tier Paradigm” – Level #2 – Biblically-based, Philosophical Principles.
This blog is an excerpt from Dr. Linville's book Christmanship and a yet to be released book. 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 are archived at: www.csrm.org
 CSRM’s 3-Tier Paradigm has implications beyond local church sports and can serve as a model for any missional ministry. In addition, all Bible Colleges, Universities and Seminaries are at their best when training from a 3-Tier Paradigm.
 Luke 19.10
 2 Corinthians 5.20
 Matthew 28.19f
 I wrote much of the Level #1 Theological Truths foundation in my book “Christmanship: A Theology of Competition and Sport.”
 These ethics are addressed in my book Christmanship and in my yet to be published book of which this blog is an excerpt.
 Again, these theological foundations are also dealt with in my two books.