The Sabbath/Lord’s Day in Relationship to Sports Outreach Ministry
The second aspect for understanding the importance of commitment to and participation with a local congregation is one of the most controversial issues that has confronted the Sports Outreach Movement through the decades: What about Sunday Sports?
Many athletes, coaches and Sports, Recreation and Fitness Ministers wrestle with whether to participate in, or whether to program sports outreach activities on a Sunday. If the truth be told, almost every Christian athlete, coach and athletic director has already made the decision to play, coach or organize sport on Sunday and many local churches have followed the lead of sport-related para-ministries who subscribe to the sport on Sunday ethic.
All of this then cause Christian families to determine whether or not to allow their “sporty” kids’ athletic involvements, priorities and commitments to trump church and spiritual commitments. Specifically, should their children participate in “travel team,” AAU or other specialized and/or elite athletic sports activities if they occur on a Sunday? The issue of Sunday Sport is indeed uniquely linked with, and connected to, the Level #1 Theological Truth discussion on commitment to and participation with The Church (the overall topic of this series of blogs).
The answer to Sunday Sports cannot be determined quickly and must not be pre-determined by the often emotional desire to play sport at a high level…even if that desire is tied up with a desire to utilize one’s sport to glorify God and/or reach others for God. The answer can only be ascertained by reflection on five key Theological Truths / Doctrines: a) the Doctrine of Sabbath Day; b) the Doctrine of the Lord’s Day; c) Ecclesiology (theology of The Church) in relationship to church association and participation; d) Missiology (the theology of reaching those far from Christ) in relationship to biblical principles of reaching those far from Christ; and e) Soteriology (the theology of salvation) in relationship to evangelism and discipleship. For the purposes of this series of blogs, it is assumed that true disciples of Jesus will be regularly participating in a local congregation and abstaining from any regular, organized sporting activities and events held on the Lord’s Day. The primary reason for this has to do with utter importance of establishing a growing and vibrant faith in Christ that can only be achieved through regular participation in both personal and corporate spiritual activities.
To that end, local congregations do have worship services, Christian education and fellowship opportunities that meet on days other than Sunday, but it stretches the limits of credulity to suggest even a sizable minority of churches offer services to nurture a strong faith in any athlete that don’t conflict with the time of athletic trainings and practices. Christian athletes and coaches must face the fact that sporting activities regularly conflict with spiritual commitments. Sundays, Saturday evenings and most week night evenings are all consumed by athletic practices, conditioning and games. As hard as it is to say…and even harder to live out…Christian sportspeople must often make a choice between sport and faith. It is imperative for athletes and coaches to make room in their schedules for a commitment to regular, active participation with a church for the good of their own spiritual development; even if it means leaving sport. It should be pointed out that the same principle would apply to all vocations as sport cannot be singled out. If one’s career precludes or prohibits personal involvement in a local church, then a new career is necessitated.
The next blog in this series will further contemplate the Sabbath and Lord’s Day Principles as they relate to personal and corporate fellowship and relationships
This blog is an excerpt from Dr. Linville's book yet to be released book – Sports Ministry Fundamentals. 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: www.csrm.org
 I address each of these in depth in my book on the Fundamentals of The Sports Outreach Movement and in chapter 7 of my book Christmanship.
Overcoming Obstacles in Local Church Sports Outreach Ministry #1 - Biblical Objections Part B
This set of blogs revisits and updates a series of articles that address common obstacles faced by many Local Church Sports & Recreation Ministers. The articles first appeared in CSRM’s Journal “The Sports Minister” and were originally written by Sports Ministry Pioneer Rodger Oswald and appear here in edited excerpts. The end goal of the series is to help identify, define and explain various obstacles faced by Local Church Sports Outreach Ministers
Local Church Sports Ministers commonly encounter six Biblically-based arguments against a church sponsoring a Sports Outreach Ministry. The first two were addressed in the first blog in this series on overcoming obstacles. This blog will evaluate the second set of two: a) idolatrous activity; and b) Sunday Sport.
While most would agree there is potential for idolatry in sports, it should be remembered this potential exists for any human endeavor…even preaching! Indeed making an idol of sport is to be avoided but this potential should not override what Biblically-based sport can do. For example, one of the key values of a Local Church Sports Ministry is that you can help people understand and live out what Colossians 3.23 admonishes: that all areas of life are to be lived to the glory of God, not man. It has been said that the difficult things in life provide the opportunity to teach and to be taught and so even the difficult times experienced through sport can be opportunities for learning and growth. Thus, Sports Ministry gives the opportunity for deeper discipleship and even teach how to avoid idolatry.
Sunday Sport Issues
A very strong argument that usually arises from pastors is that sports often take place on Sunday, and thus is a detriment to the church. First, the condemnation of sports, because of this objection, needs to be clarified. We must differentiate between professional and/or amateur sports. Professional sportsmen do not get to determine their schedule. Sport is their job, and their work schedule is determined by the league, team owners and coaches. I’m not sure too many of us would object to a fireman working on Sunday…especially if our house was on fire. I’m not sure too many of us would object if a cardiac surgeon worked on Sunday…especially if we suffered cardiac arrest. Having said that, I do believe that the professional athlete who is a Christian is obligated to observe the Lord’s Day. If he or she cannot do that on Sunday, then they are to identify another day to honor God.
I agree the amateur athlete belongs in church on Sunday (Hebrews 10.24,25), but with one exception. Should your church develop a Sports Ministry that includes evangelistic ministry teams (such as a jail/prison outreach), you might find those whom you are ministering to will determine when to come…and that just might be on a Sunday. The question, then, is should we “go to church” or should we “be the church?” Ultimately, we need to ask: What would Jesus do?
[Two recommendations for those interested in a deeper examination of the Lord’s Day and Sunday Sport issues would be to review many archived blogs on the CSRM and also to read the chapter dedicated to Lord’s Day Issues in Dr. Linville’s book – “Christmanship” which can be ordered at - http://www.csrm.org/store/c4/BOOKS.html]
Next week’s blog will discuss the third set of Biblical Obstacles to Sports Outreach: Stumbling Block Issues and Sports as Pagan Activities
This blog is an edited excerpt an article by Rodger Oswald originally published in “The Sports Minister” Journal – Spring 2000. 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 email@example.com
Other blogs and articles on Local Church Sports, sports theology and ethics written by Dr. Greg Linville and Rodger Oswald are archived at: www.csrm.org
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 yet to be published 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 is the final in this series and outlines the significant relevance of the 3-Tier Paradigm for the Sports Outreach Movement.
Relevance of CSRM’s 3-Tier Paradigm
Two Local Church Sports Ministers called in the same week. Their churches were attempting to write position papers in response to the prevailing cultural shifts regarding gender issues. They had contacted denominational leaders, universities and various sports-related para-ministries but were disappointed with the lack of, and/or depth of, the responses they received.
Another issue that has a long history of controversy, but has resurfaced due to recent changes in policies by some sports-related, para-ministries and churches, is the Sunday Sport debate. The 3-Tier Paradigm provides the foundation and structure for how to envision, plan for and implement truly Christ-honoring; theologically sound, biblically-based and strategically-relevant Sports Outreach in relationship to such dilemmas.
Church Recreators and Sports Ministers are struggling with changes in cultural values as they impact their women’s leagues. Never before have they been faced with finding compassionate ways to relate to all women registering for their woman’s softball league in light of a growing trend of transgenderism. Women on opposing teams who play third base are fearful of losing their teeth due to the speed of the batted ball from transgendered players. In addition, women on opposing teams, as well as teammates, are extremely uncomfortable sharing changing rooms, restrooms and shower facilities with transgendered league members. The answers to such dilemmas can be found, but without the 3-Tier Paradigm the possibility of following the lead of a secular society is very real and even more troubling is the high likelihood, the church’s interaction with the transgendered will be negative; not at all Christ-like.
There are at least five Level #1 Theological Truths that must be considered in relationship to gender related issues. They include:
This is the 7th and final installment concerning Sunday Sports in the context of Local Church Sports Ministry. This series of blogs has articulated a brief overview of some of the theological, philosophical and methodological issues related to determining if and how disciples of Jesus are to engage in sport on Sunday. This last blog reaches a final conclusion and offers a few specific suggestions for application of the biblical rules and principles.
The bottom line is yes, disciples of Jesus can participate in sporting/recreational activities on the Lord’s Day and yes, local congregations can (and at times should) sponsor sporting/recreational activities on the Lord’s Day. However, this should not be misunderstood to indicate any and all sporting activities are: a) theologically sound or biblically defensible nor b) are all biblically-defensible Sunday sport activities always wise or advisable (“all things are lawful but not all things are helpful…but not all things build up.)” 1 Corinthians 10.23
Theologically Sound and Biblically Defensible Sunday Sport Activities
Any Sunday sporting and/or recreational activities that enhance the life, health and relationships of disciples of Jesus can, and should be, participated in with the following parameters:
 Please consult my published book: Christmanship, for a much more full and detailed theological foundation in regards to Lord’s Day issues as they relate to Sunday Sport, and also to my yet to be published book which deals with the Sunday sport issue from a biblically-based, philosophical-principle perspective. Both provide the needed depth for a thorough study and understanding of this topic.
 The phrase “traditional worship services” is not used here to differentiate between “traditional and contemporary” worship styles but rather to describe all typical Sunday morning services for the purpose of differentiating from typical Sunday morning worship, and also to affirm what athletes do in and through their sporting endeavors is also a worship of God.
This is the 6th installment concerning Sunday Sports in the context of Local Church Sports Ministry. The first five blogs articulated the following: a) the 3 Sabbath mandates to “honor the day; b) the 3 Lord’s Day principles to fulfill the day; c) the five crucial reasons for regular participation and committed involvement in a local congregation; d) revealed two unintended consequences of evangelistic efforts through sport on Sunday; and e) how the theology of salvation (soteriology) provides a key insight into whether or not Sunday sport evangelistic efforts are actually effective. This blog provides an overview of one specific historical view of Sunday Sport.
The Story of Eric Liddell
Eric Liddell is recognized for two significant reasons: a) he won a gold and bronze medal at the 1924 Paris Olympics; and b) he was a heroic missionary to China who died in a Japanese internment camp during World War 2, but he is most remembered because of his principled stance of honoring the Lord’s Day by not competing in Sunday Sport.
A popular version of his story, told through the movie Chariots of Fire, won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1981. The movie was quite remarkable in many ways. It was written by a self-avowed atheist; told the story of 3 Olympians (an Agnostic; a Jew; a Christian); and was funded by a Muslim! The three featured athletes told the story of how one ran for personal reasons; one ran to prove his faith (Judaism); and the third (Liddell) chose not to run to prove his faith, but the movie missed many vital facts…
While the movie faithfully represents Liddell winning gold in the 400, and his choosing not to run in the 100 because the heats for the event occurred on a “Lord’s Day,” it does not tell the “rest of the story.” First, he also won bronze in the 200 but more significantly, he forfeited two other medals as the 4 x 100 and the 4 x 400 were also run on a Sunday. It also does not accurately communicate the extended amount of time (a year or more) Liddell had to withstand pressures from friends, family and even British Royalty, to forgo his choice to honor the Lord’s Day by not competing. 
Relevance to Local Church Sunday Sport and Evangelistic-Disciplemaking Endeavors
The overwhelming rationale for Christians competing in, and local congregations sponsoring sport on Sunday, is for the purposes of evangelism. Well-intentioned and rightly-motivated followers of Christ often argue their participation in and/or sponsorship of, Sunday sport is for the purpose of expanding the Kingdom of Christ. The fallacy of this argument is keenly seen when Liddell’s story is compared with a modern-day athlete’s example. Jonathan Edwards is also a gold medal Olympian who originally modeled his life after Liddell, including not competing on the Lord’s Day. Yet Edwards became convinced (at least partially by some within the Sports Ministry Movement!) that he could “expand his platform” by competing on the Lord’s Day.
Here’s the question? Whose platform is wider, deeper and more respected today? I wonder if there will be a movie made 50 years in the future which heralds the heroic stance Edwards took in competing on the Lord’s Day. Today, 90 years after Liddell chose to honor the Lord’s Day by not running, his platform continues to grow.
Summary of the Historic Perspective Concerning Sunday Sport
Christian athletes and local church Sports Outreach Ministries are not responsible for their platforms. We are only responsible for our faithful obedience to, and love for Jesus Christ. God alone is responsible for our platforms. Let us focus on being faithful to His commands and trust our “platforms” to Him.
Next week’s blog will summarize the issue of Sunday Sport in the local church and provide a few specific recommendations.
This blog is an excerpt from Dr. Linville's book: Christmanship. 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
 Please consult my book Christmanship for a much more detailed retelling of this amazing story. It includes the results of research and interviews I conducted with Liddell’s family, friends, other researchers and even those who were interned in the Japanese prisoner of war camp with him. The book dedicates an entire chapter to this theological topic of the Lord’s Day and sport.