Is Sports Outreach Effective?
What follows is not intended to be intentionally offensive or hurtful. It is however, intended to begin a conversation based upon the hard questions asked within. All truth seekers are invited to continue. This is the tenth in a series of blogs addressing the question: Is Sports Outreach Effective, and continues the conversation on the third Sports Outreach Ministry Continuum:
Sports Outreach Continuum of Tension #3:
Local Church Sports Outreach – Para-Sports Ministry
Last week’s blog ended by stating there was an insidious dilemma facing the Sport Outreach Movement in regards to a Level #1 Theological Truth concerning evangelism that often pits local church sports outreach ministries at odds with sports-based para-ministries. This blog will continue that discussion by providing a brief history of local church sports outreach and an overview of its theological, philosophical and subsequent methodological approach to “evangelistic-disiplemaking…
Historical Overview of Local Church Sports Outreach Ministry
With the exponential growth of Local Church Sports Outreach Ministry since 1990, church sports might be assumed to be a recent phenomenon. Indeed a dramatic increase has occurred in Local Church based Sports Ministry over the last 30 years but examples of Local Church Sports Outreach Ministry date back to the early 1800’s. Early on, the primary vehicle of Local Church Sports Outreach Ministry was the creation of sports teams sponsored by a local parish church that competed in local amateur leagues. This tradition continues but it has grown to unprecedented heights in both total numbers of participants and the scope of sports and activities offered by churches. (A much more in depth study of this topic can be found in my book Christmanship: A Theology of Competition and Sport.
Local Church Sports Outreach Ministry Theology, Philosophy & Methodology
The technical theological term that addresses “salvation” is soteriology. Its relevance to this topic is profound. If a ministry theologically believes their evangelistic job is done when someone fills out a card, prays a prayer or even gets baptized, their philosophy of ministry focuses only on that particular step in the overall process of evangelistic-disciplemaking and the resultant methodologies will typically be events and/or mass media blitzes.
However, the churches that are most successful start with a theological foundation that believes evangelistic-disciplemaking is a process, not an event. Thus, they have found the most successful philosophy for sports outreach is to mobilize, equip and empower church members to engage in long term relationships with friends, family members and associates who are far from Christ. These relationships are established and enhanced in and through regular and repeated sports leagues and recreational activities. The end result is a sustained, long-term ministry that winsomely attracts people into the church community, creates environments conducive to evangelistic conversations and provides easy conduits into the deeper walk with Christ and His Church.
One caution is needed. Churches cannot fall into the trap of all growth being the same. While some churches report huge successes, those reports of growth are largely due to what is called “transfer growth” (transferring from one to church to another) rather than “conversion growth” (from converts to the faith). True growth from intentional “evangelistic-disciplemaking” is rare.
Next week’s blog will review sports related para-ministries history, theology, philosophy and methodology.
Other blogs and articles on Local Church Sports written by Dr. Greg Linville are archived at: www.csrm.org and http://www.csrm.org/blog201112-2.html This blog is an excerpt from Dr. Linville's 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