Participation in, and Attendance of, a Local Congregation and the Relevance to Athletes Coaches and Sports Outreach Ministries
While The Church of Jesus is fully united in Him, there remain significant theological divides, a myriad of denominational worship traditions and in a few circumstances issues that encompass both, such as the view of the Sacraments. Regardless of the theological diversity and the varied expressions of worship, all three of the major historic strands of The Church (Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant), agree on the importance of becoming a member of, and regularly participating in, a local congregation. What follows is an overview of the various components of what membership and participation encompasses, but more importantly, what their relevance to, and implications for, local church Sports Outreach Ministries concerns.
Perhaps what is even more vital to those trying to integrate sport with faith is the deleterious (negative) effect their lack of regularly participating in the corporate worship, bible study and fellowship of a local congregation will have on their spiritual growth and fervor. The issue must be raised… If sporting involvement precludes athletes and coaches from consistent and regular participation in a local congregation’s: a) worship; b) Christian education; c) fellowship; d) accountability; e) receiving the Sacraments; and f) opportunities to serve and minister; then can such pre-emptory participation in sport be theologically condoned and supported?
I truly believe a Christian sportsperson’s participation in sport can (in fact I believe it must) be viewed as worship but, a Christian’s faith will be weak and anemic if their only worship is experienced on the athletic field, pitch or gym. Similarly, participating in only a one-hour traditional worship each week or relying upon a few minutes of daily personal devotional or biblical inspiration will at best produce a stunted and unfulfilling spiritual life. To grow one’s faith deep and strong, one must participate in all the functions of The Church, in and with the body of a local congregation. Even if one’s sporting involvement is understood as worship, it must not be allowed to cause a sportsperson to relinquish the need and responsibility to regularly and consistently take part in the other essentials of being a disciple such as: Christian Education, fellowship and the receiving of the Sacraments; nor can it come close to replacing them.
The Biblical mandates state that each and every disciple of Christ is “not to forsake gathering together” and is to do so regularly (at least once a week). This mandate cannot be stated too strongly, nor should Christians want it any other way. Disciples of Christ have the great privilege to celebrate a Holy Day (Holiday) once each week as The Church gets to celebrate the truth of Easter and the empowering of Pentecost each and every week! By “honoring the day,” in ways which include participating in weekly, corporate worship, Christian Education and fellowship activities, followers of Christ not only ensure their own spiritual formation and development but also will experience a significant impact in reaching others for Christ as they grow into stronger disciples of Christ.
It is important to explore a full understanding of the importance of a commitment to, and a regular participation with, a local congregation which includes: a) worship; b) the Sabbath Day/ Lord’s Day; c) the Sacraments; and d) obligations to one’s church.
Does your Sports Outreach Ministry relentlessly connect people with a local church’s spiritual formation opportunities? Does your personal sporting commitments interfere with, or even preclude, your regular participation in the preaching, teaching, worshipping and fellowshipping opportunities of your local church?
The next blog in this series will address the topic of worship in relationship to sport
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 email@example.com
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
 Luke 4.16; Acts 2.41-4;16.13; 17.2-11; Acts 20.7; I Corinthians 16.2 &19; Colossians 4.15; Philemon 1.2; Hebrews 10.25
Dr. Greg Linville was one of the founding members of CSRM and has served as the Executive Director since 2000. He served for 15 years as a local church sports and recreation minister and coached over 30 years at the junior high, high school and collegiate levels as well as 30 years in rec. leagues. Dr. Linville has consulted with churches from Australia, Africa, Asia, Australia, Caribbean, Europe, New Zealand and North America. He was awarded the world's first honorary Doctorate in Sports Ministry and holds an earned Doctorate as well. He is the author of Christmanship: The Theology of Competition & Sport. Dr. Greg has been married for over 35 years, is the father of two married children and the grandfather of a growing number of grandchildren.