Overcoming Obstacles in Local Church Sports Outreach Ministry #3 - Biblical Objections Part C
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 (Interpretation of 1 Timothy 4.6-8 & Purity Issues) were addressed in the first blog in this series, and the second set of two (Idolatry & Sunday Sport Issues) were evaluated in the second blog. There are yet two more commonly-raised, Biblically-based objections to a Local Church Sports Outreach Ministry.
“Stumbling Block” Issues
Some people raise the legitimate Biblically-based concern known as the “stumbling block” issue. In other words, because sports and recreation does have the potential for sinful behavior such as idolatry, anger that leads to wrath, pride, etc., a church should not sponsor sports “for the sake of causing the weaker brother to stumble.” The problem with this logic is that this principle is being applied on too broad a basis. It is not that there should not be a sports ministry, but that the weaker brother should be discouraged from being involved “IF” he will be negatively affected by participating. A perfect example is the golfer who cannot control his emotions when he plays poorly. It doesn’t mean the church cannot have a golf league or tournament, but it does mean the Christian golfer who cannot control his emotions should not participate until he becomes more sanctified in his behavior while playing golf. I also have a problem when the mature Christian (who does not like Sports Ministry) tries to use this principle. Remember the stumbling block issue is for the weaker brother, not for the mature Christian who is trying to assert his or her opinion.
One final Biblically-based objection many Local Church Sports Ministers encounter has to do with people in their church viewing the sporting environment as a pagan or “non-Christian” environment – one to be avoided because of the association with unsavory people. The problem with this logic is that it is contradictory to the very prayer of Jesus to the Father in John 17, when Jesus told the Father that He was sending “us” into the world. This was not a geographic world, but a world system that, down the corridors of time, came to include sport. We must remember that Jesus was criticized for dining with “publicans and sinners.” In other words He went where the sinners were. He didn’t avoid them. Even Paul told us the sinners to avoid were not those in the world – “else you would have to leave the earth,” but the unrepentant and habitually sinning believer (I Corinthians 5.9,10). The strongest argument against this sort of logic is to ask the question: “Where is light the most obvious?” In the darkness of course.
Summary of the Six Biblically-based Objections to Local Church Sports Ministry
The bottom line is there really is no solid biblical or theological prohibition of sports and recreation. As long as we participate in a way that does not violate righteousness and we participate in order to glorify God, I don’t believe God has a problem with church sports.
[CSRM provides many other resources for further reflection on the Biblical-basis for Sports Outreach Ministry including many archived blogs (http://www.csrm.org/blog); archived webinars (http://www.csrm.org/webinars.html) and Dr. Linville’s book – “Christmanship: A Theology of Competition & Sport” - which can be ordered at - http://www.csrm.org/store/c4/BOOKS.html]
Next week’s blog will continue the series on Obstacles to Sports Outreach by discussing Philosophical Objections
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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.