Worship in Relationship to Sports Outreach Ministry
The question about worship always comes up in relationship to sport and athletics. Many ask the question: “Can athletes worship God in, through and by, their sporting activities and endeavors?” Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! But! This does not automatically mean a worshipful sporting activity on a Lord’s Day, especially a Lord’s Day morning, can serve to replace more traditional worship experiences. Therefore, even though sportspersons can and should attempt to worship God through their athletic activities, they neglect the regular participation in traditional worship opportunities to their own spiritual peril and detriment.
Other vocations also offer opportunities to worship God. Doctors can worship God in their practice of medicine and their healing of the sick and infirm; actors can worship God as they bring joy and poignant messages to theater goers; teachers worship God whenever they inform and inspire students, and farmers worship God as they provide food for the world. Yet none of these worshipful activities can replace or substitute corporate, family and individual worship, nor any Christian Education opportunities. Perhaps this point can be most clearly communicated by realizing not even the traditional Lord’s Day worship can totally replace the complementary and necessary roles Christian Education and regular participation in other disciplines play in the shaping of one’s discipleship.
So, the Scriptures are clear as to the organization and function of The Church and the vital importance for sportspeople to actively participate in the worship and disciplemaking activities of a local congregation. Some ask however, “what about the gifted athlete’s role and responsibility to maximize God-given talents to reach out to others?” They sincerely want to know: “should adults be encouraged to join the local Sunday morning soccer league to reach out to friends” and “should a church organize youth league travel teams to be a witness in weekend tournaments, including playing games on Sundays?”
These and other questions will be more fully answered in sections and chapters (of the book from which this excerpt is taken) under the headings of missiology and in the Chapter that outlines the application of Sabbath/Lord’s Day principles, but two things are clear.
The first question is, should the church reach those playing sports on a Lord’s Day and second, should they participate in sport with them on Sunday as a way to reach them? The answer to question #1 is an emphatic yes. However the answer to the second question is much less clear.
In fact, it may well be, that the very act of trying to reach them by participating in sporting activities with them, precludes being able to reach them! This must be clearly understood…reaching them is far different than participating with them. This can best be understood by asking such questions as: should a Christian get “high” with drug addicts, or should they visit a burlesque with those who frequent such places?
So, the bottom line question for sports participants who are disciples of Christ concerning worship is: “What/Who is Lord,” and how does Jesus being Lord translate into determining one’s priorities of time, values and participation in sporting and church related activities. Part of the answer is found in understanding the biblical principles about the Sabbath and Lord’s Day.
 One of the most troubling realities of the 21st century church is the trend away from “The Lord’s Day” to the “Lord’s Hour” in which a growing majority of Christians only attend a one-hour worship service rather than participating in a full Lord’s Day set of spiritual formation activities including bible study, fellowship, outreach and more. This trend has led to a most pervasive, stunted and shallow spirituality for the overwhelming majority of church attenders.
 I fully believe God is a Who, not a what, but I use “what” to communicate how easily it is to make something other than God the Lord of our lives…which for athletes and coaches too often becomes sport.
This blog is an excerpt from a future book "Surrounded by Witnesses" by Dr. Greg Linville. 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: http://www.csrm.org/blog/
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.