THIS SERIES OF BLOGS ARE ADDRESSING THE QUESTION. Is Sports Outreach Working and begins with the following premise:
The Sports Outreach Movement that emerged in the mid-20th Century was touted as a most strategic tool for Evangelism, Discipleship and church growth. In addition, most Sports Outreach Ministers and many Lead/Administrative Pastors believed Sports Outreach to be the most strategic tool the church could employ to accomplish the Great Commission. Yet, many church leaders wonder whether it has delivered the promised results. This series of blogs addresses that concern.
Last week’s blog described the first of six Sports Ministry Continuums: Christianity-Sportianity.It describes the tension experienced by sportspeople when their faith and sport conflict.There are four classical responses to this dilemma: Capitulation; Accommodation; Redemption; Rejection.
Capitulation describes athletes at one extreme end of the Sportianity side of the Continuum. These coaches and athletes willingly “capitulate” their faith to fully pursue their athletic goals.
Accommodation describes athletes who are also on the Sportianity side of the Continuum but are not so extremely committed to athletic endeavors. These athletes are unwilling to totally capitulate their faith but are often willing to make concessions to their sport, even if these concessions negatively impact their spiritual growth and well-being. Examples include: choosing sports endeavors over attending a church service or Bible study. It also occurs when athletes choose an action which cannot be defended Biblically but does help win a competition. “Accommodation” athletes struggle with choosing between what helps them succeed in sport and what helps them hold on to and grow in their faith.
Rejection describes the choice of former athletes to no longer participate in sport. It is the extreme opposite of the Capitulation end of the Continuum. These athletes choose faith over sport. They have come to believe sport is always or often evil, and has an overall detrimental impact on their faith. Thus they opt out of sport so as to remain committed to their spiritual growth.
Redemption describes the goal of athletes who are in the middle of the Continuum but decidedly on the Christianity side, opposite Accommodation. Faith is their highest priority but they choose to stay involved in sport, seeking to be a redeeming force in and through their athletics. They may reject certain actions and activities often required in sport, but they continue to play their sport. They believe: a) God can be worshipped through their athletic endeavors; b) sport provides an opportunity to reach teammates and others for Christ; and c) they have a responsibility to be a positive force for changing how sports are played and how competition is engaged in. They have a twofold goal. First, they seek to redeem the individuals in sport by inviting them to experience a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and second, they want to play their part in redeeming the culture of sport.
Relevance of the Christianity-Sportianity Sports Outreach Tension Continuum Providing platforms for Christian athletes and coaches to share their faith and teach others about Jesus Christ has been the primary and most prevalent model for Sports Outreach. Local churches heavily invested in this methodology are greatly hindered when Christian athletes prove to be less than stellar Disciples of Christ. Athletes who verbally proclaim Christ, but are not well grounded in the Bible not only make poor theologians but worse, embarrass the local church when their unbiblical and hypocritical lives become front page news. It all ends up hurting local church evangelistic endeavors.
Is there a better Methodological Model? Subsequent blogs on the Six Sports Outreach Continuums of Tension will continue the discussion.