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 now wonder whether it has delivered the promised results.
Last week’s blog described four classical responses to this dilemma: Capitulation; Accommodation; Redemption; Rejection in relationship to the first of six Sports Ministry Continuums: Christianity-Sportianity.It describes the tension experienced by sportspeople when faith and sport conflict.This week describes two major relevancies of the Sportianity-Christianity Continuum. There are two ways the Christianity-Sportianity Sports Outreach Tension Continuum is relevant to the question of whether or not Sports Outreach effectively aids the local church in accomplishing its goals of evangelism and discipleship.
The first concerns the failure of Sports Chaplaincy.Sports Chaplains must meet expectations of their hosts: the professional, collegiate, club or school team.Chaplains don’t have complete freedom to “preach the gospel,” especially when it is at odds with athletic goals or expectations of their host or when it runs afoul of the politically correct divide to be exclusively Christian and call athletes, coaches and managers into a personal relationship with Christ.There is a growing movement to make athletic chapels not only inter-denominational but multi-faith. Also, Chaplains cannot advocate a Christmanship ethic of not working on the Lord’s Day or not endorsing team sponsors who are engaged in businesses not compatible with a Biblical ethic!Chaplains often must choose between being faithful to Christianity and kowtowing to the demands of management, coaches and players who are sold out to a Sportianity ethic.Chaplains truly teaching the tenets of Christianity which contradict Sportianity goals typically have short tenures.This then, perpetuates weak and anemic Christian athletes.
The second way the Christianity-Sportianity Sports Outreach Tension Continuum is relevant to determining the success of Sports Outreach Ministries has to do with the athletes themselves.The main model for Evangelism and Discipleship in Sports Outreach is to have well known athletes and coaches publically proclaim their faith.The success of this model is dependent upon the personal integrity of the athlete’s faith, including his/her Biblical and theological training.
In over 20 years of serving as a chaplain to a professional sports team, I experienced very few athletes and coaches on the Christianity side of this Continuum.Roughly 10% of high-level athletes self-identify as consistently being in the redemption category.All others struggle to find the right balance in the Christianity-Sportianity Sports Outreach Tension Continuum.Some walk away (Capitulation) from faith, others leave sport (Rejection).Most highly skilled, knowledgeable and successful athletes exhibit a weak, anemic and unsuccessful walk with Christ; unable to live a Christian life because they don’t make the necessary commitment to feed their soul and develop their Biblical/Theological knowledge.Accommodating at first they eventually, capitulate their faith to succeed in sport, or feel compelled to leave sport altogether.
Summary 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 preferred model for Sports Outreach.Local churches and Para-Sports Ministries heavily invested in this methodology are greatly hindered when so called Christian athletes prove to be less than stellar Disciples of Christ. Is there a better way?Subsequent blogs on the Six Sports Outreach Continuums of Tension will continue the discussion.