This is the 5th installment concerning Sunday Sports in the context of Local Church Sports Ministry. Previous blogs articulated: a) 3 Sabbath mandates to “honor the day:” Rest, Worship, Witness; b) 3 Lord’s Day principles to fulfill the day: Acts of Mercy, Necessity and Ministry; c) 5 crucial reasons for regular participation and committed involvement in a local congregation of The Church based on the theology of The Church (ecclesiology); and d) 2 unintended consequences of Sunday sport outreach (inoculation of non-believers to the gospel message and the weak and anemic faith of new believers due to a lack of participating in and commitment to a local congregation) based on the theology of missions (missiology). This last point is intimately linked to the topic of this blog, Soteriology, the theology of salvation.
Definition of Soteriology
Soteriology comes from a Greek root word which has to do with saving, delivering and preserving; with a specific connotation of The Messiah’s act of salvation. Its relevance to the Sunday sport question has to do with how it ties into the previous blog’s topic of Missiology: “Go into all the world to make disciples.” The vital point here is, what is the criterion for being a disciple, which begs the real question: “is getting saved the end of, or the beginning of, disciplemaking? For over two millennia, The Church’s answer to that question is, disciples are born when they pray to receive Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, but these new believers become disciples only through an ever deepening relationship with Christ as experienced in and through a membership/participation in a local congregation.
Relevance of Soteriology to Sunday Sport
If a disciple of Christ is at least partially defined by commitment to a local congregation of The Church, and even more important, if regular participation in a local congregation is vital to the deepening growth of a disciple’s faith, then, even semi-regular participation in Sunday sport which precludes participation in a local congregation, would have deleterious effect on one’s faith journey.
Since the main rationale most Christian athletes and local church Sports Outreach Ministry give for sponsoring and/or participating in sports on Sunday is that such endeavors are for the purpose of “evangelism,” the question must be asked: “are these goals being realized? As stated in the previous blog:
…the motivation is honorable and seemingly strategic, but deeper reflection uncovers significant unintended repercussions and consequences. These unintended consequences are in fact, antithetical of what the endeavors are intended to bring about. Simply put, rather than producing dedicated disciples of Christ, the Sunday sport efforts of a local church Sports Outreach Ministry and Christian athletes, at their best, produce anemic Christians. This is because, while Sports Ministers and Christian athletes may verbally and relationally proclaim Christ at the sporting event, the spiritual growth of new believers is undermined by what Bonhoeffer might phrase: “easy believism.” This is translated: believe in Jesus but church membership and participation is not important.
So the main relevance of the soteriology (theology of salvation) can be succinctly stated: If one’s theology is such that the end goal is to get someone to pray a prayer to accept Jesus as Savior, then Sunday sport becomes more plausible. However, if the goal is to make disciples of Christ, then Sunday Sport is much more problematic. The evidence becomes increasingly apparent. Sunday sport can have the exact opposite result of what is intended. Rather than “making disciples,” it actually produces people who have a passing interest in Christ, but inoculates them from becoming His disciples! Again, the motivation to reach the people of sport and reach people through sport is valid and commendable. However, any sport outreach that sacrifices regular and active participation in a local congregation does not produce dedicated disciples of Christ.
Summary of Soteriology and Sunday Sport
Church attendance and participation is not necessary for salvation, but it is imperative for becoming a growing disciple of Christ. Furthermore, any serious “evangelistic-disciplemaking” endeavors are greatly jeopardized if such efforts do not clearly communicate new converts are to regularly practice all of the spiritual disciplines including a membership and regular involvement with a local assembly of The Church. Thus, sponsoring or participating in regular, on-going Sunday sport activities is not an effective method for “making disciples” of Christ. Moreover, it runs counter to the goals and purposes of Sunday sport “evangelistic-disciplemaking” endeavors.
Next week’s blog will discuss the topic of Sunday sport from the perspective of Olympian and Missionary, Eric Liddell
This blog is an excerpt from Dr. Linville's yet to be released book. 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 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.