This is the 4th installment concerning Sunday Sports in the context of Local Church Sports Ministry. So far this series of blogs has: a) introduced the 3 Sabbath mandates to “honor the day:” Rest, Worship, Witness; b) established the 3 Lord’s Day principles to fulfill the day: Acts of Mercy, Necessity and Ministry; and c) communicated five crucial reasons for regular participation and committed involvement in a local congregation of The Church; but as yet, no clear-cut conclusion has been established as to whether or not Sunday sport is theologically sound, and biblically defensible. To determine whether or not Christian athletes and local church Sports Outreach Ministries can participate in, and/or sponsor, sports on Sunday, two more theological truths (Missiology and Soteriology) need to be considered. This blog will address Missiology, followed by Soteriology in the next blog.
Missiology is the study of The Church’s mission. It considers the theology, philosophy and methodology of The Church’s mission known as the Great Commission: “go and make disciples.” The Great Commission can be encapsulated in the phrase: “evangelistic-disciplemaking.” This phrase succinctly summarizes and combines the comprehensive essence of “going” to the world (evangelism), with the ultimate goal of producing mature followers of Christ (discipleship).
Relevance to Sunday Sport
The rationale most Christian athletes and local church Sports Outreach Ministry give for their sponsoring and/or participating in sports on Sunday is for the purpose of engaging in “evangelistic-disciplemaking” endeavors. This motivation is honorable and seemingly strategic, but deeper reflection uncovers significant unintended repercussions and consequences. These unintended consequences are in fact, antithetical to 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.” Translated: believe in Jesus but church and consummate discipleship are not important. Even more troublesome, is the reality that many of those whom Sunday sport outreaches are intended to reach, actually become inoculated to the gospel by the Sunday sport outreach! This inoculation occurs because those doing the outreach communicate participation in sport is more important than church attendance! The real problem has a religiously technical term: “idolatry.”
Idolatry is rooted in the Ten Commandments concept of “Thou shalt have no other God before Me.” In simple terms it means God is to be the priority of life and nothing is to supplant Him. Thus, one’s sport and sporting activities cannot supplant God. As detailed in previous blogs in this series on the Sabbath Day, Lord’s Day, and church commitments, followers of Christ are to give precedence to spiritual obligations over sporting activities. As indicated in previous blogs, the integration of sport and faith can and should be pursued , but if and where they do conflict, disciples of Christ are not to make an idol of their sport by choosing it over God.
Summary of Missiology and Sunday Sport
The motivation to reach the people of sport, and reach people through sport, is valid and commendable. However, any sports outreach that sacrifices regular and active participation in a local congregation and/or compromises one’s ability to honor the Sabbath mandates and Lord’s Day principles is not biblically defensible. In fact, such efforts actually run counter to the goals and purposes of Sunday sport “evangelistic-disciplemaking” endeavors. This reality will be made even clearer in the next blog which discusses Soteriology – the theology of salvation.
Next week’s blog will feature the 5th Theological Truth in relationship to Sunday Sport – Soteriology
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.