Whether we’re pushing our bodies to the limit or enjoying a social game with our friends, there’s something inspiring about sport.
It may simply be the opportunity to switch off from the pressures of day-to-day life or the pleasure of competing and striving to win. Whatever it is, so many of us can’t get enough of it. Training and playing forms a massive part of our week and, on the sports field, we come alive in a way we don’t find elsewhere.
Sport’s power to captivate us shows no sign of wearing off. In fact, more and more of us are taking part each week, according to the latest research. Sport really is a big deal throughout the UK.
More than 10 million people play competitive sport once a week – and the figure is far higher when we include those who simply enjoy a kick around or going for a run. Whether or not you had considered it before, that really is a huge mission field that God has given us to reach with the gospel. It might just be the biggest in our country.
However, we can’t avoid the fact that far more people up and down the UK will be found on a football pitch than in church on a Sunday morning – and that’s just one sport. God has given us a huge mission field, but how will we reach them?
At Christians in Sport, we are partnering with the Church of England to help do just that. We have helped run Ministry of Sport training days for the church in the Provinces of Canterbury and York, while one of our Trustees is Bishop Tony Porter, the Archbishops’ Sports Ambassador.
Speaking at the Ministry of Sport training day at Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby said: “There are two things that a Christian simply should do. One is to worship, the other is to witness. You could say that apart from those two, everything else is decoration.
“If you’re not doing those two, you’re not authentically the church of Christ, and so Christians in Sport reaching into an area of life where huge numbers of people across the country are involved, particularly on Sundays nowadays, is something that is critical to expressing what it is to be a Christian.”
Bishop Tony said: “When I was converted to Christ on my 20th birthday, I was stunned that I had never heard the gospel. It seemed to me that the church was hiding behind closed doors. Christians in Sport helped me to witness within the world of sport, always crystal clear that the ministry is a servant of the local church.
“Sport is a massive opportunity for the gospel, an open door. Sport used to be seen as a distraction from ministry, but not any more. As the Church of England, we partner with Christians in Sport in obedience to the Great Commission”.
Wherever your church is based, there will be sportspeople and sports clubs in your parish. And there will probably be sportspeople in your church family. Sport is a massive part of our culture and it’s something the church should embrace.
Jesus calls his followers to make disciples of all nations in Matthew 28. These days sportspeople form a huge ‘nation’ in the UK and across the world. If we’re serious about evangelism, Christians need to be involved in the world of sport. Otherwise we’re discounting vast amounts of people in our desire to share the gospel. We should reach out to sportspeople as we should to those in every walk of life.
That doesn’t mean all of us should play sport. I realise that for many, that prospect is about as appealing as watching paint dry. God has given his people many gifts and we’re called to worship him through them, so sport is definitely to be enjoyed, just as is music, literature, art and the rest.
If we are to obey Jesus’ Great Commission, what we cannot do is ignore the world of sport in our thinking. It’s a great place to share the good news. Whether or not you are a sportsperson, you can pray for and encourage those who are in your church.
With so much more sport taking part on Sundays, it also means the church needs to be creative, both to support Christians in their clubs and teams and on how we reach out with the good news. We need to think it through. We can’t just sit on the sidelines.
As Bishop Tony put it: “We want sports ministry to be at the heart of parish ministry, not on the wings, but in the midfield.”
We’re passionate about this at Christians in Sport and we love to help and support people within churches. Our vision is to reach the world of sport for Christ. We long to equip Christian sportspeople and help them share the gospel with their teammates. We seek to partner with and encourage churches as they do this too.
If you already play sport, isn’t it great that the club or team God has placed you in is your mission field! Go for it – it’s a great place to worship and serve our Heavenly Father. If you’re not yet involved in reaching your world of sport for Christ, we’d love to help and encourage you as well. Either way, do check out www.christiansinsport.org.uk for more information.
By Ed Mezzetti, Digital Content Manager, Christians in Sport