Sports Outreach: Reflecting Christ Through Sports

One of the most read posts on the SportsPastor blog consistently has been my commentary on coach Tony Dungy.

“There is just something different about him.” “He has different priorities than other people of his profession.” “You just sense a certain presence about him when you are around him.” What do all of these statements have in common? They are all statements made by sports writers in an attempt to describe what they perceive as positive character traits of Tony Dungy, head coach of the World Champion Indianapolis Colts. Tony Kornheiser, Billy Packer and others have recently made the comments above. They can almost put their finger on the fact that Tony Dungy is different because he is a sold out believer in Jesus Christ. It is obvious that the Spirit of God is in him. What a tremendous witness! In the last two seasons he has gone through the most horrific experience of losing his son to suicide and the most exciting moment in sports as victors of the Super Bowl. His response to trials and triumphs should be an example to us all that Christ can be seen in our highs and in our lows. I pray that all of us would have an opportunity for people to say of our witness, “There is just something different about them.”

Over a year later I write this post with tears in my eyes. It actually happened to me. A humbling experience. An honor that in some small way I was able to represent and reflect Christ with my life. Here is how it happened:

I coach a 4th grade basketball team out of my love for Christ, children, and sports. I normally coach in Christian leagues, but this year I had the opportunity to coach in a select city league. My two-fold goal is to help the kids build skills and character. I look at every moment as a teaching moment. I have learned how to strike a fine balance between fun and fundamentals in practice. I also strive for them to do their best at every game, even if that looks different on any given Saturday.

Now that the season is over I can only glance at the trophy that represents an undefeated championship season and great memories for every child and their families. But I have a memory from this season that I will never forget. It was relayed to me by my friend and fellow coach that the alcoholic, unchurched father of our star player had pulled him aside after the championship game and said, “I sure like Derrek. He gives everything he has to make sure that the team is safe and successful, but there is something more… There is just something different about him. What is it?”, he asked. My friend and fellow coach replied, “He loves Jesus and it shows.”

George Barna has said in many of his books on the unchurched that, “Many people remain unchurched because they have looked us (Christians) and do not especially like what they see.”

Barna continues – “When God becomes the true priority in our lives, and when we imitate the heart of Christ and live in the power of the indwelling Spirit, what we represent will be irresistible.”


Share the Gospel Using Sports Illustrations

Stonebriar Community Church’s Baseball/Softball Camp was this week and I knew today was the day that the gospel would be presented. I could not wait for the Sports Outreach Director to give me a call. I was the first person he called to tell me all about the exciting events of the day.

First of all, he began the camp day focused on explaining to the campers the concept of sacrifice. As a captivating illustration he told the story of the college softball player who hit a home run recently and tore her ACL while running the bases. The only way for her to get credit for the first home run of her career was for the players on the other team to sacrifice what ended up being their postseason hopes to help the other team score runs by carrying the injured player around the bases lowering her just enough to touch the base until they all reached home.

As Coach C was telling the story two coaches carried a college student around the bases allowing him to touch each base for what was a creative and amazing way to communicate sacrifice. Coach C knew that he would later in the day refer back to that illustration when he spoke of the gospel, the ultimate sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

When it was time to communicate the gospel to the campers, Coach C continued Continue reading

The Power of a Testimony
June 18, 2008, 11:16 am
Filed under: Jesus Christ, Life and Leadership, outreach, testimony | Tags: , , ,

We have made evangelism the most complicated ministry in the church instead of what Jesus had in mind – that it be the simplest one. Outreach is one of the first things a new believer can do within minutes of trusting Christ. As soon as a person has experienced salvation they can begin telling others about that experience. A new Christ-follower may have no formal evangelism training, but can go and share his or her testimony with excitement.

That is exactly what Andrew did as we observe his response to Jesus detailed in the Gospel of John.

“Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).” John 1:40-42

This is a great reminder of the power of a testimony.

Turning a Sports Conversation to Spiritual Things
June 15, 2008, 10:49 am
Filed under: evangelism, sports outreach, sportspastor | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Did you see Paul Pierce go down with what looked like a season ending injury in Game One of the NBA Finals? By the tears in his eyes and the expression on the faces of the trainers you just knew that his season was over – right when it mattered most. He was the lone ranger on a team that won only 24 games last season and now when it was his turn to enjoy being a part of a team that has a great chance of winning the NBA Championship – it looked like he would have to watch from the sidelines. But that is not what happened!

Three minutes go by in the third quarter and Boston begins to fade without Pierce, and then it happened – out of the tunnel emerges Pierce. The same guy that was carried off of the court, grimacing in pain, had returned from the locker room with the resilience of Rocky and the flair of a soon to be hero. What happened next was nothing short of amazing. Pierce immediately entered the game and hit back to back three-pointers as the Celtics never looked back on their way to winning one of the most dramatic games in NBA history.

Speaking of history, over 2,000 years ago, there was a man who walked this earth for 33 years. Many of his followers thought that his death on the cross marked the end of his ministry on earth. Without Christ, many begin to doubt, you could say they began to fade. They had seen their leader die an agonizing death and be buried in a tomb guarded by soldiers. 

They did not realize that only three days later there would be the greatest comeback in the history of the world, a miraculous return, and victory over death. Christ died, he was buried, and he rose from the dead. That is the gospel! God sent His only Son to die on the cross for your sins and mine. That is Good News!

This post is an example of how you can turn a conversation to spiritual things with anyone who follows sports. What a privilege to share the clear and simple gospel with them and ask them if there is anything that is keeping them from trusting Christ and following Him?