SPORTSPASTOR


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.”

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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.



Three Good Reasons to Start a Church Sports Outreach Ministry

1) Sports Ministry provides opportunities for Outreach
Rarely do I use the term Sports Ministry without the word Outreach in the middle. Sports Outreach Ministry is a way for churches to reach beyond their walls into their community in a culturally relevant and attractive way. It may be children’s soccer, youth basketball, or adult co-ed softball; regardless, people play sports. And people watch sports. Everyone has a favorite team and sport they watch and if they don’t they jump on the bandwagon of one team or another when the playoffs reach peak excitement. Sports are culturally relevant. They are a creative means to reach out to people in your community, people who are unchurched and/or lost. A family could make contact with your church for the first time through something as fun as sports. If they have a good experience maybe they will consider visiting your church. What a tremendous opportunity sports ministry provides for outreach.

2) Sports Ministry provides opportunities for Ministry
Sports are relational. It may be cheering on a teammate, learning from a coach, or even chatting in the bleachers. Churches that have Sports Outreach Events challenge people that normally hang out in a Christian bubble to connect with people in their community, again many that are unchurched and/or lost. What a great way to make your church externally focused. The connections that are made in this way will go a long way in giving unchurched folk a positive view of the church and lost people a good impression of Christ followers. These relationships will naturally lead to opportunities to share stories about your faith. These relationships will also lead to opportunities to minister to people that need a helping hand or encouraging word when life is challenging. What a tremendous chance sports outreach provides for ministry.

3) Sports Ministry provides opportunities for Evangelism
Last but not least, sports provide a chance to share the Gospel. Maybe you have made a friend through the outreach effort of your church that asks you some basic questions about God. Maybe you have ministered to someone you met through a sports outreach event and it provided a chance for you to lead them to Christ. Or maybe you have the privilege of sharing the Good News at a Children’s Summer Sports Camp and seeing an amazing response to the Gospel message. If God uses you in this capacity you will never be the same, and you will always want to be a part of a sports outreach ministry that provides outreach, ministry, and evangelism avenues for you and your church. Start a sports ministry at your church today and impact your community for Christ.



Church DNA Essential # 3 – LOVE

“All of the law and the prophets hang on these commands (of Jesus).” Does anybody recognize that verse? It comes after one of the most quoted group of verses in the entire New Testament: Matthew 22:34-40 NIV

“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All of the law and the prophets hang on these two commands.”

The term “hang” in Greek means that these verses (all of the law and prophets) “find their significance” in the commands of loving God and others.

The modern church read that we are to believe the law and behave how the prophets call us to act and if a person meets those criteria then they are allowed to enter our church, become members, and then belong. In a post-modern culture people want to belong, to be loved regardless of their state of being. If what we believe and how we behave are not founded in love then we have missed the point. Remember that these commandments only find their place when they lead to loving God and loving others. This is authentic biblical community.

That is why scripture says that of faith, hope, and love (amazing virtues) that the greatest of these is love. That is why Christ said of his followers, “They will know you are my disciples if you love one another.”

The final DNA essential for churches is LOVE. Love God and love others. This should be the foundation for all ministries. No one should be left out.



Church DNA Essential # 2 — LIVE

The rock band, NeedtoBreathe, in the their song “Signature of Divine” have crafted a poetic lyric that has captured my heart and my iPod for the past few days:

“Cathedrals have tried in vain to show the image of your face. We are by your design, signature of divine…”

We are created in the image of God. We are witnesses. We are representatives of the risen Lord. Simply check out the words of the Apostle Paul in I Thessalonians 2:8, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.”

The second DNA element that I believe is essential to the church is the charge to not only share the Good News, but to LIVE a life that reflects the nature of our God and character of our Savior.

Sports are a relational means for ministry to occur. The ministry is not only in the hands of the coaches as they work with the children. Ministry happens in the bleachers, as well. The lives of Christians and Non-Christians naturally intersect on the sidelines of a youth sports game or practice. What a tremendous opportunity to build relationships with families that need to see Jesus in you. You are a “signature of divine” to each person you meet. Shine your light! LIVE the Gospel and pray for opportunities to share the Gospel and/or invite people to church. Do what many relevant churches are calling invest and invite. Invest in the lives of the people in your “sports life” sphere of influence and invite them to your church.

As a church leader, make sure your flock understand that the Christian Life is not a Sunday routine, rather a 24/7 calling. We must LIVE as “Signature of (the) Divine”.



Church DNA Essential # 1 – LOOK

There are a number of books aimed at pastors that focus on the purpose of the church. What many of these authors do not realize is they are promoting their priority DNA type. Some of the titles include, “The Connecting Church”, “The Disciple-Making Church”, and “The Equipping Church”. With all of these biblically-based books on the purpose of the church, how can you effectively decipher what DNA elements are essential for your community? I recommend we look at the life and mission of Christ to determine what our mission should be. The first thing that we can learn from the Gospel accounts is that our Lord Jesus Christ saw his primary task as that of Savior. Jesus says of himself in Luke 19:10, “the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” What does that mean for the church today? It means that we need to LOOK. We need to look beyond the walls of our church and find those in need of a Savior. Sadly, most churches today are inwardly focused. If they were evaluated in terms of the familiar parable of the lost sheep, they would be more interested in shepherding the 99 than “seeking and saving” the one lost sheep. We need to be what one author calls, “an outward-facing force”. If reaching the lost is a priority of Jesus then it should be our priority as the church.

The theme verses for our Church Sports Outreach Ministry are found in Colossians 4:5-6: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” With God’s blessing we have successfully made the most of every opportunity through sports as a creative means to connect with our community for the purpose of encouraging them to pursue a life-long, joyous relationship with Jesus Christ. Sports is simply an effective way to build relationships with outsiders or unbelievers for the opportunity to minister to them, invite them to church, and share the love of Jesus in word and deed. We must be aware and LOOK for the opportunities that we have to share the Gospel with those who we are eager to reach. Is outreach a part of your church DNA? It should be.