SPORTSPASTOR


Extreme Makeover: Sports Edition

One of my favorite TV shows is Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. It is rare you will find me watching television that is not sports related, but this reality series has grabbed my heart and attention. Why? Because they provide not only a new home, but a custom home based upon the specific needs of a deserving family. The best part is that the entire community comes together to show love in a tangible way that will make a lasting impact on a family in need.

Last night’s episode hit close to home for me. A blended family of seven were living in a house that was only 600 square feet, because they could not afford anything bigger. The father had grown up on the streets and made costly mistakes that he was determined his children would not make. The part that was special to me is that this family loved sports and both the mom and dad were youth sports coaches who serve the families in their community. They even run the concession stand at the local sports complex. Now the families in their community had a chance to serve them.

So the family goes on vacation to Disney World for 7 days while the builders and volunteers from the community build them a brand new home. When they arrive home to see their new place they are informed that an anonymous donor paid off their mortgage. Wait. It gets better. West Virginia University also committed to cover tuition for all five children when they are ready to attend college.

This is true community. If your church sports program is inward focused you are missing the point. You are missing a opportunity to share the love of Christ in word and deed. Our words alone are not going to change the world. It is when they are accompanied by loving acts of service that the world will stop in their tracks and wonder what motivated such compassion. And I know that for many on Extreme Makeover, they are giving back to their community as a means to reflect the love of Jesus to the world He came to save.

Advertisements


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



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 # 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.



Church DNA and Sports Outreach

What is church DNA? To answer this question, we have to first establish a standard definition of DNA from which to begin our discussion. DNA is best described as the basic genetic building blocks that determine who we are and ultimately what we will become. Many in church leadership and consulting are using this concept of DNA as a benchmark for assessing church health. Every church has building blocks that determine its current practices and its plans for the future. Assessing these building blocks help a church evaluate their values and priorities at the micro level. At the macro level the evaluation of a church’s DNA can measure a church’s health. The overall goal is that a church would be better able to chart the course for their future endeavors based upon their understanding of their own DNA.

Every church is different. Churches are different sizes. Some churches have 20,000 members and some churches have 200 members. Churches have different backgrounds and therefore different preferences. Because of their roots, some churches are traditional and some are contemporary. Some are stuck in the middle. I believe that a church should minister and worship in a way that best reflects the demographic of the church. In other words, minister in a way that allows the most people to experience God in a unified body of believers. This is a healthy practice of ministry and a flexible strand of DNA. This begs the important question: “What elements of DNA are essential to the local church?” I believe that the answer to this question is found in three places in Scripture. We will visit these church DNA essentials over the next three days.

How does this relate to Sports Outreach? If your church does not value the church DNA essentials that I will discuss, you will have a difficult time getting the leadership team to buy into the idea of starting a sports outreach ministry. But don’t lose hope; pray for God to use you as the catalyst for change as you challenge and influence those in leadership.



Sports Outreach Ministry Summer Camp Report

We have reached the conclusion of what many are calling the best summer of sports camps we have ever experienced. God gets the glory for the 248 young people that attended the three summer sports camps and for the 44 children that trusted Christ. This includes the 13 campers that heard the Gospel and responded last week during the Baseball/Softball Camp. Baseball/Softball Camp director Coach C. and a solid group of coaches, assistant coaches, high school group leaders, and volunteers made sure that each child had a safe and fun time at the camp. We were blessed with the best baseball/softball fields in the area. Thank you everyone for your prayers this summer. We were so grateful that the church staff and the entire church body were praying for the sports outreach ministry all summer long.

I hope and pray that your church desires to reach your community for Christ. Each of you should look for ways to invest in the lives of the unchurched in your sphere of influence and invite them to your church. Sports are simply one of the most effective ways to reach out because they are a non-threatening way of connecting with people in your community through something as engaging as sports. It is also a way to invest in the lives of the children in your church and community and earn an opportunity to share the Gospel with them. Take a moment and think about how God could use you and your church to reach your community for Christ through sports.

Let me know if you have any questions. I would be happy to be a resource for you.