Can Sports Tell the Story of God?
How athletic competition can be an open door for the Gospel.
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
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Image: Pierre-Etienne Vachon/Unsplash
I have very few regrets in life, but my earliest one is about T-ball. I forgot to bring home the sign-up sheet to register for the T-ball season. Somehow, at the tender age of six, I knew I was called to play baseball. And, very sadly, I had just missed my first golden opportunity to take part in the nation's pastime. But that wasn't all.
The apartment my family lived in was located right across from the elementary school I had just began attending. Also across the street? The fields upon which the T-ball games were played.
That first weekend of T-ball was the worst. I sat in the windowsill, curled up in a ball, with my Oakland A's hat, and cried all morning and afternoon. Every Saturday for the rest of the spring I took my place on the sill and displayed my sadness for all to see.
Through the years I have participated in baseball, basketball, track and field, volleyball, soccer, tennis, golf, table tennis, ultimate Frisbee, field hockey, and even Atlatl (yes, you read that correctly).
For the longest time I considered my love of sports, whether as an active participant or an avid fan, lying somewhere between a guilty pleasure and an obsession to an idol. So I held to a certain tension considering my love of sports. That tension was this: If I'm not making a living in sports, or at least as a chaplain to a sports team, I should probably drop my love of sports all together because this love is distracting me from "doing God's work."
I'm a full-time campus minister with the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO). Doing work at a relatively small state school, one of the easiest ways to engage with students is through sports. And although my supervisors have always encouraged "relational ministry in any context," in the back of my head I always wondered, Where's the line?
I should be evangelizing more.
Do these student always know why I am out here?
Then I started wondering, Do I know why I am out here?
I seriously considered hanging up the cleats on sports entirely. God's Word can be expressed over coffee, in philosophical conversation, and certainly through the Bible and prayer, but what good was I doing getting all sweaty and playing games with all these college kids?
But I would always come back to an unalienable fact about myself:
I love sports!
I didn't find a great answer to my dualistic tension until I read a section from an excellent book, Living at the Crossroads: An Introduction to Christian Worldview by Michael Goheen and Craig Bartholomew. They write:
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