The Importance of Sports and Recreation Ministry in the Church [Part 3– The Hidden Gem]

The big question is “How can we use sports in missions?” Sports is such an essential part in everyday lives. More and more athletes such as Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors, Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, Carson Wentz of the Philadelphia Eagles, Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Mike Fisher of the Nashville Predators, and most notably Tim Tebow who is now with the Southeastern Conference Network and the New York Mets farm system are stepping out of the shadows and using their platforms for sharing Christ with the world through post-game interviews, play on the field, and actions off the field. Using one’s platform to share Christ is not a new concept. Famous baseball player Billy Sunday gave up baseball to be an evangelist and Eric Lidell, Olympic gold medalist, gave up his track career in his prime to be a missionary.[1] John Garner, in his book Recreation and Sports Ministry, states that “To fail to use what God has given us through our physical creation denies the very order and sovereignty of God.”[2]

Christians can tap into the potential use of evangelism in sports to bring the gospel to individuals who likely would never step a foot into the church’s doors. George Barna states,

“The weekend church service is no longer the primary mechanism for salvation decisions; only one out of ten believers who makes a decision to follow Christ does so in a church setting or service. On the other hand, personal relationships have become even more important in evangelism, with a majority of salvation decisions coming in direct responses to an invitation given by a family member or friend.”[3]

Also, sports and recreation ministry enables the relationship to begin as a “safe haven” for the unchurched person.[4] Sports and recreation paired with missions can definitely have that effect. Through playing soccer with kids in a village in Peru or through going to the streets in Europe and playing basketball with guys, one can build relationships with those people and eventually have the opportunity to share the gospel, praying that they will be receptive to God’s word and come to Christ. Sports and recreation opportunities are considered to be the most strategic tool for evangelism that the church has today.[5]

Another way sports can be paired with missions is by doing events for youth and men. Men and youth want activities to participate in. That is where recreation and sports come in hand.[6] Plato says it best when he is quoted saying, “Students are at their learning best while having fun.”[7] Sadly, kids that go to church and never have fun, often see church as boring and are more likely to stop coming as a teen or a young adult. One way to make the church more fun for kids is to engage the kids in some sort of sports or recreation. There is a fine line between merely having pointless fun and being intentional in using recreation and sports to reach the lost.  This is where the church has to be held accountable. Cindy Bledsoe, in her article entitled Evangelism in Sports and Recreation Ministry, brings a very good point to mind. She states that “taking into account that a substantial majority of people accept Christ before their 18th birthday tied with the fact that many sports and recreation ministry participants fall within this age group provide a unique opportunity for evangelism in the sports and recreation ministry field.”[8] Garner tells his readers why sports and recreation ministries are so effective for the church:

Sports and Recreation ministries are effective because they reach the largest cross section of people, they specifically reach secularized, never-churched, dechurched, and other churched nonbelievers, they reach the two missing groups of people in most traditional churches, they fulfill church growth principles by empowering and focusing on the laity, people are easily influenced when having fun.[9]

Based off of what Garner stated, this is why sports are so important to the church and to missions around the world.

Sports and recreation reach so many different people who otherwise would not be reached with the gospel. Not everyone hears the gospel once in door-to-door ministry and comes to Christ. Door-to-door can be hard. especially without first creating a relationship with that person contrary to how most people may think. The people who shut their doors in the face of door-to-door missionaries may surprise the missionaries later when they show up to the local field to play soccer.  The relationship is then built in order to share the gospel with that individual later down the road. Churches tend to leave sports and recreation up to the community, which is sad since many more people could be reached through sports. If the church were to lead the community in sports, it could tap into the unchurched of the area, that otherwise are not reached through regular church outreach activities.[10] “The creative bent of sports and recreation should turn to sports and recreation not because sports and recreation are important, but because it becomes a means to build relationships with the lost.”[11] Every Christian with any sort of athletic ability should take this quote to heart and use the gifts that God has given them to go reach the lost.

There are numerous ways that Sports and Recreation can be used in missions. The first way is to realize the gifts that God has given you to use to reach the lost. Some of the gifts that God gives people are the ability to be strong, to have good vision, and even gives people the slightest athletic ability (me…haha) to reach the guys and girls who live, breath, and eat sports. If God has given someone these gifts, they can reach people that others cannot. It is the athletes of this world that can use those gifts to share the gospel with the secular world that would never come to a church but would be willing to talk for hours at the gym shooting basketball. Numerous opportunities for sharing Christ and setting a Christian example occur through sports activities.[12] If one’s passion is sports and this passion is shared with the person they are reaching, sports can bring the two together and create many open doors to share the gospel. Recreation and sports are a natural way to share the love of Christ using analogies from sports, crafts, camping, nature, and games.[13]

Overall, one should see the major impact that sports and recreation have in this world and the many doors that sports and recreation open to share the gospel. You can go on a mission trip with E3 Partners to Costa Rica and share the gospel all week with kids by playing soccer with them.[14] You can be a huddle leader for FCA and impact high school and college athletes with the gospel. You could go through Uttermost Sports and serve anywhere from one week to three years, doing anything from rock climbing to being a weightlifting judge to a tennis coach in just about any country in the world.[15]

If someone loves football, he can create a Christian youth football league, which two men in Sioux Falls decided to do. They are sharing the gospel and are trying to change the culture of sports through the most popular sport in America.[16] One could get involved in Upward Sports in churches.  Approximately half a million players at more than 2,000 churches in 47 states participate in camps, clinics, and leagues through Upward Sports’ Recreation Department, where the mission is to promote the discovery of Jesus through sports.[17] If you are passionate about sports, spend a day researching Christian sports organizations.  You will be overwhelmed, but you will never run out of options for how to use sports to spread the gospel around the world.

Sports are a passion for many people around the world. In America, it is football, basketball, and baseball, in Europe it is soccer, in the Dominican Republic it is baseball, Canada it is Hockey, and in India it is cricket. A lot of people in the world live and die by the sports they are involved in, as a fan or a player. Sports drive a lot of people’s schedules and a lot of parents build their schedules around all of their kids’ sporting events and practices. Sports open up countless doors for conversation. The church needs to take advantage of that resource, use it, and use it well.

Every year, the revenue for sports and recreation continues to go up.[18] When does the church realize the importance to invest in that ministry and spread the gospel with the lost around the world and in their own backyard? One of the common reasons people do not come to church is that they simply are not comfortable attending functions where they feel out of place.[19] One can easily build a relationship with a person for the sake of the gospel with a football, basketball, or soccer ball. Instead of churches closing the doors on their sports and recreation ministry, they should reevaluate its current state and see what they are doing wrong or what they can do better in order to reach their community with sports and recreation. The opportunity is here, the church just has to seize it.

Christians have been known to spend a summer in Portugal reaching the Portuguese with water sports. College athletes give up an entire summer to teach their skills in a particular sport in a foreign country. You have to go to them; do not expect people to come to you. The church has to go to the lost, and sports are the perfect way to do just that. Sports and missions together make sense.  The church simply has to invest in the great combination of the two and use it to reach the lost in the world. Not using sports and recreation as a resource to reach people keeps the church coming up short of reaching the lost for Christ.

[1] Andrew Parker, “Sport and Christianity in the 21st Century,” Encounters Mission Journal 41 (July 2012): 1-7, accessed April 14, 2015, https://encountersmissionjournal.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/sport_and_christianity_in_the_21st_century_andrew_parker_and_mike_collins_41.pdf., 5.

[2] John Garner and general editor, Recreation and Sports Ministry: Impacting Postmodern Culture (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2003), 32.

 

[3] Bledsoe, Cindy. “Evangelism in Sports and Recreation Ministry.” The Association of Church Sports and Recreation Ministers (2011): 1. Accessed April 16, 2015.http://ns.csrm.org/article_bledsoe.html.

[4]  Garner, 155.

[5] Garner, 156.

[6] Ibid., 155-156.

[7] Ibid., 157.

 

[8] Bledsoe, Cindy. “Evangelism in Sports and Recreation Ministry.” The Association of Church Sports and Recreation Ministers (2011): 1. Accessed April 16, 2015.http://ns.csrm.org/article_bledsoe.html.

[9] Garner, 153.

 

[10] Pylant, Agnes Durant. Church Recreation (Church Study Course for Teaching and Training). (Nashville: Convention Press, 1959), 109.

[11]Ibid., 31.

[12] Greg Morrow, Recreation: Reaching Out, Reaching In, Reaching Up (Nashville, TN.: Convention Press, 1986), 45.

[13] Garner, 153.

 

[14] “Sports,” e3 Partners, 2015, accessed April 16, 2015, http://e3partners.org/causes/sports/.

 

[15] “Go,” Uttermost Sports, 2015, accessed April 28, 2015, http://uttermostsports.org/go-with-us/.

[16] David Nicholson, “New Youth Football League to Take Faith-Based Approach,” Argus Leader, March 29, 2015, accessed April 16, 2015, http://www.argusleader.com/story/sports/2015/03/29/new-youth-football-league-take-faith-based-approach/70636896/.

[17] Upward Sports. “About Upward Sports.” Accessed April 16, 2015.http://www.upward.org/about/about-upward-sports.

 

[18]Plunkett Research,® Ltd. “Industry Statistics Sports.” November 11, 2014. Accessed April 16, 2015.http://www.plunkettresearch.com/statistics/sports-industry/.

[19] Garner, 154.

 

The Importance of Sports and Recreation Ministry in the Church [Part 2–The Connection]

Sports and religion go hand-in-hand in the Bible. Both in the Old and New Testament, authors have talked about sports and recreation as they relate to the faith. In the Old Testament, Zechariah 8:5 states, “And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.”[1] In the New Testament, Paul often used sports as a language to portray the word of God to his audiences. The sports reference that most church-goers know is Hebrews 12:1-2  which states, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Also, in 1 Corinthians 9:24 Paul refers again to a runner in a race and the way an athlete trains for events when he writes, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” Second Timothy 2:5 and 4:7 also refer to sports and how that relates to our faith. Second Timothy 2:5 reads, “An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” The last scripture that Paul uses to relate sports to the Christian life in the New Testament is 2 Timothy 4:7 which reads, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Sadly, sports and religion have not had the best relationship through the years. Sports and religion go back to the Greek Olympic Games. The Greek games were essentially created to honor the gods and Zeus.  However, in the end, the games were more important than the reason the Olympics were created.[2] Back in the Greek and Roman Empire days, clergy banned recreation because it so closely resembled pagan religious activities.[3] The Jewish culture rejected sport and all faith-sport integration or participation.[4] All of this led to a shaky relationship of sports and recreation with the church that would continue for centuries. The Middle Ages saw the Christian faith get involved in the world of sports and recreation for a while.  Luther thought that as long as time was used to glorify God then it did not matter; Roman Catholics favored recreation and the Jewish people appeared to enjoy the benefits of recreation in the Middle Ages.[5]

After the Middle Ages and until post World War I, sports and recreation in the church were seen as sinful and was banned from most churches. “In 1872, churches of all denominations were banning recreation of all kinds, from amusements to dancing.”[6] Churches did not like recreation and made sure that the church had no part in it. Following the Civil War, the church thought that sports gave the “potential for evil.” No one could play sports at that time because the church still had a massive influence in the world. This period lasted for about fifty years until, in 1924, the recreation ban was lifted at the General Conference.[7] The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), came to America in 1860, but because of the ban, was not utilized in the church at this time to train clergy in the area of recreation.[8] By the end of World War I, church recreation was not only accepted, but was expected.[9] The last era of sports and the church is known as the “Era of Promotion.”[10] This is the time when sports and recreation in the church really expanded to be an integral part of the everyday function of the church. T.B. Mason taught the first Baptist seminary course in recreation in 1922 at Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas and leaders sought to guarantee the long-term partnership of religion and recreation.[11] Recreation finally became a serious ministry.

Throughout the years since the world has seen sports and missions grow to go hand-in-hand. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes was formed in 1954 and is geared toward reaching high school athletes and coaches for Christ. In 1966, Athletes in Action grew into a worldwide movement holding fast to its original mission statement to introduce athletes to Christ.[12] Now, one can look on Google for Christian sports organizations and can find hundreds of organizations that use their platform to share Christ with others through sports. Churches with large congregations around the United States have big gyms and sports facilities for the sole purposes of reaching their communities for Christ through athletics. Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia has an 82-acre sports complex to use to reach their community through sports.[13]

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture citations will be from the English Standard Version Bible.

[2] Linville, Dr. Greg. “Sports Outreach Movement.” Toward a Theology of Competition and Sports Chapter 5 – Historical Models (2010): 1. Accessed April 15, 2015.http://ns.csrm.org/article_theology_5_4.html.

 

[3] Garner, 39.

[4] Linville, Dr. Greg. “Sports Outreach Movement.” Toward a Theology of Competition and Sports Chapter 5 – Historical Models (2010): 1. Accessed April 15, 2015.http://ns.csrm.org/article_theology_5_4.html.

[5] Garner, 40.

[6] Ibid., 37-38.

[7] Ibid., 44.

 

[8] Linville, Dr. Greg. “Sports Outreach Movement.” Toward a Theology of Competition and Sports Chapter 5 – Historical Models (2010): 1. Accessed April 15, 2015.http://ns.csrm.org/article_theology_5_4.html.

[9] Garner, 43.

[10] Ibid., 46.

[11] Ibid., 47.

[12] Parker, 6.

 

[13] William Stanford, interviewed by author, New Orleans, LA, March 21, 2015.

The Importance of Sports and Recreation Ministry in the Church [Part I]

The sports world is an intriguing part of the real world that has never seemed to fall away over time. In fact, the sports world has continued to reach new heights year in and year out. A lot of people are passionate about sports. Sports have started wars, created new friendships, given people a way out of reality for a short amount of time, and has made people do questionable things. Sports is a passion.  People live and die with their teams and even name their babies after their favorite athletes.  Breakups have been caused and towns have gone up in flames because of sports. Sports brings cities together after natural disasters, such as New Orleans and the Saints return after Katrina or how the tornadoes in Tuscaloosa brought two bitter rivals, Alabama and Auburn together to help clean-up efforts.  Sports have also helped communities and nations recover after tragedies, such as how sports brought the United States together after 9/11. The church is losing attendance on due to sports.

In many churches in America on game day, attendance is lower than average. A trend of picking sports over church has begun. In fact, I saw this first-hand when I served as youth pastor in Bruceton, Tennessee. When retired San Francisco 49er’s linebacker, Patrick Willis, who grew up in Bruceton and the face of that small town came into town for a sports camp and held it on a Sunday morning, the church had a staggering twenty members of the congregation in attendance.  A usual Sunday has about 83 members in attendance. The high school parking lot, where the camp was held was bursting at the seams.

Sports serve as an easy way to start conversations and create relationships all over the world. The top two universal languages are sports and music.[1] Sports have created a lot of friendships over the years. It is easy to see another individual wearing a sports hat, shirt, or jacket and ask them how their team is doing. People will sit and talk for hours about why they like the coach of their favorite team or how the quarterback is the best in the league. An individual’s guard seems to go down when you bring up sports. As Andrew Parker states in Sports and Christianity in the 21st Century, “As a social phenomenon characterized by globalization and instantaneous internet communication, sports can overcome social classes, cultural differences, linguistic barriers, and geographical boundaries among people.”[2] Relationships are forged forever when one meets another who is just as passionate about a team. Gospel presentations can arise easily when one talks sports with a complete stranger. Sports also give a plethora of great analogies regarding the Christian life, which Paul never backed down from using in his letters to the churches of the New Testament.

Some of the following statistics about sports, our culture, and a multi-billion dollar industry are mind-blowing. Ninety-six percent of the population is linked to sports in some way.[3] Americans are connected through sports by watching them on television, attending a child’s game, or even geographical reasons to support certain teams, much like cheering on the Saints for New Orleans regardless of any previous interest in football.  Americans are consuming sports on a scale unprecedented in history.[4] Sports are found in almost every known human society.[5] One can go to almost every country and see sports being played nationally or by the neighborhood kids in the street. An individual can bring a soccer ball overseas and within a day, attract a large following from the community kids and a platform to share the gospel. 

Companies see the effects that sports have on people and they are grabbing those opportunities to cash in. NFL have lately been dropping a billion dollars or more on new stadiums. The Los Angeles Rams are dropping  between 2-3 billion dollars on a stadium. Let me repeat that, between 2-3 billion dollars. A quote from CNN style regarding the L.A. Rams new stadium currently under construction:

Kroenke has publicly estimated the cost at $1.86 billion, but the Los Angeles Times quotes unnamed “(NFL) officials and owners” who say the true cost could reach $2.66 billion. The New York Times and others have put the value at nearly $3 billion.The NFL already claims the world’s most expensive stadium. That title belongs to the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, home to New York teams the Giants and Jets, which opened in 2010 at a cost of $1.6 billion. The Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers are also among a minute group of teams worldwide to play in stadiums costing more than $1 billion.”

A tenth of the world almanac is devoted to sports and USA Today allocates a fourth of its publication to sports.[7]  The following are statistics that will make you scratch your head and wonder how sports have grown so much: in the year 2014, the estimated size of the entire sports industry in the U.S. is $485 billion;  the estimated size of the global sports industry is $1.5 Trillion, [8] which includes sporting events and sporting goods;  in 2013 the Major League Baseball revenue was $7.1 billion, the National Football League brought in $9.2 billion, spectator sports brought in $34.3 billion, and sporting goods stores retail sales in the U.S. totaled at $44.1 billion.[9] As one can see, the sports industry is an important one in the eyes of the population of the world. Sports affect everyone is some sort of way and the statistics display that well.

the-sports-industry-and-its-influence-on-business_50290b8b325b4_w1500

[1] John Garner and general editor, Recreation and Sports Ministry: Impacting Postmodern Culture (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2003), 153.

[2]Andrew Parker, “Sport and Christianity in the 21st Century,” Encounters Mission Journal 41 (July 2012): 1-7, accessed April 14, 2015, https://encountersmissionjournal.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/sport_and_christianity_in_the_21st_century_andrew_parker_and_mike_collins_41.pdf., 2.

[3] Shirl James Hoffman, Good Game: Christianity and the Culture of Sports (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2010), 222.

[4] Ibid., 2.

[5] Gregory Baum and John A. Coleman, eds., Sport (Edinburgh, Scotland.: Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd, 1989), 5.

[6] Matthew Ponsford, “Los Angeles to Build World’s Most Expensive Stadium Complex,” CNN Style, Updated 11:12 AM ET, Tue January 19, 2016, 1, accessed November 16, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/19/architecture/new-nfl-stadium-los-angeles/.

[7] Hoffman, 3.

[8]Plunkett Research, ® Ltd. “Industry Statistics Sports.” November 11, 2014. Accessed April 16, 2015.http://www.plunkettresearch.com/statistics/sports-industry/.

[9] Ibid.

Where is the Love?

 

Bombs exploding
Guns Firing
Young children kidnapped for sex trafficking
Hundreds are dying every day from lack of food or clean water
Homeless lives consume our downtown streets
Single parents are struggling to work, pay bills, and be there for their children
We say lives matter, but we are constantly discriminating
We say we don’t hate, but actions speak louder than words
Don’t tell someone they’re wrong, because everyone is right
Sexual identity is the meaning of life
Bathrooms have become a major debate
You can became a hashtag in an instant
Practicing your faith makes you a bigot
Politicians are making you cringe every time they open their mouth
Social media timelines are filled with hatred and fighting
A country thought once united in race seems split again
This is supposed to be a country of freedom
But everything you do is scrutinized
Our freedom is slowly disappearing
People are losing their lives over skin color, sexual orientation, religion, nationality
We say #lovewins but is it really winning?
Where is the love? 
Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questionin’
Where is the love (Love)
Where is The Love?
The Black Eyed Peas

Competition vs. Sportsmanship: Where is the line?

Being a campus recreation director, being involved in intramural sports, coaching in Upward Sports leagues, and also being an avid sports fan, I see fierce competition every day.  In fact, we see competition in our everyday lives, from “getting the girl” to “getting the job”. Something that I have been struggling with as of late is the difference between competition and sportsmanship and as a Christian what that looks like for me and for others.  As a campus recreation director, I often hear that actions on the field are merely because the players are being competitive. I struggle with this when being competitive means that players are verbally assaulting other players, the refs, and even getting in each other’s faces. I understand very well the reaction one might give when we let our emotions get the best of us. Trust me, I have been there and I feel like a complete and utter failure immediately after the fact. I think being a campus recreation director and playing in sports leagues has made me learn the hard way that people are always watching you and that your actions speak louder than your words. You can’t take those actions back.

As a coach in Upward Sports, I have noticed that my kids over the last four years have been obsessed with constantly checking the scoreboard. Are we winning or are we losing? Let’s see if we can beat this team by 25 points. It is hard to explain to my kids the difference between being competitive and crossing the line to being a bad sport.  This is especially difficult when that is what they see on tv and from friends. Also, when that is what is expected of them from other team sports that they are involved in, when it comes to being competitive. There have been so many stories, especially of late of high school football players blindsiding a referee and taking him out and some bad calls in San Antonio, Texas.

Where is the line between being competitive by giving it your all to win the game and being unsportsmanlike and rude to the refs because you are losing or because you wanted a certain call? As Christians, I think this is even of greater importance because we are ministers of the gospel and we are called to be different, which relates back to our witness for Christ.  Also, I think it comes down to having a heart check.  Where is the line between being upset with a call and asking for an explanation, and walking away and becoming unsportsmanlike and  losing it in the moment? Is that acceptable by saying that my actions are justified because I’m passionate? These are the questions that I am trying to figure out and hopefully answer today.

The definition of competition according to www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary states that competition is, “of or relating to a situation in which people or groups are trying to win a contest or be more successful than others: relating to or involving competition: having a strong desire to win or be the best at something.” People are naturally competitive. We can see this with wars throughout time, the Olympics, sports leagues, and the business world. Naturally, people want to be the best at what they do. The bad side of competition is seen when parents kill other parents over sports practices and games. Referees have been hospitalized and careers have been ruined by athletes who take their idea of competition to the next level.

As Christians, I think we should give our very best out there on the field, the court, or whatever sports arena we are playing. I think there is a misconception that, as a Christian in competition, you should just coward down and do nothing. Paul says to give it your all in 1 Corinthians and to do everything you do for the glory of God and I believe that includes sports. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) So, I am all about healthy competition in which people are out there to win a game and give it their all, leaving it out there on the court. What I am not for is trash talking, chewing out the refs, playing dirty, and not being willing to tell the other team “good game.” This actually leads me into sportsmanship.

The definition of sportsmanship according to www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary reads, “Sportsmanship is defined as ethical, appropriate, polite and fair behavior while participating in a game or athletic event. When a basketball player plays by the rules, is fair to his opponent and is gracious when he loses, this is an example of sportsmanship.” The sportsmanship model is built on the idea that sport both demonstrates and encourages character development, which then influences the moral character of the broader community. How we each compete in sports can have an effect on our personal moral and ethical behavior outside of the competition.[1] What we do on the court or field matters, especially as Christians. When we react to being called out after sliding into home plate to end the game by screaming in the ump’s face and throwing things, that is not good sportsmanship and it ruins your Christian witness. I think we never realize until the moments immediately following an incident that it takes a split second to lose your witness for Christ.

If you go out in New Orleans and play in a public league, such as Play NOLA, and you tell people you are a Christian with the goal of joining the local league to share the gospel, but your actions do not add up to what they think a Christian should look like based off of the Bible, you have a problem. Now, we all have a sinful nature and we are not perfect, but we have to strive to be our best in every situation. There will be times when you slip up but are you willing to let one call or one play mess up everything you have been working hard for? What about your relationship with the person on your team that you have been sharing the gospel with? We have to remember that in every situation in life that “He must increase, I must decrease” John 3:30. We are called to be set apart, in the world, but not of it, several verses that relate to this are Romans 12:1-2, 1 Peter 1:16, Colossians 3:1, and Romans 13:14.

I remember seeing a basketball game get out of hand between two teams that were filled with Christian people. They were trash talking each other after every possession. They were constantly yelling at the refs, and then at the end of the close game, two of the players from opposing teams “bumped” chests and started to get into each other’s faces. Now think about it, is that still being competitive or is that bad sportsmanship? When it comes to Christians and their attitudes during games and sports, I have heard non-Christians talk about how church softball leagues are worse than public city leagues that they are a part of. These people have said that when they go to a church softball league game, it is not unusual to see a ref berated by church members on and off the field. Where is Christ in that moment?

I think, as a Christian, when playing sports you should give it your all and compete to the highest level, but also show great respect toward your fellow peers, teammates, opponents, refs, and spectators no matter how the game is going. We need to stop using the excuse that “we are just being competitive” and realize that we are called to be different. We need to realize when we are being bad sports and fix the attitude we have about the game before it gets worse. Having anger and being upset are natural feelings and emotions, but do not let those same emotions and feelings define who you are. Don’t destroy an opportunity to share Christ based on whether the game is going your way or not. Making an eternal impact is something we should be striving for instead of a game that we will probably forget about a week from now. What are your actions on the court or field revealing? Do you need a heart check? Are you being competitive or displaying bad sportsmanship?John Wooden said it best about sports:

 

“Sports don’t build character, they reveal it.”

[1] What Role Does Ethics Play in Sports? By Kirk O. Hanson and Matt Savage in https://www.scu.edu/ethics/focus-areas/more/resources/what-role-does-ethics-play-in-sports/.

Dealing with Reality… Battling my Food Addiction

 

Pate.jpg

My highest weight of 365 (left) and my most current and steadily dropping weight of 237 (right)

Ten months ago, I looked at myself in the mirror for the first time in a long time.  Sure, there were plenty of times that I had seen my reflection, but I had not taken the time to actually look.  If I didn’t look, I didn’t have to deal with what I saw, and I didn’t have to deal with the emotions that I felt toward myself.  I didn’t have to deal with my sinful nature, and I was able to laugh about what was occurring or continue to show apathy.  I needed to, but avoided, dealing with reality.

The reality was that I was 365 pounds, and I was morbidly obese.  I hadn’t always been this way.  Throughout my life, I went through cycles of weight loss and weight gain.  I stood now at the height of my weight sways.  I was the father of two children, one which was on the way.  I was a minister, and I had multiple young men that I was in the process of mentoring.  Surely, I wasn’t as bad off as I was.  Surely, my spiritual walk wasn’t THAT affected by my actions?  I was actively studying the Word, prayed daily, and I was active in the discipleship of many.  The reality is… I really was that bad off.  I allowed my spiritual activities to neglect my spiritual condition. 

The truth was my spiritual condition was horrid.  I hate to admit that, and it stings a lot for me to admit that.  I honestly feel like I should delete that sentence, but I know that it is best to honest.  Let me explain to you why it was awful, and how my weight was affected by it.  When we accept Christ’s salvation, we are transferring our ownership.  (Romans 6:17-18)  At one point in our lives, we were slaves to our flesh.  We allowed our sinful desires to dictate our lives.  Like the prodigal son, we allow our desires to dictate our actions.

Upon our salvation though, our ownership changes hands, and we become slaves to Christ.  Here’s the reality:  You NEVER quit being a slave!  You are not free in the sense that you are able to do what you want.  You are still a slave, but you are owned by a new Master.  Your original Master that had the perfect plan for your life, before you destroyed it with your own decisions.  Your new slave owner gives you the plans to follow to cause maximum growth for your life and for the advancement of His Kingdom.  Once again, you find yourself in a dilemma.  Your mind still at times desires the old master.  You know that those old ways destroyed you, but they are so hard to defeat.  While you may be owned by Christ, you may find yourself performing duties for the wrong master.  Those duties are anything that take away from your reliability on Christ.

Here’s where the rubber meets the road, I allowed food to interfere with my relationship with Christ.  When I was upset, I ate.  When I was bored, I ate.  Instead of running into the arms of my all loving and personal Master, I ignored Him, and I used something else in His place.  Idolatry is not when we put God second in line.  Idolatry is when there is anything else in the lineup at all.

On top of all this, I had developed an attitude of being a sloth.  As I mentioned before, God has called His slaves to a lifetime of advancing His Kingdom.  We are not called to simply accept our invitation, then do nothing.  Every second of our existence is to solely focus on His worship and His Kingdom expansion.  I sadly was more focused upon myself and the comfort of my own chair.  I was dying.  Of course, we are all dying, but I was dying at a much more rapid pace.  My blood pressure was sky rocketing.  My ability to exercise was obsolete.  I could barely jog the bases at the T-ball field.  The reality that I was going to die early was something that I did not want to admit.

If I died early, I not only robbed my family of years of my life.  I robbed the Lord of years of my service in His Kingdom.  I robbed the individuals in my life that I would have encountered with the Gospel.  Individuals may not have had the opportunity to hear the Gospel because of my decisions with my health.  That’s hard to accept, but it is a reality that must be accepted.  Your decisions, even with your body, effect the Gospel.

Losing the weight and changing my habits weren’t easy.  I was an addict.  I was addicted to food, and I was addicted to a lifestyle of self-love.  If you are reading this, and you are struggling with food addiction, feel free to reach out.  I can be reached at jasonpate@hotmail.com.  I understand the struggle, and I promise you that this can be overcame.  You can stand on the victor line.  It won’t be easy, but I promise you that your walk with Christ will find a new and refreshing place.  On top of this, your view of life and your place in it will change radically.

You don’t have to be addicted to food to have an addiction of self.  Of all the sins talked about in the Old Testament, the number one sin mentioned is pride.  It is mentioned more than homosexuality, adultery, murder, and all the other sins that you can think of.  Christ would spend large amounts of His time talking about pride.  Pride occurs, when we find more value in ourselves and our desires than the desires of God.  Pride isn’t just about self-esteem, but it is about self-desire.  Do the desires of your heart match the desires of Christ about your life?

So regardless of what it may be, let it go and find peace in Your Master, and kill off the desires of your heart.

 

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About the author:  Jason is a father of two beautiful children while married to a tremendous wife, Melissa.  He currently holds a M.A. in Christian Leadership from Liberty Theological and a B.A. in Christian Ministries from Williams Baptist College.  He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, spending time in the outdoors, and cheering on the Tennessee Volunteers and Los Angeles Clippers.  He can be reached at jasonpate@hotmail.com or through Facebook.

Battling Wanderlust

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

– Matthew 4:18-22

 

 

Jesus said follow me and they immediately left. They did not ask Jesus if they were going to a place they had on their bucket list or if the place interested them.  They just went. No questions were asked. The Greek word for “follow” is ἠκολούθησαν, which is a 3rd person, plural, aorist active indicative. This means that ἠκολούθησαν is “undefined.” There is no time placed on that word. So, the disciples followed Jesus not knowing what the time table was for following him and they were totally content with it.  We tend to ask if the location will be safe, what we could go see on our fun day or what exactly will we be doing on this mission trip.

Are you going on mission with a heart of obedience or selfishness? A heart of obedience would sound like the following examples. “I’ve been praying and my heart breaks for those people. I really feel the Holy Spirit telling me to go. I really hope I get to lead someone to Christ on this trip.” A heart of selfishness might sound like the following examples: “Spain has always been on my bucket list. I’ve always wanted to travel internationally.  I can’t wait to see the Eiffel Tower.” A good real life example of this would be when a youth group might go to New York City and there is a waiting list for people to go and the following year it is rebuilding in Missouri, where the floods have taken place and you are struggling to get people to sign up.

D.L. Moody is famous for replying back to another Christian who said that they did not like his way of evangelism, by asking them how they evangelized. Their reply was that they did not evangelize. Moody then wittily replies with, “I like my way of doing it, better than your way of not doing it.” We have to evangelize. I once had a fellow Christian tell me that not everyone has the gift of evangelism. Although that could be true in a sense of an evangelist that travels and does revivals, I would say that God has called us all to evangelize. That is what the Great Commission is all about in Matthew 28. We have to go and make disciples. There are several verses that talk about advancing the gospel, such as Acts 1:8,13:47 and Mark 16:15.

We are quick to jump on a short term mission trip and use that week to tell others about Christ, but we struggle to use every day opportunities to share the gospel at home and at work. If you can’t tell your next door neighbor about Christ, how will you do it in Africa? Is it because you’ll probably never see them again? A lot of us “don’t know how to share the gospel” because we never do it on a regular basis. Don’t get me wrong, I totally agree that the church doesn’t prepare its members very well anymore to share the gospel and there is a lack of discipleship in the church today. But, if we have a burning desire in our hearts to reach the lost, we should be seeking out discipleship to learn how to share the gospel. On a side note: I’m also a firm believer in relationships for the gospel, but if we plan on going to Honduras for a week and can do cold turkey or “microwave” evangelism there, why can’t we do it here in the U.S.?

In the U.S. there is a population of 323.1 million and 10.49 million people do not know Jesus. What are we doing to change those numbers? We need to do missions in our own backyard. International missions are important, but if we can’t advance the kingdom in the U.S., why go overseas? Is it because we have never been? Is it because it’s an adventure? Maybe it’s because you don’t know the next time you will get to go internationally abroad in your life? Don’t get me wrong, we need to reach the ends of the earth with the gospel, so international missions has importance. I challenge you to really seek God and search your heart the next time you have a chance to go to Chicago, the Bahamas, or Germany, and see if you want to go because it would be cool or if God has really placed this location on your heart to share the gospel with the people there. I also challenge you to share the gospel in your everyday life with everyone you come in contact with. Don’t wait for a mission trip for an opportunity to share your faith.

He>I

 


**D.L. Moody quote: Illutrations Unlimited, James S. Hewett, 178.

**U.S. population statistic from http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/us-population/

**Lost population in U.S. statistic from E3 Partners Facebook page.