100 Division III athletes, all who identified themselves as Christians, were asked a series of questions that probed into the
impact of their Christianity on their sports involvement. While the questions weren’t asked in exactly these three categories – BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER the Game – the answers broke down into these three.
The good news – 100 of these athletes said their Christianity affected them BEFORE and AFTER the game. They prayed, they read something, they talked to someone specifically.
The bad news is how many of them said their Christianity affected them DURING the Game. How many do you think?
By the fact that I call it bad news, the number is low. Just how low is it?
That’s right. None of the players saw their Christianity as affecting them during their time on the court, in the field.
This seems rather depressing and almost too difficult to believe. Here are two supporting stories for you skeptics:
1) I shared this research recently at a Coaches Training. Afterwards, a young, tall woman approached me. Here is what she said:
I played D2 Volleyball at a “Methodist” school. We would ALWAYS say the Lord’s Prayer before the game as a team, I personally would pray for strength and safety as well before the game. If we won we would thank the Lord for the win—— But never once did we pray DURING the game. I found that every interesting and actually had never realized it until Bob made me think about it! There is no reason why we shouldn’t ask God for strength and endurance DURING a game! We should also give him thanks after a game (even if we lost) for him giving us the strength to do our best! Glory should be given to God before, during, and after all games win or lose!
2) In a Sports Illustrated article in February 2013, one collegiate athlete identified as being involved in a Christian Sports Ministry Group said in response to the researcher, Sharon Stoll of the University of Idaho, when she asked about the role of intimidation in sports:
“Ma’am, my job is to kick them in the head, knee them in the groin, stand over them and tell them never to get up.” Stoll then asked how the linebacker would play against Jesus. “And the guy looked at me and said, ‘Ma’am, I’m as Christian as the next guy, but if I’m playing Jesus the Christ, I play the same way. I leave God on the bench.”
“I leave God on the bench.”
What we are saying in all this is that God belongs outside the lines of the fields or courts, not inside. Once a player steps across that line and onto the field or court, we leave our Christianity behind.
However, that perspective is not the way God sees it!
“Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink (or play football or volleyball) do it all for the glory of God.” 1Corinthians 10:31 (with the parenthetical comments added)
God sees the largest to the smallest aspect of everything we do, including our sports, as connected with his glory. This is the way he designed all of life. This is why Paul calls us to this connection, in recognition of the difference between God’s and our perspective.
Yet, we shouldn’t point only to athletes in discussing this problem. The compartmentalized view of life with its secular/sacred dichotomy is alive and well all around today’s Christianity.
If you don’t believe me, look at the stats on how we treat money and what we give or how we treat marriage, or how we conduct business. God is often left out in these arenas and considered irrelevant just as he is on the athletic fields and courts. George Barna has done a great job of providing the stats to fully back up this assertion.
If you are troubled by all this, great. Honestly, I share it with you for that very purpose.
We need a cry for a different reality. We need a cry for a different paradigm – one where Christianity and the gospel aren’t segregated from or injected into sports but rather integrated with sports.
Change begins when we are troubled, burdened by reality.