“Way to go, Coach. Way to teach you players to play dirty!” the frustrated parent from the opposing team blurted out and then walked away.
“I hope at least one of your players gets saved this season!” he added as he left.
This type of interaction is not that unusual particularly around the basketball season until you understand something about the coach and the parent involved. The Leader of this Sports Ministry thinks the coach really “gets it” – focusing heavily on ministry but not to the exclusion of athletic development. “His players don’t play dirty. They just play hard,” the leader told me.
The frustrated parent actually leads a para-church Sports Ministry. He had a very different view about what Christ-like athletes look like.
This situation illustrates the confusion in the Church about what it means to play a sport for the glory of God.
But where do we turn to clear up this confusion? There seems to be few voices out there that speak practically to this issue, and in the void, the Church ends up with two extremes – either thinking playing like Christ is to play “nice” or to think that playing to the glory of God is not really an issue, not important, or achievable. “That some deep theological insights might be gleaned from such goings-on, or that God might choose to reveal himself in sports—even in those that bring out the crudest of instincts—is, of course, possible. But I believe it is unlikely.” (Sports Fanatics – How Christians have succumbed to the sports culture—and what might be done about it by Shirl James Hoffman – Cover article in February 2010 Christianity Today)
To Mr Hoffman’s defense, he follows that statement with “Yet even if I am wrong, this by itself doesn’t relieve Christians of the duty to seek the redemption of sports, and to point society toward a better way of playing.”
At CSO, we advocate that clearing this confusion and pointing society to a “better way” of playing is extremely important and lies squarely on the shoulders of those of us who lead Sports Ministries. With that in mind, I want to ask some questions:
– How do you handle issues like the one mentioned at the beginning of this article – with clarity or confusion?
– Are you acquainted with the voices out in society that speak to this issue – either Christian or secular?
– Do you have in mind a clear explanation of what it means to play “for the glory of God”?
– Have you ever studied this topic or topics related to it?
Your ministry and the Church needs you to be a “clarion call” and speak into this confusion, and the culture around you is crying out more and more for some “better way”. More importantly, we are called by God in “whatever you do (including sports)…do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31