Do you ever wonder – “How do I really go about reaching the people around me?” or more broadly, “How does our church reach the culture in which God has placed us?”
At CSO, we want everyone in sports ministry to wrestle with these questions, whether you are in sports ministry as a vocation or as a volunteer.
To help guide us in answer to those questions, I ran across a webcast with Tim Keller and Gabe Lyons where they discussed the topic of living in a post-Christian world. Below are some excerpts:
“My understanding of how you reach a culture is Christians have to be extremely like the people around them, and yet at the same time extremely unlike them… If Christians are not unlike they won’t challenge the culture, but if they’re not like, they won’t persuade the culture. Now, hitting that middle ground is hard.”
“Before the coming of Christ believers were culturally different…Christ comes, and now you can be a Christian in every tongue, tribe, people, and nation. Jesus gets rid of the ceremonial laws and all those things that made Christians culturally strange. In that sense, [now] your neighbor is like you.”
“There’s got to be a balance. On the one hand … traditional Christian marketplace ministries have put all the emphasis on spiritual support, and that’s fine and very important…But rather than just simply evangelizing, recycling and nurturing people inside their vocation, they ought to be asking ‘how does the gospel affect the way in which I do my work, how does it shape my work?’”
Read more here.
First of all, in looking at what Keller says about being like but unlike, I thought, ‘what a great place sports provides for doing just this.‘
When we’ve used sports as a bridge to allow people to get close to us, one of the most consistent comments I hear from converted adults is “I found out these people were just like me.” Sports can provide an arena of regular observation for the unconverted to cast down the stereotypes they hold about Christians – if we take the time to reach over the bridge of sports and get to know the unconverted and allow them close enough to get to know us.
Sports can also provide a great place for us to show that we are unlike them. If we tear down the idol of sports in our hearts, if we play for the glory of God rather than our glory, if we make it our goal to show God off in the way we play, then the unconverted will see something very different from themselves.
This difference goes far beyond outer behavior like pointing to the sky when something good is done. It comes from deep within the heart of a redeemed person who has allowed God to sanctify them by spreading that redemption to the way they play, coach or spectate sports. Sports – because of its power to cut open the heart – gives us a great arena to display this difference.
With this redemption, Keller, in commenting about workplace ministries, emphasizes the need to focus not just on spiritual support but in also asking the question, “How does the gospel affect the way in which I do my work, how does it shape my work?”
Agreeing with this idea, at CSO we apply that question to sports by asking, “How does the gospel affect the way in which I do my sports, how does it shape my work?”
These two ideas – 1) being like and unlike 2) where our unlikeness is focused on my sports looking differently through the impact of the gospel – are why we focus on both the bridge (like) and the laboratory (unlike) of sports.
If you are looking for some ideas on how to better utilize sports to create this middle ground, contact us at CSO. We exist to “redeem the idol of sports and those who play them by leading a global movement of gospel centered sports ministries in local churches.”