Unfortunately, every sports minister has heard something like the following:
“Did you see that parent smoking near the parking lot?”
“That guy on the other team used a profanity.”
“That parent just used the Lord’s name in vain!”
“After the game, that guy was drinking beer in the parking lot.”
“I heard two players on the other team discussing parties and being promiscuous with women.”
And these statements are often followed by the following: “We can’t have these type of things happen in our ministry,” or “We can’t have those people in our ministry!” I know of churches where the “offenses” listed above have been grounds for dismal in sports ministry.
That’s not the way it should be though.
It’s worth noting that when people complain about the above scenarios and demand “justice” by removing the people from the ministry–they are revealing what they think your ministry is. They think your ministry is meant to be a “safe, Christian environment.” People smoking, swearing, and drinking is a threat to a safe, Christian environment. Keep in mind, all of the above-mentioned activities can be done by believers as well. We just assume that the people who do them aren’t believers. For the sake of the argument though, let’s assume that these activities are being done by non-believers. As a sports minister, this presents you an opportunity to explain the true mission of your ministry to the Christian complainers demanding punishment.
Here’s how I could see this explanation going:
“Listen, I understand your concern but let me be clear, these are the EXACT people we want in the ministry. We are a sports outreach ministry, and as such, we want–we expect, in fact–to have non-believers present. If this stuff is not happening on a regular basis then our ministry is failing because that means there are no non-believers present. To address your point directly, part of our vision for our ministry is to display what redeemed sports looks like. And to present what a gospel-changed, redeemed life looks like. We want this modeled in the ministry and hope and pray that it impacts the non-believers present. We don’t want to lose that atmosphere in our league. But we can’t expect redeemed behavior out of people who have not been redeemed.
In light of this, I would challenge you to see these people as Jesus saw them. Think of the woman at the well (John 4), think of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-9), the Roman centurion (Luke 7:1-10), the man with leprosy (Matthew 8:1-4), or the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). These are all people who were the “sinners” of their day. They were all engaged in behavior counter to the Christian way. And how did Jesus treat them? Did he condemn them? Did he treat them like enemies? Like outcasts? No. He loved them. He pursued them. He had compassion on them. And because of his love, their lives were ultimately changed.
What do you think would happen in our ministry if instead of exiling lost people we treated people like Jesus would treat them? I think a revival would happen. Not only would their lives change and be transformed, we would change. We would be transformed. And God would be pleased.”