In our culture, sport also connects people. Sport brings communities together. The little town of Noorat in Western Victoria has a population of around 260. Yet on Thursday night, 300-400 meals are served at the local Noorat Football/Netball Club. The surrounding community come to the "meeting place" which is the sports club. Sporting clubs connect communities.
The local church, in years past, has always been a place connected with emotion (e.g. love of the Lord Jesus) and a meeting place for communities. Has the church in modern days lost out to secular sport? What attitude will the church take towards these issues?
Sport & Church
Sport offers the church a culturally relevant vehicle to connect with its local community and share the love and grace of Jesus. For many communities, it is the local sporting club that is the meeting place. This offers the church a place to go to share and care for people in a genuine and ongoing way.
The Bible gives some examples:
Many of Jesus' ministry interactions occurred in his community meeting places such as on the streets (calling Levi, Luke 5), town gates (Centurion's daughter, Luke:7), water well (Samaritan woman, Luke 4) and marketplaces (Mark 6). Jesus went to where the people were. The Church, as Jesus' people, should do the same. This concept is called "incarnation ministry" because it is based on Jesus, as the eternal Son, becoming human and living with us (John 1:14).
The early church also went to the meeting places. Acts 2:46 explains the early Christians would meet in the temple courts. But why would they go daily to the temple courts? Jesus had already offered the ultimate and final sacrifice (Hebrew 10) and the temple was no longer needed because Jesus had fulfilled that temple typology (Rev 21:22). One suggested answer is that they went to pray (Acts 3:1) but also to meet with other non-Christians (the Jews). So, the early Christians would go to their local meeting place, the temple. And in so doing they would share with others (Acts 2:47).
God is interested in people. The church is interested in people. Therefore, the church should consider the place where people gather. Sport is that place. The local Noorat Presbyterian Church has less than 30 people attending on Sunday, yet their members go along on Thursday to their football/netball club to share and care in practical ways around the club.
They even have chaplains appointed to the club to be the people carers. They are building relationships that impact eternity. Theirs is an example of the church using sport as a way to connect to their community.
Sport and the church go hand in hand. Sport offers the church an opportunity to make disciples, and the church offers sport the promise of eternal life.
Jeremy is a former sport scientist, now chaplain & pastor.
Jeremy Dover's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover.html