One of the great challenges for Christians today is how to integrate being a follower of Jesus into every aspect of life. Dutch Pastor Abraham Kuyper proclaimed, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”
If every thought and every aspect of our life is to be captive to Christ then we must wrestle with the question of how to integrate sport into our faith journey. How can sport be worship to God?
Passive to active
In my last article, I shared how “Chariots of Fire” runner, Eric Liddell, expressed this same theology explaining, “When I run I feel God’s pleasure.”
However, from my sport science and theology backgrounds I have always wanted to explore how to make this passive mind set, as correct as it is, into an active pursuit. These are some of my developing thoughts on this topic. My aim is to not give a definitive template but challenge you to consider how you can live every area of your life for Jesus. Two starting points:
Sport has long been a vehicle for mission. There is a long history of churches using sport as a mission. Even sport sociologists have documented the way rural towns built their sense of community around the local church’s tennis or cricket clubs. However, there was a problem. Moving into the 1970’s and 80’s these churches lacked a strong theology on how to integrate faith and sport (and many could argue a theology of Christ). The result was they lost their original focus and these clubs become impotent for mission.
In the past 20 years, there has been a rebirth of this mission with the church being intentional about its use of sport to show its community the love and mercy of Christ. For example, Melbourne’s Christian Soccer Association has moved from a passive sporting league to churches active in their faith and intentional in seeing sport as a mission.
Recently, I have begun training for a series of sporting events. Normally I would see these in terms of a passive expression of my faith: enjoying the gifts God has given me. However, through this recent theological wrestling, the challenge is to create a more active template.
These new triathlon goals aim to raise awareness and funds for a family in Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF). From this active approach, each training session starts with prayer for MAF and an active acknowledgement of Christ’s involvement in every aspect of my life, including that training session. This attempt at an integrated faith makes sport an act of worship. For me, it has sharpened each training session and intensifies my worship.
Sport as worship
The link between these two stories is the challenge to make every aspect of our life for Jesus. From how we play our sport, how we spend our money, how we use our time, how we treat our family and friends: all these are acts of worship. Because of what Jesus has done for us we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans chapter 12).
To find out more about MAF’s role in reaching millions of people who cannot access basic medical care, clean water, schools or receive the Good News of Jesus, click https://maf.org.au
Jeremy Dover is a former sports scientist and Pastor
Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover1.html