Jesus predicted that His followers would be hated (John 18). In case you haven’t watched the news or been on social media lately, Jesus was spot on. There is a growing antagonism to anything associated with Christians, Christianity, or the Bible. Interestingly, and providentially, sometimes that antagonism isn’t directed at Jesus. This distinction can allow Jesus’ followers to engage in conversations about Jesus – where we should be focused anyway.
However, there is still a resentment against Christians – which makes it very difficult to have significant conversations with people who need to hear about Jesus. Try to engage someone in a conversation about Jesus and it typically turns into a rant about our political, racial, financial, religious, or life-style differences. People may even be drawn to hear about the Good News of Jesus – but they can’t seem to get over the wall of what they think about Christians. How do we get through this wall of antagonism?
Sports! I know that does not seem like a deep theological solution, but it would not take long to convince most people that sports is a very powerful bridge. Look at the money heaped on athletes for endorsements, or at the athletes from diverse cultures and backgrounds united by a common sports-related goal. Sports is the best bridge between Jesus’ followers and those who are not yet His followers. Through the bridge of sports we can build relationships of trust that allow believers to share the Good News and non-believers to hear it clearly. I have time to tell one story…
A Southern California Senior Pastor called me about 12 months ago to ask for SOLA’s help in using sports to reach out. His church was declining in attendance while growing in the age of its members – not uncommon. After a few months of praying together we sensed God’s Spirit leading the church to use volleyball to reach young adults. The key volunteer that was selected to lead this new outreach was very busy and could only run it one night each month. The church started spreading the word and they started playing VB – one night per month. Very quickly they had a gym full of young adults – with only a few from the host church. Every time they played, the leader would stop play after about an hour, gather everyone in a circle and have someone share about Jesus. People in the circle were from diverse political, racial, life-style and cultural positions – yet here they were for 2-3 hours one night a month enjoying each other and for a portion of that night engaging in a conversation about the saving love of Jesus. Out of this VB outreach a young adult small group Bible study has started. Praise God!
Who might you reach employing the bridge of sports?
Bio: Steve Quatro
Christ-follower, husband, father, and grandfather.
Executive Director of Sports Outreach LA since 1992 – encouraging and empowering churches to employ sports to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Professor of Sports Ministry since 2006 at Azusa Pacific University.
Author of Intentional Outreach: A Guide to Simple Sports Ministry; and Church Planting and Sports.