I’ve been crazy about sport all my life. Most afternoons as a kid I would be out at the park or playing at my best friend’s place. When I started to take my relationship with God more seriously, I wondered how my love of sport could fit into that.
I know there are some people that say God and sports can’t fit together, but I’ve found that to be far from true.
The God that I know is deeply interested in me, which means He cares about what I care about.
Involving God in my love of sport was what attracted me to the Sports Discipleship Training School (DTS) at YWAM Newcastle, and has since led me on some really wild adventures.
Here are 3 things that I’ve learnt having been involved with sports ministry over the last 10 years:
1 . Sport is attractive:
No matter where you are in the world, people of all ages are drawn to sport. That means it’s a great way to connect with people from a whole bunch of socio-economic, linguistic, religious or ethnic backgrounds.
If you are playing sport on outreach somewhere, sometimes you will draw the attention of a couple of people, and other times a couple hundred! This means you will be able to meet and interact with people that you may not normally be able to.
2 . Sport can expose true character:
I’ve found that people tend to drop their walls and reveal their true selves while playing (or watching) sport.
Playing sport with a God-honouring mentality (by playing with a sweet spirit towards the opposition, celebrating the success of your teammates, remembering that God is pleased and present) can help shift the atmosphere at any sporting fixture.
When playing with people that I’m leading or discipling, I can be an example of what Christ-like character looks like, and help refine that in others.
For a while, I had 1 Corinthians 10:31 written on my cricket bat. It says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”.
That helped keep my mentality on Christ; thanking him for the skills He had given me, and serving as a reminder that He was present with me as I was playing.
3 . Sport can provide opportunities:
I think I expected that the people I was reaching out to would miraculously open up and share heart-to-heart because we had been playing sport. It doesn’t often work like that.
As in any area of life, it takes about 10 seconds of courage to start a God-centered conversation on the field. That could look like asking a very simple question, teaching a group based on a biblical/sports metaphor or sharing a little part of your testimony. You may also offer to pray for someone who has been injured!
Playing sport doesn’t cause people to miraculously open up but it can give you the opportunity to start a conversation about faith.
We have sent DTS teams from YWAM Newcastle to the Commonwealth Games (2018), the Olympics (2012 and 2016), and the World Cup (2010, 2014 and 2018).
All of these have provided opportunities to connect with people from various countries around the world, and we have seen hundreds of people respond to Christ at these events.
And you could be a part of this too!