Principles for building an effective sports mission

‘Sport has the power to change the world,’ Nelson Mandela famously said at the inaugural Laureus World Sports Awards in the year 2000. With another action-packed summer of sport, it is hard to deny that it is a big part of our communities, culture, and world. But how can the sporting world be reached effectively with the one thing that can truly change the world, the good news of Jesus Christ? What could it look like for your church to give every sports person in your town or city the opportunity to hear of Christ and allow it to transform their lives, including their sport?

Plentiful harvest: let’s see!

There are around 150,000 registered sports clubs in the UK with over 10 million people competing and training in sport each week. This figure undoubtedly would increase when you start to include youth, university, and recreational sport. In a study by The Sport and Recreation Alliance they said that the three main reasons people take part in sport is for enjoyment, competition, and community. Sport acts as one of those hubs of social activity which many people build their lives upon and use to form their identities.

Few workers: let’s pray!

In Matthew 9:37 Jesus identifies the plentiful harvest in front of his disciples’ eyes and then states the reality of how few people there are actively sharing the gospel with others. This is a fair reflection of Christians involved in local sports clubs in the UK. Despite some brilliant outreach by local churches around major sports tournaments like the Olympics, the number of Christians actively involved in their local sports clubs competing, coaching, and serving continues to remain low.

…Jesus identifies the plentiful harvest in front of his disciples’ eyes and then states the reality of how few people there are actively sharing the gospel with others.

Before giving his disciples a plan of action in Matthew 10, Jesus firstly commands his followers to pray specifically for God to send more workers into ‘his harvest field.’ Together, let’s pray for sports clubs where there is no known Christian presence. Ask God to raise up workers from local churches to engage in those clubs and shine brightly for Jesus. Take heart in knowing that every sports club and every sports person in your town or city is under God’s mighty hand and included in his harvest field.

Together, let’s pray for sports clubs where there is no known Christian presence. Ask God to raise up workers from local churches to engage in those clubs and shine brightly for Jesus.

A Christian doctor in the Scottish borders had been involved in her local rugby club for over 20 years providing medical care to the players at training sessions and on match days. She confessed to not always seeing her role in the rugby club as a place where she could take her faith, but in recent years she has expressed how God has given her a renewed vision to live out her faith in her role. She now sees her rugby club as her mission field and with God’s help is seeking to share the good news of Jesus through her actions and words as she fulfils her role as the team doctor.

The game plan: let’s go!

The strategy of Jesus has always been one of proactiveness. In Matthew 4 he calls the fishermen with a goal in mind: to make them fishers of men. In Matthew 10 he sends his disciples out on a mini-mission to the lost sheep of Israel. In Matthew 28 he calls for all his followers to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’.

…Jesus clearly wants his followers to take active steps into the nations around them. The sports clubs and communities in your local area are these nations.

With the assurance of his power (Matthew 28:18) and his presence (Matthew 28:20), Jesus clearly wants his followers to take active steps into the nations around them. The sports clubs and communities in your local area are these nations. Therefore, how can followers of Jesus and local churches ‘go’ and engage, serve and share the gospel effectively in the months and years ahead?

1. Find and Envision

What does the local sport scene look like in your area? Draw a 5-mile circumference around your church or home and seek to list as many sports clubs and communities in your area. How many people that you know are connected to sport in your area? Spend some time thinking about which sports clubs have a gospel witness and which have none at all. Think of the various roles people might have in sport: athletes, coaches, administrators, medical teams, etc.

There is great encouragement to be had in meeting like-minded Christians who can spur one another on. Think of ways you can connect with those you know who are involved in local sport and seek to envision and encourage those who aren’t to use their passion of sport for God’s purposes and engage in a local sports club near them.

Christians in Sport would love to support you and your church in this task. Specific resources are available alongside staff who have experience in helping local churches be missional to the world of sport around them.

2. Grow

Seek to grow a regular pattern of prayer for the world of sport around you. This might be within your church prayer meeting or a separate prayer meeting specifically with the Christians you know who are involved in sports. How can you be persistent in bringing sports clubs and sports people to God in prayer?

Seek to grow a regular pattern of prayer for the world of sport around you.

If it helps, Christians in Sport has specific prayer resources to help you do this at christiansinsport.org.uk/prayer

3. Deliver

Equip – Christians competing in amateur and elite competitive sport will face unique challenges and opportunities as they train and compete each week. This might be dealing with an injury, travelling on a bus for an away fixture, respecting the officials during a match.

How can you best support and equip the Christians you know to approach these moments with a godly mindset? Resources specifically with this in mind can be a helpful tool for Christians to be prepared and stand tall for Jesus as a Christian sports person.

Engage – Alongside the regular life-on-life evangelistic efforts of a Christian in a sports club, how can you put on events which attract sports people in your area and provide opportunities to share the gospel? This might be actively participating in a dodgeball tournament or enjoying a social gathering like a sports quiz.

Sport. What a gift. What a harvest field. Together, let’s go and reach it with the good news of Jesus, the one thing that truly has the power to change the world! This is at the heart of the work of Christians in Sport. We would love to support you and your church in this mission.

For more resources and to get in touch, visit: christiansinsport.org.uk

Dave Hampton

Dave Hampton is married to Jo, has three children, and is a member of Christchurch Queensferry in Edinburgh. He works full time for Christians in Sport as their Scottish Regional Worker and coaches rugby for a local rugby club. Dave is passionate about seeing sports people love Jesus, love sport, and integrate those two worlds.