SPORTS FIELD = MISSION FIELD

steph and owenAs I head out the door I leave some instructions. “Make sure your rooms are clean.” “Play nicely with each other.” “Do not use the stove.” As my kids step out of the car on the school campus I have some instructions. “Don’t forget how much I love you.” “Be a good friend.” Remember who you are and who you belong to.” “Watch out for that mud puddle.” These are some great commissions. When Jesus left the earth he left The Great Commission. Matthew 28:18-20 states, Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
As we take this great commission and live it out in real life, it takes on a variety of forms. Let’s not get stuck on the word “go” and assume that we need to take a big trip or go far away in order to fulfill this instruction. Surely, international missions are a part of this. However, “all nations” includes the one you live in!! The way I am called to live my life and lead my kids to live is to fully embrace the fact that where we live our life is our mission field. Where do I live my life? Well, I am a mom to 3 kids and I am a pastor at a church. My role at the church is in the area of Family Ministries. Therefore, families are my mission field. My role with my kids places me at two different schools as they are currently in 5th, 7th and 9th grades. My mission field includes public schools, sport fields, grocery stores, an orthodontist office and my own home as I have kids and families continually revolving through our doors. Where is your mission field? Remember, your mission field is where you live your life, where you spend most of your time.
The mission field that I would like to look at today is the soccer field. When I say soccer field, translate that to foot ball, cheer leading, baseball, dance studios, swimming pools or wherever it happens that you spend a lot of time. A little less than a year ago I wrote a post entitled “Sports vs. Church.” http://familydiscipleshippath.com/2013/11/22/sports-vs-church/. I had been writing my little blog for a couple of years and had an audience of about 30 people. Sometimes I would get likes and comments on articles, honestly mostly from my mom and my best friends. This particular post hit a nerve! It has been read by over 750,000 people and received over 1,000 comments. These comments ranged from people who completely agree with my position that we need to protect our kids’ commitment to the church community and prioritize worship over a sports commitment to people who vehemently disagreed that church had any value whatsoever.
One point that was made in the comments repeatedly was that we could have “church” on the soccer field. This would be a great opportunity to reach out to those who don’t yet know Jesus by being a part of a sport community. While I stand my ground that being a part of a church community in a consistent manner is important for the growth of disciples(followers of Jesus) of any age and vitally important for the development of kids and youth, I also completely embrace the notion that we should “be the church” in the sports world. You can do both. You can prioritize connecting with your church family once or twice a week and still have the rest of the week to connect with those who may not now Jesus yet through youth sports. Here’s a post that speaks to the importance of connecting to your church family while fulfilling the great commission: http://familydiscipleshippath.com/2014/02/14/332/.
What I have seen works the very best to lead others to Jesus, both in the Bible and in my life, is something called “relational evangelism.” This is the opposite of what many think of when they think about evangelism. When I hear the word evangelism, I instantly think of strangers telling other strangers about Jesus. This works for some people. What works for me is to build relationships with those who don’t know Jesus yet and live my life with them as friends. Through that friendship they can see the example of the way that God has worked and moved in my life and there are opportunities to share, invite and pray with your friends that will come up naturally as you go about normal life. Relational evangelism is slow and often hard to see progress…kind of like planting a garden. These friendships do not solely revolve around sharing Jesus. They are real friendships that involve fun, conversations and shared activities. Your life reflects Jesus naturally if your life is centered on the things of God. I do not go out on a hunt for friends who need Jesus. I put myself in environments where there are people who don’t know Jesus and allow time and space for relationships to naturally develop. That is how I “go” into all the nations.
Okay, so as for how to be missional on the sport field that you find yourself on. I have a few ideas that we have tried over the years. I’d love to hear some things that have worked for you.
SIT: Position your chair near people you don’t know and be open to starting a conversation. You may need to put down your phone or book so that you are available.
COACH: Volunteer to coach a team. You will get to know the families and kids on a whole different level. Full disclosure: My husband and I have never coached a team. We are not athletic people. To be honest, I don’t really know how to kick, throw, catch or hit a ball. I grew up doing gymnastics…no balls involved! While this is not a fit for all, it is an idea for some who may be wired or skilled to coach.
INVITE: Invite kids from the sport team to birthday parties, barbecues, or church events. Invite families to grab some ice cream after the game. Invite families to carpool or ride together to distant games. Relationships can be birthed on the field, but will develop in other environments.
LISTEN: Listen to your new friends to meet them where they are. Listen to God for promptings as to when to speak up and when to just listen.
There are some of my thoughts on how the sport field can be a mission field. What are your ideas?

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About familydiscipleshippath

My husband, Tim, and I have been married for 17 years and have 3 great children. Our girls are 13 and 11 and the baby boy is 9. We have been living in Redding, CA and serving at Risen King Community Church since August, 2000. I serve as the Family Ministries Pastor. As a mom and a pastor, I represent both the church and the home and am on a journey of discovering and communicating practical ways the church and family can partner together to guide the young ones in our lives to know and love Jesus and live their lives(their whole lives) in light of that love.
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11 Responses to SPORTS FIELD = MISSION FIELD

  1. Dave says:

    I don’t believe this subject is completely truthful uv been in church all my life as an a adult I don’t find church to be the same nor do I find people open to each other the same not welling to be friends with out politics and other criteria. The church in our little town is a complete country club I don’t need. Yes we need to put God first in all aspects.

  2. Tom Pounder says:

    I think this provides churches a really good opportunity. I’m trying to process the idea of Travel Sports “Chaplins” for families in our church who participate in travel sports. We also encourage families to watch our church online watch.newlife4me.com (New Life Online Campus). That has been a really good thing for our Church and families.

  3. Cindy harrison says:

    As Christians we are supposed to be an example of Jesus Christ and of what we are supposed to do as such. The Bible says do not forsake the assembly of your selves. Hello, that is church not the sports arena or field!

  4. mathanna says:

    I think the main concern with looking at sports (or anything) as a mission fields is… are you obeying Scripture first? Can sports be a mission field? Absolutely. But if you’re not first being obedient to God’s Word (in our case, that would be a biblical Sabbath Fri PM to Sat PM), what kind of witness am I being if I’m being disobedient (and a hypocrite) to God’s Word? It’s hard enough to do the right thing sometimes when our options are limited. But in many cases, as with sports, these are optional choices.

    And if the struggle is between going to church and playing sports, I would suggest the wrong question is being asked. If church is at 10am, and baseball is at 1p, you can certainly make both. But it’s not about “going to church.” It’s about honoring the Sabbath. So the question is “are you honoring the Sabbath by playing sports on that day?”

    • Chris says:

      Great points. We also have to be careful about becoming law focused. Remember the Jews had so many lists for the Sabbath. It even became so legalistic that people were worrying about cooking or even being seen. We have to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy but not let it become a legalistic ball and chain.

  5. Leah says:

    Like many Christian families, we have made fellowship with our Church family a priority over the years and our children enjoyed the fellowship of their Churched friends. However, as they got older and began participating at a higher level of competition and began narrowing down their sports of choice and pursued athletic scholarships, we found we had to make some changes to our approach. I admit that this has been difficult and at times has caused conflict in our home as we struggled to work out how to fit this reality into our lives. But let’s not pretend sports are the only conflict. I’ve seen Christian families miss church for vacations, Sunday Football on TV, and Sundays when they were just too tired to decided to have a real day of rest.

    However, getting back to the issue of the sports conflict. We’ve been fortunate enough to attend a church with 4 services and multiple fellowship opportunities, so we’ve had fewer conflicts than some have. But we knew there would be conflicts. One thing that Christians need to accept is that we don’t live in a perfect world that places their priorities on the same things that Christian families do – we don’t live in a puritan-centered culture anymore like previous American families have. However, the challenge that this presents isn’t all bad. Instead of having no other choices but Church on Sunday, we get to cultivate in our children a desire for fellowship by demonstrating to them the passion we have for our Church family and the weekly gathering of the Body of Christ because we want to be there more than we want to be anywhere else and we genuinely enjoy it ourselves.

    I also think we have an opportunity to be salt and light to the world when we aren’t dogmatically attached to a religious system. Christianity isn’t religion, it’s about relationship. It’s about loving the World Christ came to save. If we’re going to be that dogmatic, ask yourself how closely you are following the example of the Acts Church? If that’s what you think we are supposed be doing? There’s so much more to church than a Sunday service. Let’s work on more closely resembling the Body of Christ everyday instead of worrying about how we behave on Sunday morning.

    As your children grow, even if they didn’t play sports, they will be faced with a lot of reasons to drift from their childhood faith, and ultimately it’s their relationship with Christ that matters. Are you emphasizing the importance of time in the Word and time with Jesus away from church? I hope that you are praying that God will cover “all” your missteps as a parent with His grace and not just your church attendance. I think if you model a sincere love for Jesus, His Word, and the Church for your children it will have a greater impact on them than the occasional missed day in Sunday service for the soccer game. Regardless of my view or anyone else’s, it’s each family’s responsibility to pray about this and seek God’s direction and be obedient to Him. Please know that I understand your struggle and know that as you seek God and ask for wisdom, He will direct you. I’m not here to judge – I say this in love and respect for whatever your decision is. I love our Pastors, Leaders, Sunday School teachers and everyone else who sacrifices their time on Sunday Mornings and midweek services to build up the body of Christ. But I hope you will not judge those who take a different view.

  6. Lee says:

    Too much talk of fellowship here in regards to sunday church services. It’s imperitive for us to realize that, while fellowship may be a byproduct of our meeting on the first day of the week, our purpose for assembling is to worship God.
    If our baseline is that we are “missing a fellowship opportunity” we will always minimize forsaking the assembly.
    We cannot serve 2 masters. Matthew 6:24

  7. ed cooper says:

    God established a family,the\n a church,He rested on the sabbath.I wiill always put Jesus before sports.Sports is a great out reach M,T,T,F,S. Thats a lot of time for sports ,Its all about Him

  8. Maria says:

    When you read the 4th commandment it clearly teaches, first of all, that the 7th day is the Sabbath. Not the 1st day of the week. Saturday is a holy day, not Sunday. Throughout scripture, New and Old Testament Sabbath has always been the 7th day, not Sunday.When you worship on Sunday you are clearly following the Roman Catholic teachings. They are the ones responsible for trying to change Saturday worship to Sunday.No one and nothing can or should change what God has sanctified.. It is a special day of reflection, worship and ministering to others as Jesus did. Hence, there should be nothing of a secular nature left for the Sabbath hours. Our preparation day should be on Friday and have everything ready to enjoy the beautiful Sabbath hours. Shopping, sports, unnecessary trips, social events, etc, should not be a part of these sacred hours. When we understand this, it is very plain to see why sports should never be a part of those sacred hours.
    It is not only a matter of going to church or attending sports….it’s much deeper than that. Will we obey God in keeping holy His holy day? If you would like reading material about this, please comment here.

  9. mid-life journey says:

    I think one of the problems we are facing now is the drive to make our children better in sports. We make sure they go to every sports camp possible, pay for private training, enter every tournament possible, have our dads coach so that we can stack the teams and have our kids go to all-stars, etc. I am older and remember many athletes who had a traditional upbringing where they played in their neighborhood, went to church on Sunday and still excelled in sports. We can sugar coat it all we want and say we are “being an example” by having a service at the field or taking time to find a service in town and pop in to sing, pray and take communion and then head out to the field for the rest of the day. What does that say about our priorities?

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