From the foregoing perspective, it is observed that a larger percentage of the world population constitutes sports lovers. Oftentimes, in the society of sports lovers, those who are ignorant of what is going on in the sports world are considered uncivilized.
Most organizations across the globe are taking the advantage of the readymade crowd of sports to advertise their products. Since the major task of the church is soul-winning, and it cannot be done in any other place than where people gather, then it becomes a necessity for the church to always embrace any legitimate thing that will always bring people together.
Now that it is obvious that sports bring people together, it is not out of context if the church finds a common ground with sports to facilitate the soul-winning business of the church. This is exactly what this article is out to explain about outreach ministries.
1. Sports promote idolatry and can be turned to God.
The argument here is that there is a tendency that sports will take the place of God in man’s heart. This fear was deeply expressed by John Calvin in his classic (Calvin, 1.5.12). People who are conversant with the world of sports can bear witness that this argument is genuine.
Toward the end of last year, one of the football, Diego Armando Maradona from Argentina died. It was revealed that some people took this man for religion and so worshipped him.
It is common to see the big picture of an adored footballer such as Christiano Ronaldo of Portugal or Lionel Messi of Argentina in the inner room of a fan just to be seeing it every day.
A golfer such as Tiger Woods and a tennis champion such as Williams Serena are in the same category.
2. Sports promote immorality.
As earlier stated this was one of the major reasons why Christians in the early centuries did not embrace sports (Jeremy, The nude and half-nude appearance of the athletes can indeed stimulate immorality.
Moreover, the provision of innumerable packs of condoms for athletes and footballers during national or international tournaments speaks volumes of the immorality embedded in sports activities. Another aspect of this is the immoral dress, satanic hairstyles, and excessive flamboyant life of the athletes and players.
3. Sports promote betting and gambling.
The evidence to support this argument abounds everywhere globally. “Pool games” which was one of the old methods of gambling could be traced to games. Virtual betting, Lotto, BetNaija, and so on are founded on games.
4. Exorbitant cost of sports ministry
One other reason why some churches and denominations run away from sports is because of the huge fund it involves. They could not justify the reason for spending such a huge amount of money on what they refer to as “ordinary sports.”
5. Viable for soul winning
There is no gainsaying that sports activities can be used as tools to reach the unreached. If the Gospel can be considered as a product that must be promoted until it gets to the last customer in the remote area, then sports can be the vehicle to convey it.
There are millions of souls who are ardent sports lovers across the globe. If sports can be hired to take the Gospel to them, they will never remain unreached.
One truth must be emphasized here, the command to make disciples of the whole does not come with a rigid method, every legal and Godly method can be employed, sports inclusive.
6. Building a Youth-friendly Church
How will the church be a Youth-friendly church if it does not speak the language of the youth? One of the major global languages of the youths nowadays is sports. A larger percentage of global youths and teenagers are sports lovers.
There may be no better means to reach them with the gospel than that sports. Most of the churches that have embraced sports are retaining their youths.
7. The church is called to correct the ills in society.
The argument stating that sports promote immorality, idolatry, betting, and other vices may be real but that is the more reason why the church must take over the world of sports. If not the church then who will correct those ills?
If the church continues to avoid sports, it should be known that many of her children will embrace sports with all the ills involved. Therefore, the church must raise her slumber to take the land of sports for the Lord. Sports promote ills because those who sponsor the games dictate what those games will promote.
8. People of other religions are technically taken over sports affairs.
FIFA in recent years made a law that nobody should display any religious sign, logo, or trademark on the field or in the stadium. This was considered to be a sanction against such players who usually displayed their faith in Christ after scoring a goal.
Why would FIFA make such a law? Because most of the powerful football clubs in the world are being controlled by Arab billionaires. Tell me a football club in the elite leagues in the world owned by a church or by a Christian Denomination.
If you do not own it how will dictate what happens there? If the church is not a major stakeholder in the world of sports, why would it not make anti-church policies?
9. Promoting God’s gifts and talents among the youths.
James 1:17 states, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” Are gifts of sports good gifts from God? If yes, they need to be nurtured and promoted.
There are many youths in various churches and denominations that are gifted and talented in different games, they need to be disciplined, and tutored in the way of the Lord and as well as create a conducive environment for their gifts and talents to blossom and be fruitful.
The result will be that the church will end up producing Godly athletics, players, and coaches to take over the land of sports for Christ. As Jeremy put it, the gospel gives the sportsperson a new purpose, a new identity, and lastly a new ethic . This can only happen through the church’s involvement in sports.
10. No amount is too much to win a soul.
If the world has only one sinner Christ would still have died for the sinner, If nothing is too much on the part of Christ to win a soul then nothing should be too big for the church to spend on sports as a tool for soul-winning.
Churches can collaborate to sponsor sports activities if the cost is too heavy for a church to bear. The argument for the exorbitant cost of sports ministry is true. But no amount is too much to spend on the sports ministry.
It is an act of parochialism to continue to hold to the view that sports activities are evil and unfit for evangelism in this century. If one embraces a narrow, world-negative view of the gospel, one will have little place for sports and athletic competition.
The lecture was by Rev. Victor Segun Ogundipe, PhD at Ibadan Baptist Conference Annual Kingdom Workers’ Retreat 2021