If I have learned anything from years of consistently watching sports competitions and participating in sports myself, it is that sports are more than a chosen part of a preferred lifestyle.
They are not simply a way to stay fit or healthy or to beat the odds and win a big game. They are not just something to watch on a lazy Sunday after church, or on Monday nights with family and friends.
Sports are a tool that can be used to build relationships and bridge gaps between people from different walks of life.
Staying current with all of my favorite teams and athletes gives me a look at who they are as individuals and as members of a team. When athletes interact with one another, the relationship shared is evident. Athletes trust one another on and off the field, and the skills they acquire for effectively communicating are taught from the very first day of training, no matter the age.
But I often ask myself what good every athlete would be capable of bringing to people if they were to take all of their skills to another country to build relationships for the purpose of reaching the unreached.
Over the summer and into the fall semester, I interned for a missionary organization that uses sports as a tool to evangelize to lost people in other countries. I conducted numerous hours of research, looking at the influence of sports and activity in 30 different locations. I came away with the conclusion that sports is an evangelical tool to which many people have already responded.
There is plenty of good done in the United States that can be credited to athletes. So many of them have created and maintain their own foundations, reaching out to people in need and working to resolve issues for which they have a passion.
A couple questions still remain: Do Christian athletes not understand the tools they have at their disposal to do something good and God-glorifying in the world, not just the United States? Or do they simply refuse to get outside of their comfort zones?
Doing work to help the men, women and children in the United States is great, and so many are involved in different organizations who assist. But what about the people in other parts of the world who live in danger of never knowing God’s love?
I pose a challenge to both athletes and those who, like myself, are just fans. Use your skills as an athlete and your knowledge of the sports you enjoy to reach out to somebody and share God’s love. There is greater purpose to sports than simply playing the game for a win which will only serve to be a figure in a win-loss record. Do something that will have eternal meaning, and use sports to accomplish your eternal goal.