4.11.09

Living for Christ on the Sports Field

Tim Friend Ministry of Sport Diocese of Southwell and Nottinghamspoke at college today. He talked about integrating our church communities alongside sporting communities. The aim is to make Christianity more accessible. We need
missionaries on the sports field. The church has moved from being a key player in the game of life to standing behind the pillar, watching the game, he said. 


'Unknown God' (Acts 17) in terms of status but sport today is hugely high profile. Everyone is behind it. 20 million people participate in sport and there are a 1000 sports clubs in this area alone.


Paul in Athens

While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he argued in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and also in the market-place every day with those who happened to be there. Also some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers debated with him. Some said, ‘What does this babbler want to say?’ Others said, ‘He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign divinities.’ (This was because he was telling the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.) So they took him and brought him to the Areopagus and asked him, ‘May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? It sounds rather strange to us, so we would like to know what it means.’ Now all the Athenians and the foreigners living there would spend their time in nothing but telling or hearing something new.
     Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, ‘Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, “To an unknown god.” What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said,
“For we too are his offspring.”
Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.’

    When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some scoffed; but others said, ‘We will hear you again about this.’ At that point Paul left them. But some of them joined him and became believers, including Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.


Nelson Mandella appreciates its ability to unite and even change the world and understands that sport and the church have changed their positions of influence.


In this passage Paul faces a situation similar to us – he was a dominant person in Judaism and now that he is in the cosmopolitan city of Athens, he and his God are unknown as captured by the inscription on the statue: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.


Athens represented the highest aspects of culture: philosophy, art, culture etc


But it had serious problems – the city is still decorated with images and temples belonging to the deities.


Paul was on a missionary journey and whilst he waited for Timothy and Silas he explored the city. Paul's understanding of 'You shall have no other Gods before me...I am a jealous God' made him engage with the problems in the city – there was a culture of idolatry. This place was dedicated to misplaced worship.


In your average sports club there is a gathering and there is sharing of food and fellowship. The gospel, however, doesn't usually have any power in terms of the message. When people depend on sport for their identity it becomes idolatrous.


The church has become marginalised and what are we going to do to make this unknown God known?


The problems of Athens are the problems of today – unknown God and idolatry. Even as Christians who do know God, we put other things in his place.We can relate.


Look at Paul's response to this situation – he did not respond apathetically. He was stirred.

So he argued in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and also in the market-place every day with those who happened to be there. Also some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers debated with him. Some said, ‘What does this babbler want to say?’ Others said, ‘He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign divinities.’ (This was because he was telling the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.) So they took him and brought him to the Areopagus and asked him, ‘May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?


He gossips the gospel in the marketplace and he teaches it in the synagogues and the equivalent of today's universities, hoping that they would seek God.


How can we enable people to unmask the unknown God. We need people who love God and love sport.



Sports Minister Graham Daniels hopes to see Christians in every sports club across the UK with the Pray Play and Say initiative.



When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some scoffed; but others said, ‘We will hear you again about this.’ At that point Paul left them. But some of them joined him and became believers, including Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.


Some will sneer but others will not. There is a movement from the back of the stands to the training position as curiosity is provoked and questions are asked and then these people become the new recruiters!


The invitation which bites with a sense of urgency.
While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.’

We need to find people who will help others to discover that this God is not unknowable. If we are not feeling what Paul felt or doing as He did, it could be because we are not seeing what Paul saw. His needs to be the lens through which we engage those of all other cultures, whether sporting or otherwise.

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