Sports, Culture, and Connecting to Christ

What are your thoughts about sports in our current American culture?  Are they good?  Bad?  Healthy?  Excessive?  Just 100 years ago, Americans followed teams in their city, listened to games on the radio, learned the outcome of games in the paper the next morning, and watched the greatest athlete of a generation (Babe Ruth) as he clobbered home runs while also eating hot dogs and drinking beer in the dugout (and sporting a less than “athletic” physique).  Fast forward to today, Americans can follow any team in the world on a multitude of streaming platforms; get instant updates on scores, trade rumors, and injuries; have personalized training sessions for teenagers by paid professionals; and check out who the top ranked 3rd grade basketball players are in the country.  Compare that to the Church in America.  Studies conducted by the Pew Research Center show a stark reality:  the number of Americans identifying as Christian and the amount of regular church attenders has dropped with each successive generation.

Regardless of whether you think this is doomsday or “just the way it is,” this is our current reality and it’s essential for us to understand.  In Acts 17, Paul spends time learning about Greek culture in Athens before engaging them in spiritual and philosophical discussion.  He uses their culture as a jumping off spot to point them to Christ.  This can be a fine example for us to use as we look at our own culture.

In 1 Timothy, Paul tells Timothy that while physical training has some value, spiritual value is of infinitely greater value.  We can see that in our own sports and spiritual lives.  While yes, we get the benefits of exercise, stress relief, teamwork, problem solving, character development, fun, community, and others from sports, these don’t last.  We can barely remember who won the Super Bowl 10 years ago.  Spiritual training, however, continues past 5, 10, 50, or 500 years- it lasts for eternity.  Solomon says in Ecclesiastes to “remember our Creator in the days of our youth,” as that has infinitely greater value. 

So do we do away with sports?  If it only lasts for the here and now, do we quit all our sports?  By no means!  Paul says in 1 Corinthians that he became all things to all people for the sake of the Gospel.  Whether that was Jew, Roman, or whatever else, he leveraged it for sharing the Good News of Christ.  For us, we can utilize our positions as players, coaches, parents, or fans in sports to show others that our hope isn’t in wins and losses, but in an eternal victory won for us by Christ. 

As you engage in sports this year, whether as a player at Zollner or in the Cage, as a coach on the sideline or in the dugout, as a parent in the car ride home or at the dinner table, or as a fan in the stands or by the TV, remember where the greater value is and showcase that hope of the Gospel to those you come into contact with at the game, match, or competition.  Have a great sports season glorifying Christ!