The ministry of sports

 

I’ve been involved in sports since I was a little girl, but it was not until I started attending a Christian middle school that I heard my school coaches tell me, “Sports is a ministry.” I went from season to season and into high school keeping this thought in the back of my mind. By the time I reached high school, I had heard this phrase so much, I had it memorized. It was not until the fall season of my senior year that I truly realized what all my coaches meant. Sports just like any other part of our lives has the opportunity to be a ministry.

Making it to your senior season is a big deal. There are many perks that come along with it. You are the oldest on the team and teammates look to you for leadership. Coaches want your input in making decisions. You no longer have to be responsible for bringing gear to games or filling up water bottles before practice. It is a privilege every athlete looks forward to. The power that comes with being a senior can often lead to a superior attitude towards teammates.

Although the New Testament doesn’t give accounts of Christ playing pick-up ball with his disciples, it does give us an example of the way Christ humbled himself and invested in his disciples, who were like his teammates. Jesus Christ had every reason to be haughty. He was the Son of God who came to Earth to live as an ordinary human. He had the ability to perform miracles, yet chose to live his life in service to those around him rather than elevating himself to a position of praise and importance.

We see many examples of Christ’s humility throughout the Bible. One of the most well-known examples of Jesus’s humility is found in John 13 where he washes his followers’ feet. Imagine getting down on your hands and knees and washing your teammates’ feet after a long practice or game. This is exactly what Jesus did when he washed his followers’ feet at dinner. Jesus was serving them when they were the ones that ought to be serving Jesus!

The ultimate example of Christ’s humility was his crucifixion on the cross. He never committed any crime, but died as a sacrifice to God, to forgive our sins. Jesus Christ, who was perfect and never committed any sin, took the punishment of a criminal in order for us to be free from the punishment we rightfully deserve as Romans 6:23 reminds us. Christ had no reason to do this but did it out of love. The son of the all-mighty, all-powerful God humbled himself to the same status as a criminal, because He adores His people.

I wanted to use my senior season as an opportunity to minister to my teammates. Rather than making this fall about myself, I looked for ways to serve my teammates and show them Christ’s love. I did this by trying to invest in every teammate on my team. It wasn’t about who was the best player, or easiest to get along with. Christ reminds us that every person is loved by God and has incredible value. When I started to see my teammates like this, it made me want to shower them with love. I made an effort to really know each of my teammates… even the freshmen that most seniors would wrinkle their nose at.

I asked them about their days at practice and got to know things about them like their favorite song or how many siblings they had. I would offer to give girls rides to and from practices and enjoyed getting to talk to them and truly show that I cared about them. By the end of the season, I had developed 19 unique relationships with the girls on my soccer team.

Jesus Christ’s ministry was about building relationships with people. He humbled himself and lived by being an example of God’s love. As athletes, we too have the chance to minister on our teams. When we truly care about investing in our teammates and putting them first, it shows Christ’s love.

Sports has undoubted potential to be a form of ministry. The way we treat our teammates has the opportunity to be an example of Christ’s love. I want to encourage you to look for ways to build relationships with your teammates off the court. Find ways to serve them humbly, as Christ served his teammates.

 

 

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