By: Rev. Dario Richards
What is the world doing?
Close to ten years ago, an answer to this question shifted my love for sports from simply a means to be entertained, to an opportunity to live out the Great Commission. Why? Because to effectively, “Go into all the world…” it is critical that we effectively answer the questions, “Where is the world? What is the world up to?”
In 2015, research showed that around 5.2 billion people around the world were actively involved in sports (playing, watching, or administrating) weekly. What made this statistic stand out for me is that during the same period, only 2.6B persons were involved in church weekly. If you search for the top 10 most viewed events in the world, you will discover three of them are sports events, with the 2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony being the most viewed televised event in history, attracting 2B people. These global statistics are also a reflection of our local reality. In many of our countries, we do not need statistics to convince us that the world gathers around sports. Most of us have discovered that the world is actively involved in sports!
Sports in themselves are a powerful tool. Sports transcend age, class, sector, language, and even physical ability. There is a place for everybody. In addition, sports create a common language fluently spoken across the world. For perspective, the United Nations recognizes 193 countries. The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) has 211 national associations. Sports are global. As a tool, it is already powerful enough to reach all people, in all places.
The power of sport also makes it a place of incredible potential for the advancement of the gospel and living out the Great Commission. There are three major areas where the church can maximize the potential of sports
First, sport can be used as a vehicle to connect with diverse people groups to share the gospel. Billions of people might never enter our church buildings but will join us on the playing field.
Second, sports can be a major tool for global missions. The fact that some type of sport or game is played in every country and culture across the world is indisputable. As a result, sports can be an effective strategy to enter new countries to engage in ministry.
Finally, the world of sport is a place where believers can live and communicate the gospel. Sports teams are already designed to facilitate effective discipleship and development. Imagine if coaches not only developed skills, but they also coached life. Imagine if they did not only make competitive champions but also disciples. Many of our communities would be transformed immensely.
So, what is the world doing? A huge percentage of the world is gathering around fields, courts, and stadiums either watching, playing, or administrating sports. If that is where the world is, that is where we need to be.