This is the latest in a series of thoughts concerning the Sport in Ministry Map which was developed by Lowrie McCown and was detailed in “Focus on Sport in Ministry” by Lowrie McCown and Valerie J. Gin. (ISBN 193261100-2) For more information visit www.360sports.net and to acquire a copy, email Lowrie at firstname.lastname@example.org. The more I have come to understand, to implement and to rely upon the insights of the Sport in Ministry Map, the more I have been effective with the various sorts of people we encounter in our ministry in sport.
Another dimension of ministry in sport that must be understood is the proper use of sports illustrations or stories with Quadrant 1 and 3 people versus the centrality of sport experience to Quadrant 2 and 4 people. By way of review, Quadrant 1 is comprised of people whose approach to sport we have described as spectators, novices or leisure participants who have yet to trust Christ with their lives. Quadrant 3 is made up of people of the same mindsets toward sport, but who are in relationship with Jesus. Quadrant 2 contains men and women who have yet to be apprehended by Christ and view their lives through sport as players, elite participants and high profile sportspeople. Quadrant 4 is occupied by those of the same mindsets as Quadrant 2, but these folks are growing in their faith in Jesus Christ.
Let’s begin in Quadrants 1 and 3. For decades of the modern world and even in the Bible, men and women have used sports illustrations to help people understand spiritual truths. There are several such occasions in the New Testament in Paul’s epistles and the book of Hebrews. The use of illustrations from sport is most common in popular culture and many in the Church employ this method of communication. This is highly effective with spectators and even novice and leisure participants in sport. Simply tell one Tim Tebow story or mention Jeremy Lin to Christian sports fans and they’re riveted to your every word. Make parallels between football and faith, baseball and prayer, cricket and communion, racing and evangelism and you’ll have everyone’s ear. Such illustrations rapidly lose their effectiveness when one’s audience is in Quadrants 2 or 4.
Tell these people the same stories and they’re likely making judgments about Tebow’s passing technique or Lin’s role on his team. They’re not so impressed. Rather, to speak to their hearts, one must engage them in discussion of their experiences in sport. I have found this to be best done by asking good questions. Rather than telling the player or elite player about another player, I ask them questions about their daily life in sport. I ask questions about practice, circumstances of their lives as sportspeople, relationships within the team, the spiritual implications of their sport lifestyle and more. To tell a high profile sportsperson a story about another athlete has little relevance and less impact. To ask a poignant question related to his or her life and how Christ makes a difference is of real value to us both. Illustrations and stories break down quickly with people in Quadrants 2 and 4 and even more so with elite and high profile men and women. Stick to wise conversation related to their daily experience in sport and life and you’ll find their hearts open and engaged.
Most of those we serve as Sport Chaplains, Character Coaches or Sport Mentors live in Quadrants 2 or 4. Let’s consider wisely the ways we communicate with them. Let’s search for ways to creatively engage their hearts and minds through their daily experiences of life in sport and thereby share the love, the truth and the claims of Christ Jesus as they make their way to Him and then grow in relationship with Him.