Sometimes I don’t feel like I have much in common with my non-christian friends and relatives.
In some ways, I’m very happy to be different to those who don’t follow Jesus, and that distinctiveness can often start conversations about faith. Often, however, it’s nice to have things to talk about, find common ground that can open doors… That’s why I love sport!
When did you last chat with someone about sport?
When did you last watch sport? More importantly, when did you last chat with someone about sport? Today? Yesterday? Last week?
Despite not really playing, sport is a core part of what I think about and how I spend my time – there’s always a match, a game, or a race, to be catching up on. I can almost guarantee that I’ll talk to someone about sport every day. More often than not, my conversation with my non-christian friends revolve around the latest sporting events. I’ve been a follower of such a wide variety of sports over the years that I can talk about almost any sport quite comfortably. And I’m starting to discover how much of a blessing that is.
If we hadn’t had so much basketball to talk about, there wouldn't have been the common ground for those faith conversations either.
I’ve found that playing and talking about sport has been a key part of many of my friendships, with Christians and non-Christians alike. One roommate I had at university was a fellow basketball fan and player. I dread to think how many hours we must have spent talking about all things NBA, March Madness, and the like (not to mention the college league in which our team played). We also had many conversations about Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, forgiveness, religious experience, and the Church. But if we hadn’t had so much basketball to talk about – as well as pool and darts to play – there wouldn’t have been the common ground for those faith conversations either. I was able to share “not only the gospel of God but my life as well” (1 Thessalonians 2:8), and sport was a key part of that. We always had something to analyse, predict, or practice.
It’s easy to be discouraged when time spent with non-christian friends or relatives doesn’t result in conversations about faith. Many conversations that start with sport don’t go deeper than that. And in a way that’s alright – it’s good to show that you’re interested in, and genuinely care about, your friends. Not every conversation has to result in a full exposition of the gospel, and if they did then my friends would be put off from hanging out with me! At the same time, I challenge myself to be bold and bring up my faith whenever there’s opportunity for it.
We must pray for opportunities to grow deep friendships through sports fandom.
Even when discouragement comes, and you feel like the conversation didn’t go as hoped, I try to use that as an opportunity to double down in prayer. We can cry out to God at any time, because He longs for our friends to know Him even more than we do!
As followers of Jesus, we can be confident that God wants to use us to reach others. Similarly, as followers of sport, we can trust that God will grow His kingdom through the time we spend watching and playing sport with non-christians. We must pray for opportunities to grow deep friendships through sports fandom. We must pray for those friendships to become a context for deeper conversation and sharing faith. Amidst all the fun and discussion of team rivalries, fantasy leagues, and trips to the pub to watch the big game, God will answer those prayers. As we sow seeds, God will bring the harvest.
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