Being part of a club can be one of the best things about taking part in sport. The camaraderie, banter and joy of competing together makes putting in the hard yards in training all the more worthwhile.
The friendships we make there so often provide great opportunities for sharing our lives and the gospel. If we are to use the sporting skills God has given us for His glory, then our clubs and teams naturally become our mission field.
Many of us will be fortunate enough to belong to the same club all our lives. But what if this year will mean joining a new club as we move house or job or other circumstances change? How can we, as Christians in sport, make the most of the new opportunity this provides? Jesus’ great commission in Matthew 28 to make disciples remains the same, but the place we are doing that, our club, has changed.
Here are four tips we pray will prove helpful as you make that transition:
Starting a new club means starting new relationships with people. Why not take the opportunity to start with your Christian faith front and centre of who you are? Find a way to normally and authentically tell people something of Jesus early on in your conversations as you start to get to know your new teammates rather than hiding it away.
Take the initiative in speaking to people. Sometimes a sports club might not be the friendliest place towards new players or athletes, with fellow players only initiating conversation with you if they think you are top quality, or on the other hand not good enough to take their place! Why not be distinctive in talking to people and wanting to get to know them from the start, rather than only relating to people on a superficial level?
1 Thessalonians 2 v 8 (NIV) says: “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”
How could you follow Paul's example at your club? It might involve carving out time to get involved in the social side of the club as early as you can, even if you feel like it could be hard not knowing people. Playing sport and socialising together are great ways to get to know people quickly.
As well as getting along to the first social of the season, why not invite some teammates round to your place for a meal or a drink? Could you spend time chatting after training rather than shooting off straight away?
In joining a new club there will always be an element of worrying about what others think of you. In meeting new people the temptation is to try and create an 'image' or 'identity' for ourselves. What is it that you want to be known as? How do people rate me as a player? How do my times rank in the pecking order? Let’s battle the temptation to be continually concerned of what others think.
Remember we have an identity or image already that is far greater than one we can conjure up for ourselves. The Bible tells us we are made in God’s image, so that as we use the gifts we have for his glory we can ‘image’ him.
As Paul writes in 1 Peter 2:9, we are also God’s chosen people, chosen to declare His praises. So let’s hold tight to that as we start in a new place at a new club, and go out and give our all to offer everything we have to God in worship, remembering His goodness to us!
Mike Harris, Old Redcliffians RFC
Mike plays rugby for Old Redcliffians RFC and is a Regional Staff Worker for Christians in Sport. He is a member of Emmanuel City Centre Church, Bristol
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