Sport can be a great place for developing friendships. You spend so much time together on and off the pitch, you experience the highs and the lows of a season together, and have a lot in common. Sometimes, however, it can be hard to foster these relationships. It could be that not much happens outside training, or the busyness of life takes you away, and the chat doesn’t get much beyond sport.
What is your relationship like with your friends from your sports club? Do you know about their lives beyond sport? About their families, their backgrounds, their jobs? Do you know what they are joyful about, or the tough times that they are going through?
There are two tendencies a Christian can fall into when being part of a sports club:
Share but never there: we tell sportspeople the gospel without knowing much about the people we are talking to. We don’t know their likes, dislikes, struggles or joys and therefore we can present the gospel to them in an unhelpful way.
There but never share: we are involved in the club but our faith in Jesus does not come with us - people may know us as ‘Christian’ but this is not shared explicitly with them and our actions may be not be distinguishable from anyone else in the club.
Which of these do you tend towards? Is it different with different people in your club?
The story of how the gospel came to Thessalonica can be found in Acts 17, where we learn that Paul and his companions were there for only three weeks. Yet even in such a short period of time, we learn from 1 Thessalonians 2 the depth of relationship that Paul reached with them.
In verses 7-8, Paul says that “just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”
Paul loved them so deeply that he was willing to share both his life and the gospel with them. He was there and he shared!
The image of a nursing mother helps us see that developing lasting friendships will involve commitment, sacrifice and vulnerability.
How do we go about putting this into practice? How do we build these relationships which are deeper than surface level, and give us a brilliant context in which to share Jesus?
It can be helpful to think in terms of making the most of the time you already have with them; as well as thinking about what it looks like to spend time with them beyond the structured activities of your club.
Here are some examples of what that could look like:
- Be committed to turning up to training - it shows your commitment and means you are seeing your sports friends.
- Be the first there, or the last to leave to maximise the time you have.
- Use warm ups/cool downs to chat to people individually.
- Start asking questions beyond sport: e.g. “How is work going?” “What have you got coming up this week?” “How did that thing you mentioned go last week?” etc.
- Get on the committee - again showing your commitment and enables you to invest time in a small group of people.
- Go to all of the club socials that you can make.
- Go to as much as you can that you get invited to: birthday parties, drinks, cinema trips etc - even if you don’t want to see the film!
- Go for coffee/ a pint with friends from the club.
- Grab a bite to eat after training.
- Invite them round for dinner - having people in your home is key!
- Share your life with them - your joys, struggles, hopes, fears. Being open and vulnerable builds trust, meaning they are much more likely to listen to gospel!
Looking at the above list could be overwhelming. You’ll see that there could be a cost to your cash and your calendar. These kind of relationships will take time and money.
By no means do you have to do all of these things all the time but which of these things, or others, could you do? What will it look like for you to be sacrificial, open and vulnerable? What will it look like for you to share your life and the gospel in your sports club?
What will you do this week?
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