The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
“My children want to play sports, but that means not being able to go to church on many Sundays”. What should we do?
Life is simpler in black and white, but that is not the best option in many situations. That is the case with a question families have to deal with every year around these dates. Here’s the question: “My children want to play sports, but that means not being able to go to church many Sundays”.
Many families have to deal with this situation, and there’s no answer to it in any user guide. At times, when looking for advice, many feel they are being bombed with a series of out-of-context Bible verses to justify what ends up becoming a simplistic decision: black or white
Should Christians give up being salt at sports events? If a teenage girl from our church, with all of her background in values and biblical knowledge, likes playing football, should we as a family give up being a witness to other families with whom we share an interest? I’m sure most Christians rejoiced while seeing some national football teams praying on their knees during the last World Cup in Russia. How would they have made it there without having played earlier as kids and teenagers?
Honestly, I believe that we can find solutions because our relationship with God should never be based exclusively on Sunday services, even if these are especially important in our spiritual life. Then, what can we do? Is there an answer to this dilemma? I want to give five points to meditate on.
1. Values in sport
There are some very positive values in sport for life, and they also have roots in the Word of God. Fair play, discipline, effort, comradeship and solidarity are aspects we can reinforce from a biblical perspective. Of course, we can also talk about negative ones, such as egocentrism, arrogance, the search for fame and riches, or fighting. All these questions are related directly to the fruit of the flesh. Masks fall when we play sports.
2. Spiritual life in the family
Delegating our children’s spiritual growth to church or Sunday school is plain negligence. These two institutions are a great help for this quest, but not the foundation. Parents should be the teachers, priests and intercessors; the ones providing spiritual food for the growth of our children. If we lose the support of our local church because our children’s sports—or any other reason, like disease, moving to a different location...—then we must strengthen our commitment to this area.
3. Looking for moments to meet together and worship with our brothers and sisters in Christ
Services can be on Sunday… or not. Families should foster situations where we can share life with our brethren. Going out to the countryside on Saturday, a weekly cell group in someone’s home, church camps, improvised worship meetings. Since we will be missing some of the spiritual food we can enjoy during the worship service, we must be proactive in looking for fellowship with our family in the faith at other times during the week.
4. An attentive church
Even though the main responsibility falls on the family making this decision, churches, as the communities they are, should pay attention to this reality and try to keep close to families in this kind of situation. Maybe the decision has been theirs, but our commitment to our family in the faith is meeting their needs. It might be the case where the family in question is extremely committed to the Lord, and they have made this decision from a mature position; but that might not always be the case. The fact that a family doesn’t see a problem with not going to church is usually a symptom of a precarious spiritual life. We must be paying attention, as brothers and sisters, to this reality.
5. The integrity of Christian life
To conclude, we—families, churches, pastors—need to convey to our young athletes the message that Christian life is all about integrity, wherever we might be and whatever we might be doing. If you are going to play football, do it to the greater glory of God; play that sport the way Jesus would.
And, of course, if you feel sports are drawing you far from God, maybe it is the moment to take a timeout, seat on the bench and have a talk with the Head Coach.