Stories

Life as a Christian in sport - part 2

Date posted: 13/03/18

 Life as a Christian in sport

 

If you love sport and love Jesus, then He calls you to be His witness in that world. Whether that’s playing in your club, as a coach or official or however else you you’re getting involved, obeying Jesus’ call can be both a massive encouragement and a big challenge. As Christian sportspeople, we need to keep spurring each other in this mission to represent Jesus in our clubs and teams. That is exactly what this blog is designed to do as two players and a coach share the highs and lows of representing Jesus where He has placed them. Join us for episode two as we catch up with our three Christians in sport and find out how the past few months have been. 

Lukas is a footballer from Llanelli in Wales

Stevie coaches rugby at a school in Belfast

Charlie is a student in Bath where she plays Ultimate Frisbee

The last few months have not gone as I expected, but God has definitely been at work.

We have an amazing women’s squad this year. We qualified for indoor nationals in Glasgow where we came third! I got my first BUCS medal, which was awesome. Unfortunately, I was injured, so I sidelined instead, which was really tough when I desperately wanted to play, but it was still great to be part of the team that weekend.

I tore my calf muscle in November during mixed nationals, so I couldn’t play a full game of frisbee for three months. However, I still felt part of the club, and went along to training as much as I could. It’s now my last semester, so I want to play as much as I can.

Despite this frustration, I've been so encouraged to see God at work. We had our Christian Union events week in November, which Christians in Sport came to. It was slap bang in the middle of two big frisbee tournaments and I was quite ill as well, so I struggled to make many of the events, but we got a group of players to the Sports Quiz and Hannah Smith (frisbee playing Intern) went on our team. One of my team, who is not a Christian, asked Hannah lots about the Internship and suggested I applied for it!

 

Life as a Christian in sport

 

Unfortunately, I had to cancel a Dialogue Dinner last semester as I was ill. This is where you host a meal and invite your friends round to discuss the questions they have about Christian faith. There were about 10 girls due to come and they were really gutted to miss out, but I was able to do it again in February and there were about seven or eight of us there. Hannah came and we went through Two Ways to Live. The girls were really open and were firing some good questions.

One asked me: ‘how does your faith help you and what difference does it make to you?’ I had never been asked that before by a teammate. It was a great evening and the girls didn’t want to leave! Off the back of that, two girls said yes to reading the Bible with me! I was really encouraged by that.

Now it’s my last semester, I am really asking myself ‘how am I going to make the most of that time?’ Our Christians in Sport group are challenging each other about this and asking ‘how can we be more bold?’

On the flipside, one of my teammates who I have been praying for texted me to say she wasn’t interested in Christianity. I was heartbroken and so gutted to receive that message as I thought she was someone who seemed quite close to believing in Jesus. It was a reminder that it’s not all down to me - it’s God’s work to bring people to faith. I will definitely keep praying for her.

Lukas is a footballer from Llanelli in Wales

It’s been a frustrating season for me. I managed to develop good initial relationships with the boys when I joined halfway through last season and I was really looking forward to my first full season and building on that. I had a niggle at the start of the season, but managed to train a few times, but then I got a really bad knee injury. That’s prevented me from doing anything sports-wise.

I prayed about it a lot and it gave me a lot of time to think about a lot of things. I joke with people that I have a hard time listening to God, so sometimes He he lets things like this happen to get my attention and help me refocus! It made me realise I need to plan things a little bit better and prioritise.

I have not seen as much of the lads as I would have if I had been able to train and play. It’s also been tough personally to not being doing what I love - playing football. I have been trying to understand God’s purpose in it all. I have been talking to (Welsh Staff Worker) Lloyd Thomas and he’s been really supportive and encouraging me to carry on being there and not give up. We had a Sports Quiz in November and I went to training to invite the lads along. In the end, no one came, but sharing about it did give them a reminder of how sport and faith can fit together.

 

Life as a Christian in sport

 

We’re planning an Alpha course at church, so I will be inviting them to that. Hopefully, it will be a place where they feel comfortable to talk about faith. I think God is challenging me to go beyond the pitch and the pub by having the guys round for dinner, to really build up relationships.

When you talk about Pray Play Say, it’s been a time to invest in prayer because the playing and saying have been harder to do. But not being able to play doesn’t mean the relationships are dead. When you’re walking around town and see the boys, it’s still great to stop, chat and catch up.

A big encouragement is that although I haven’t been able to play, there is another Christian guy who has ‘replaced’ me this season. He has helped maintain that link with the lads and it’s a great reminder that God is sovereign. It’s not all down to what I can do myself!

I am seeing a chiropractor and hoping to be back playing before the end of the season. Things have not gone according to plan in one sense, but that doesn’t mean God is not faithful - in both personal work and sporting life.

Stevie coaches rugby at a school in Belfast

The season has gone quite well for the team results-wise. They have definitely improved, which is great to see as a coach. We always do a warm weather training camp in Portugal just before Christmas. This one went really well and we beat the Portuguese under 19 side, which was great. It’s always good to test yourselves in a match as well.

A couple of the coaches in the squad are Christians, so we have continued to meet to pray and do our best to represent Christ on the sidelines. I think we’ve done OK there, but you can always improve with God’s help. It’s a challenge, but we’re determined to be God’s witnesses.

One thing that has really helped me is something we’re doing at church called 1,000 Lives. The aim is to get 333 people each praying for three friends who don’t yet know Jesus. The challenge is to pray, bless and invite. During March we have a series of guest events as part of this. At one of them, we’ve got some of the Ulster rugby boys coming along to share about their faith. I’m praying that the coaches I know will come along to one of the events.

 

Life as a Christian in sport

 

Once we pray, bless and invite, it’s up to God to work through His Spirit. A big part of it is therefore trusting in God and not beating yourself if you don’t ‘succeed’. As a coach, you try and control as much as possible on the field, but with people coming to Christ, it’s God’s work and that’s a good thing!

It’s hard to get these opportunities to speak about Jesus because generally when we’re together as coaches, we talk about rugby! I’m praying God will open doors for good conversations.

Because we’re so focused on winning, it can be difficult to deal with some situations. Especially when you don’t think the referee’s decisions are correct, it’s a challenge to represent Jesus in the right way and show respect. You could just go over on the sideline and then get told off. Another challenge has been encouraging the boys. The balance between constructive criticism and not being too negative. I am looking to apply the biblical principles of truth and grace in how I coach.

It’s been great to encourage the pupils in our school Christians in Sport group. We had a dodgeball tournament in February at which (Christians in Sport Staff Worker) Allen McCluggage spoke and they were able to invite lots of their friends along. This was a chance for the boys to step out boldly in faith and that’s harder than it used to be as Christianity is becoming increasingly marginalised in Northern Ireland. It’s that boldness that I am also praying for myself and the other Christian coaches. That boldness and commitment is crucial to succeed in sport and it’s also vital with faith.

To read episode one of the blog, click here



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