Stories

Life as a Christian in sport - part 3

Date posted: 08/06/18

 Life as a Christian in sport

 

Jesus calls us to go and make disciples wherever He places us. If you're a sportsperson, 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’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 the final episode 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

After struggling with injury earlier in the season, I ended on a real high note. March was pretty terrible in terms of the weather, so we had two out of three outdoor tournaments cancelled. The one that went ahead was the BUCS women’s nationals. It was on my birthday weekend. We took a squad of 16 and finished in third place. This was the highest the team have ever come! To be in Division 1 and come third was just amazing. The boys won gold too, so it was a great weekend for the club.

That weekend, I just felt God really speak to me, challenging me that this was my last big weekend with team, how was I going to be different. In our team chat at the end of the first day, I just felt called to pray for the girls. We were just about to finish and I asked ‘how would you feel if I prayed for us all?’ They said ‘yeah, sure, go for it’. It just felt really natural.

I prayed a really simple prayer, giving thanks to God for the team and asking Him to protect us from injury. Some did get injured, so I hope that didn’t put any of them off! The captain came up to me later that evening to say ‘Charlie, that was so cool, thanks for that’. Thinking back to my first year, I definitely wouldn’t have done that. I would have been too scared. My confidence in my faith and my relationships with the team have really developed since then.

Next year, I will be doing the Christians in Sport Internship in London. I am looking to find a new frisbee club there and I’m quite scared about that. I have never really played in a club outside university before. I know I will find it quite hard because the level is higher. I think that’s going to challenge me, but building some new relationships is something I’m really excited to do.

This year didn’t go to plan in terms of what I wanted. I got injured and I didn’t manage to read the Bible with any of my teammates after the Dialogue Dinner. That was a shame, but I need to trust in God in all circumstances. My injury is pretty much recovered now. It’s still not perfect, but I was able to play. I will keep in touch with my teammates from uni and I’m praying they will still have opportunities to hear the gospel.

Life as a Christian in sport

 

Lukas is a footballer from Llanelli in Wales.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to play again before the end of the season. I am fully recovered from my knee injury now and already looking forward to next season and am getting myself fit for that. I have told the coach I’m keen to get back playing. I don’t think I will be at everyone’s level straight away as I only played two of around 45 matches last season. It’s not my first injury, so I know I will have to be careful when I get back out on the pitch,

During the past season, I did a lot of thinking about my commitments with regards to church, family and football. I realised that football is something that I really enjoy doing. It’s not just something I have to do, I am really passionate about it. God has made me to play. I feel relaxed when I’m out on the pitch playing with the lads.

We saw the coach in Asda recently. I told him I felt like I had failed the team because I was injured for most of the season. He said ‘don’t worry about it, that can happen to anyone’. That was good to hear and my injury did mean I had more time with my family when we had a new baby, which was a good thing.

It’s encouraging to know that we will have two Christians in the club next season as my South Korean friend will still be there. But it can still be hard to keep going and look for opportunities to witness.

There was the initial curiosity about a Brazilian joining the club when I first got involved. Who is he and what’s he all about? I think we’re past that now. There’s a lot of opposition to faith at times.There are a lot of preconceptions about what you must be like as a Christian. At my club, I’m looking to break down those barriers. I want to live out my faith in a way that changes what they think.

I’m praying that I can build deeper relationships with some of the guys who are really at the core of the club. I have also been thinking about Llanelli as a whole. We don’t live in a big city and there are not a lot of churches around. It would be awesome to see local pastors getting involved in the town’s clubs. If all the pastors could make themselves available to a local club, they could have a real impact. It wouldn’t need to be about being there every training session or some formal chaplaincy role. The players would just know there’s someone available to talk to.

Before pre-season starts, we have the World Cup to enjoy. I hope Brazil can do better than last time - everyone is really excited back home. I will be joining the boys watching matches in the pub where I guess I will probably have to support whoever’s playing against England!

Life as a Christian in sport

 

Stevie coaches rugby at a school in Belfast.

In the end, we got beaten in the semi-finals of the Schools Cup. It was a good season, but to be a great season our aim is to win the competition. The boys were devastated and we were disappointed as coaches. However, we don’t just wait until mid-August to start again. We have a quick turnaround and were soon preparing for next season. The boys are already back in the gym three times a week, working on their programmes.

Sport at this level is an all-year round thing and is all about size. Between now and when the season starts, it’s the key to bulk up and have good nutrition and conditioning. One of the coaches is a physical trainer. He does all the strength and conditioning work. But for the other coaches, it’s very much being there and encouraging the boys. We’ve tried to create a culture where it’s more than just doing your specific role, where we are a community pulling together. That gives us strength of character when the tough times come.

Pride can become a big part of coaching, but as a Christian, it’s not about looking for compliments. You’re doing a job for God. When there’s too much pride and ego involved, you sometimes find coaches don’t trust each other and who are looking out for themselves. We are fortunate to have a coaching set up where we look out for the greater good of the team. I have been coaching here for nine years and three of us have worked together throughout that time, so we have definitely built up strong relationships and it is this that often leads to conversations about faith. You’re always looking for those opportunities to do this.

We were very intentional about sharing our faith in the 1,000 Lives event at church, but it can be easy to take your foot off the gas afterwards. As a church we put on events for children, young people, young adults, men, women, families and seniors so we could invite our friends to hear the gospel. These events were well attended and many people heard the gospel shared with over 100 people coming to faith in Jesus. When I was inviting the people I had been praying for for the previous three months in the lead up to event it seemed a lot easier to put that invitation out there as you had been seeking God’s help and asking God to move in these people’s lives for His glory.

The night our men’s ministry had Ulster rugby players sharing was the night the friends I invited had their club training so they weren’t able to make it unfortunately. I’m hoping to get them along to other events we’re doing. I’m just continuing to build our relationships and be there for each of them. The challenge is to remain intentional.

The challenge for us as a church now is to keep praying for those who don’t know Christ as their saviour and to continue to bless them and to look for opportunities to share with them the good news of Jesus. Witnessing should always be at the forefront of our lives, but we can easily get caught up in the busyness of life. It’s one of the reasons why we need to go to church, to be encouraged to get out there and be active in sharing our faith

Within the squad, there’s a group of Christians. Another Christian coach and I are looking to help them live out their faith. It would be great if they could have a prayer meeting of their own before matches. We’re really looking to care for the boys, above and beyond their sport. We want them to see Christ in what we’re doing. In both how we and the Christian players act, we can look for encouragement from John 13 v 34-35 where Jesus says: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Life as a Christian in sport

 

To read episodes one and two of the blog, click here

 

back pages - Spring 2016
 

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