blog | 26.07.19
“It was great. Genuinely, so good. It was so much better and more enjoyable than I was expecting."
Those were the words of Colette, a hockey player at the University of Cambridge, when reflecting on her dialogue dinner.
A few weeks earlier, eight of her teammates had come round to her house. In some respects, it was like any other social occasion between friends: they ate food, chatted, reflected on how the season had gone. But once the plates had been cleared away, conversation moved on to matters of faith.A Christians in Sport staff member stood up and led a discussion on the key tenants of the Christian message. Utilising the Two Ways to Live framework, they gradually pieced together what the gospel is and then opened the room up to questions.
As Colette later commented, “It was from this point that the evening really got going. I was so pleasantly surprised by the conversation and the questions people were asking. It was amazing to realise that people had genuinely thought about it. They’d thought about Jesus, about God and the big questions. To see the engagement in the room was so encouraging.”
It is this discussion element that makes dialogue dinners so effective. Unlike other guest events, where people hear a talk from upfront but don’t necessarily engage with the gospel directly, at a dialogue dinner they have a chance to raise their queries and hesitations.
Fife, a basketball player at the University of Southampton, put it like this: “Dialogue dinners are great. They feel like a safe environment where people can express their objections and ask their questions.”
For him the dialogue dinner came with its challenges. “It wasn’t all easy, some of my teammates were quite hostile. But the discussion was still so great. In the end, my only frustration was the time constraints. You could talk about these things for such a long time, I just wish the conversations could have gone on for longer!”
But, of course, the end of the dinner doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the conversation. The story of the athletics club at the University of Birmingham is testament to this.
Vic, one of three Christian runners at that club, had this to say: “In November 2017, we held a dialogue dinner. The three of us had no idea what to expect. To our amazement 30 people turned up! Off the back of it, we invited everyone to a weekly bible study. We had 10 regular attendees at those studies, and others would come every so often as well.”
“Off the back of it all one girl gave her life to Christ. Three months later she was giving her testimony to other members of the club at one of those very Bible studies! It was so obvious that God was at work through it all.”
At the end of that academic year, all the other Christians graduated leaving Vic as the only Christian in the club. But this did not deter her from trying to replicate what had previously happened.
“This year has had a different feel”, she noted. “A more introverted group came to the dialogue dinner, and numbers were lower. But, praise God, a completely different set of people have been coming to the Bible studies this year, and some have been coming to church with me.”
Then came more fantastic news. Back in February, after a church service one Sunday, another girl in the club committed to following Jesus. On this Vic said, “it has been so clear that doing these dialogue dinners and reading the Bible with people really does make a difference…to people’s eternities ultimately.”
Given such success stories, it is no wonder that dialogue dinners have been on the rise across the university work. In the 2017/18 academic year there were 49 dialogue dinners hosted by students, a threefold increase on the year before.
In fact, some students have made them a termly feature, hosting dinners through the year as they seek to both spend time socially with their teammates and give them the opportunity to engage with the gospel for themselves.
Several universities have seen a week of dialogue dinners take place as multiple members of the Christians in Sport group step out in faith during the same week. Keele was one such university – over the space of five days, 50 sportspeople heard the gospel and asked their questions at a total of six dialogue dinners.
But for all the positive testimonies, the prospect of hosting a dialogue dinner remains a nerve-racking one. “Personally, I was really nervous to host one”, admits Colette, “I left it late in the term because I didn’t feel I knew my team well enough and I didn’t know the response I was going to get.”
“But I’m so glad I did it. The food, the company, the conversation – it was such a lovely evening. I’d recommend it to anyone. Even if you’re nervous, you’ve just got to do it!”
Fife’s message is similar. “It was an opportunity to step out in my faith and show my teammates that I care about them. It’s a brilliant way to open up and share about what you believe. I have no regrets, it was amazing.”
Perhaps that’s the challenge for you, then? To step out in faith and host a dialogue dinner. To invite your sports friends around for a meal and then share the gospel with them and answer their questions.
The Sports Mission Pack, which can be downloaded online, has a load of great resources for engaging sportspeople with the gospel. Included in it is a guide to running your own dialogue dinner or similar event. It helps you think through how to invite people and what questions people may ask you. And while dialogue dinners have been prominent in the student world, wouldn’t it be a joy to see such events replicated by Christian sportspeople of all ages right across the British Isles?
God has been hugely at work in the student world over the last few years. His Spirit has emboldened many students to host these dinners and He has graciously filled the room, time after time, with sportspeople who are not yet following Him.
Most crucially of all, the gospel has faithfully gone out each time, and we know that when that happens He is always at work. Let’s be giving thanks for those He has saved through dialogue dinners and let’s continue to praise Him for all the ways He is at work as we take the gospel to the lost world of sport.
Christians in Sport is a UK based charity that aims to reach the world of sport for Jesus. We mainly work with sportspeople in competitive and elite sport.
Registered Charity England and Wales 1086570.
Registered Charity Scotland SCO45299.
Company number: 4146081
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