|ACH WEEK, I use this column to explore the convergence of sports and spirituality, both in everyday life and in more metaphorical terms. A couple of recent news items show how the two can quite literally dovetail.|
Item #1: An indoor football team in Birmingham will wear Bible-themed jerseys for a May 5 game. The Birmingham Steeldogs uniform shirts will sport the name Samson on their fronts. Instead of surnames, books of the Bible will be emblazoned across the backs and, along with the numbers, will correspond with verse references.
The jerseys are made by the Christian Throwback Jersey Company. Free Bibles will be handed out to fans.
Whatever you think of it, it's an original, clever idea. Maybe it's overkill, but I don't see God being displeased with giving Him overexposure. It's downright bold, which should motivate us to be equally bold in our witness. Talk about wearing your faith on your sleeve.
(By the way, the jerseys will be auctioned, with proceeds donated to local ministries.)
Item #2: In Bradenton, Florida, a church used a stock car to attract a larger Easter Sunday crowd. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported that Bayside Community Church made one of the late Dale Earnhardt's cars available for viewing and photographs Easter morning, on the condition folks came to the service.
The pastor's sermon was titled, "Finishing the race of life." A tad cheesy, but that's OK.
This is different than the football thing, because one's a sporting event, one is a worship service.
Thus, I paused when I read about the Earnhardt attraction. I know we need to draw the unchurched in, but I think we must be careful with our methods. Most of the people who came to see the car were, more than likely, content to merely tolerate the service ("Hey, we don't have to do this again 'til Christmas.").
Maybe it's like enticing kids to the dinner table by offering dessert before the main course, but at least you get them in the dining room. Motives should not be our concern, though, and it's actually rather genius to use a Sunday staple -- NASCAR racing -- to draw a crowd.
What both of these instances teach us is that we can be creative in presenting the Gospel while still staying true to it. That is the key, of course; too often the means become the focus rather than the ends.
We should keep in mind that while God can use any means He wishes -- including football teams and race cars -- to bring sheep into His fold, we mustn't think the Gospel needs burnishing or adornment. God's Word doesn't need our help.
We should feel blessed if He uses us -- and our sometimes bizarre methods -- at all.
Brad Locke (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a sports journalist in Tupelo, Mississippi.
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