Wanted: Biblical Hooligans

This blog was originally published by The Diocese of London and can be found here.

CVM seeks strategic partnerships to be able to encourage and enable others to share the gospel. One such involvement is with the Diocese of London and its Sports Network Initiative. This month, our Director for London Rob Santer reflects how churches can creatively engage with sport to enable outreach into its local community.

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Recently I watched a programme about Russian Football Hooligans and how they trained mentally and physically to engage ‘in battle’ with fans of opposing countries during Euro 2016… and win. Let’s be clear. Violence is unacceptable, especially within a sport which is considered a family game. However, what I found admirable about these young men was their discipline and motivation to come together as a band of brothers with a common vision and purpose.

As I listened to how these men described themselves, the training they undertook and the cause to which they were committed, I found myself in conversation with God expressing enthusiasm as to what it would be like to see Christian men rise up with the same passion, discipline and strategic consideration, but towards the vision and purpose of sharing their faith and the gospel message through the medium of sport.

At CVM, this is what we are encouraging through our Rawfaith initiative, which fits neatly with the Diocese of London Capital Vision Plan 2020 objective of engaging more closely with sport and physical activity.

Sport can be very emotive. Nothing brings men into close proximity and community with one another quite like sport. We have witnessed this at our annual CVM Sports Week in Lanzarote and The Gathering Weekend Festival held in June, during which many participate in sport and physical activity. Whether it is football, rugby, golf, cricket, boxing, motorsport, cycling or running. It is an environment where men are more open to conversation and where friendships can be forged easily over time.

Not long ago, a mate of mine from one of our groups shared how he was watching the football in his local pub and got talking to a fellow fan he didn’t know. The conversation developed to a point where he shared his faith with this guy, who responded by saying he wasn’t religious and then separated himself from my friend. However, later in the game, their paths crossed again, during which this fellow fan shared more about his physical problems. My mate offered to pray for him and he accepted. In a packed pub!

Quite often, it is a lack of confidence due to a perceived lack of competence that can stop us from courageously sharing our faith with others. Like any game, we have a better chance of winning by working together, developing a strategy, undergoing some training and taking intentional action. This is what we at CVM want to see happening across London and indeed the whole of the UK.

Sport is an activity, whether played or followed, that we recognise as being a catalyst to reach others with the good news of Jesus in a relaxed and relational manner. And anyone of any age can take part. There is a growing movement of individuals aged 50+ taking part in Walking Football which is a relatively new phenomenon. At my home church, planning is underway to set up an early morning spinning class where members of the community can come and exercise, make friends and listen to some life leadership resources at the same time.

So, how can your church creatively use sport to reach the local community? The possibilities are endless.
Hooligans we are not, but faith-filled fans developing a strategic focus on sport outreach we can be!

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Image Credit: Tim Mossholder