As I head out the door I leave some instructions. “Make sure your rooms are clean.” “Play nicely with each other.” “Do not use the stove.” As my kids step out of the car on the school campus I have some instructions. “Don’t forget how much I love you.” “Be a good friend.” Remember who you are and who you belong to.” “Watch out for that mud puddle.” These are some great commissions. When Jesus left the earth he left The Great Commission. Matthew 28:18-20 states, Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
As we take this great commission and live it out in real life, it takes on a variety of forms. Let’s not get stuck on the word “go” and assume that we need to take a big trip or go far away in order to fulfill this instruction. Surely, international missions are a part of this. However, “all nations” includes the one you live in!! The way I am called to live my life and lead my kids to live is to fully embrace the fact that where we live our life is our mission field. Where do I live my life? Well, I am a mom to 3 kids and I am a pastor at a church. My role at the church is in the area of Family Ministries. Therefore, families are my mission field. My role with my kids places me at two different schools as they are currently in 5th, 7th and 9th grades. My mission field includes public schools, sport fields, grocery stores, an orthodontist office and my own home as I have kids and families continually revolving through our doors. Where is your mission field? Remember, your mission field is where you live your life, where you spend most of your time.
The mission field that I would like to look at today is the soccer field. When I say soccer field, translate that to foot ball, cheer leading, baseball, dance studios, swimming pools or wherever it happens that you spend a lot of time. A little less than a year ago I wrote a post entitled “Sports vs. Church.” http://familydiscipleshippath.com/2013/11/22/sports-vs-church/. I had been writing my little blog for a couple of years and had an audience of about 30 people. Sometimes I would get likes and comments on articles, honestly mostly from my mom and my best friends. This particular post hit a nerve! It has been read by over 750,000 people and received over 1,000 comments. These comments ranged from people who completely agree with my position that we need to protect our kids’ commitment to the church community and prioritize worship over a sports commitment to people who vehemently disagreed that church had any value whatsoever.
One point that was made in the comments repeatedly was that we could have “church” on the soccer field. This would be a great opportunity to reach out to those who don’t yet know Jesus by being a part of a sport community. While I stand my ground that being a part of a church community in a consistent manner is important for the growth of disciples(followers of Jesus) of any age and vitally important for the development of kids and youth, I also completely embrace the notion that we should “be the church” in the sports world. You can do both. You can prioritize connecting with your church family once or twice a week and still have the rest of the week to connect with those who may not now Jesus yet through youth sports. Here’s a post that speaks to the importance of connecting to your church family while fulfilling the great commission: http://familydiscipleshippath.com/2014/02/14/332/.
What I have seen works the very best to lead others to Jesus, both in the Bible and in my life, is something called “relational evangelism.” This is the opposite of what many think of when they think about evangelism. When I hear the word evangelism, I instantly think of strangers telling other strangers about Jesus. This works for some people. What works for me is to build relationships with those who don’t know Jesus yet and live my life with them as friends. Through that friendship they can see the example of the way that God has worked and moved in my life and there are opportunities to share, invite and pray with your friends that will come up naturally as you go about normal life. Relational evangelism is slow and often hard to see progress…kind of like planting a garden. These friendships do not solely revolve around sharing Jesus. They are real friendships that involve fun, conversations and shared activities. Your life reflects Jesus naturally if your life is centered on the things of God. I do not go out on a hunt for friends who need Jesus. I put myself in environments where there are people who don’t know Jesus and allow time and space for relationships to naturally develop. That is how I “go” into all the nations.
Okay, so as for how to be missional on the sport field that you find yourself on. I have a few ideas that we have tried over the years. I’d love to hear some things that have worked for you.
SIT: Position your chair near people you don’t know and be open to starting a conversation. You may need to put down your phone or book so that you are available.
COACH: Volunteer to coach a team. You will get to know the families and kids on a whole different level. Full disclosure: My husband and I have never coached a team. We are not athletic people. To be honest, I don’t really know how to kick, throw, catch or hit a ball. I grew up doing gymnastics…no balls involved! While this is not a fit for all, it is an idea for some who may be wired or skilled to coach.
INVITE: Invite kids from the sport team to birthday parties, barbecues, or church events. Invite families to grab some ice cream after the game. Invite families to carpool or ride together to distant games. Relationships can be birthed on the field, but will develop in other environments.
LISTEN: Listen to your new friends to meet them where they are. Listen to God for promptings as to when to speak up and when to just listen.
There are some of my thoughts on how the sport field can be a mission field. What are your ideas?
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