International (MNN) — the e33 Partners‘ SportReach program uses one of humanity’s greatest passions to build relationships and share the Gospel.
Yesterday would have been opening day of baseball season if COVID-19 had not seen it cancelled.
The Olympic games just got pushed back to 2021. The NBA season ground to a halt. March Madness was canceled. For a complete list of all sporting events around the world cancelled by COVID-19, click here.
All in all, it’s a bad spring to be a sports fan. And that hurts because sports, as Jeff Johnston of e3 Partners says, are something that people all over the world love to be involved in. “I think that’s a big part of it: just the joy that people get out of sports. People love competition, that’s fun, too. But ultimately, I think it’s just about something that people can do together. And it’s a team-oriented activity. It’s fun to get to do it with other people.”
That universal love of sports is why e3 Partners uses them so often during their mission trips through their SportReach program. “Ultimately our, our primary initiative with all of our trips is to spread the Gospel to plant churches.,” Johnston says. “But sports give us kind of a gateway to do that.”
Mission trips using the SportReach program often works with soccer because that sport is loved around the world. Plus, putting together a game is very easy since you only need a ball. Johnston says, “We put on sports camps and just play games, set up games, and [organize] competitions. Those really just bring people together and allow for opportunities for the Gospel to be shared and for Christ’s love love to spread to people that may not have heard of him before.”
But e3 Partners will use other sports as well, such as volleyball, basketball, kickball, and baseball. How can working with sports lead to sharing the Gospel? Johnston says people get a lot of joy out of sports, and it has a power to draw people together. He recalls being attracted to pickup games as a kid and the community that resulted. As relationships deepen, the Gospel can flourish.
Many of e3 Partner’s trips involves the SportReach program, but Johnston says different trips have different focuses. “So our SportReach trip, we take several of them throughout the course of the year. But we also have trips that are focused around a medical component, and we have trips that are focused on oral strategies. we have trips that are focused on reaching children and setting up a VBS. So we have several different causes or initiatives and SportReach is just one of those.”
Johnston encourages Christians to look at the e3 Partner trips and see if any focus on an area of passion. He says, “Sports can be one of those things where you feel like you’re getting all this joy out of sports yourself, but you can share that with others and you can use that as kind of a gateway or a bridge in to sharing Christ with people.”
Baseball stadium in Japan. (Ivmage courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)