Today is the day! The 2010 world soccer competition starts this afternoon and the whole of South Africa is abuzz.
Christian churches and organizations across the country have mobilized. Some are offering hospitality suits outside the stadiums, others are hosting screenings, while yet others are distributing tracts. Many churches are trying to capitalise on the occasion to reach our soccer-besotted local people. Evangelism! The spiritual vuvuzela blast of the church!
The whole world cup experience has prompted me to think deeply on two issues: the sport -religion of the world, and the church’s conception of evangelism, in the face of such religion.
Sport – a religion?
A couple of days ago one of the TV channels interviewed a young man who was at the airport for the arrival of one of the teams. Referring to a well-known football star he said, “I managed to touch his hand… and it was like touching the hand of God!”. About six weeks ago, a political figure stated on national television that soccer will be our ‘saviour’.
The churches response
Is the churches response to the influx of fans what Jesus had in mind when He told us to make disciples of all nations? God is the very epitome of a relational being, the church is relational, and the Gospel is a call to relationship, first with God and then with each other. Yet when we proclaim this Gospel out of the context of church community we are demonstrating the very opposite of a relational message.
I am not criticising any efforts to proclaim the Gospel to the soccer crowds. The church, of which I am Lead Elder, is joining with other churches in presenting the message of salvation at every screening of each soccer match in the informal settlement of Diepsloot. However, we are involving the local Dieploot churches so that those who respond to the Gospel can be drawn into the church and then properly discipled.
The reason I am writing this is to challenge our thinking on what constitutes biblical evangelism, and what does not
Will people be ‘put off’?
My fear is that a Gospel proclamation out of relational context may well serve as a powerful inoculation to the response to become a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am also concerned that the church might be seeing its mission as proclamation of a Gospel message rather than making disciples. What do you think? Are you involved in an evangelistic activity in the next 5 weeks?