How Organized Sports Killed the Mission of the Church

How Organized Sports Killed the Mission of the Church

How Organized Sports Killed the Mission of the Church

The other night I was sitting in a friend from church home. We had gotten into a conversation over our church’s lack of mission in reaching out to the world. In the course of the conversation I had mentioned a few things we could organize groups for or pull together some initiatives. Then I said it.. “You know, the four of us could just go down to (said church) and serve a meal and help out the homeless. We do not need the rest of the church to do that.”

You might have thought I just said some statement extolling the virtues of the Third Reich the way they looked back at me. Even my wife who was in on the conversation mentioned on the way home, ‘I’ve never thought about that, we really could do that on our own.’

Two by Two or Team by Team

This really isn’t so much about organized sports, as it is about how we organize ourselves.

When Jesus sent out the Disciples he gave them noting to work with (except the authority of the Spirit) and sent them in groups of two (Mark 6). They have little organization and end goals in mind. I wonder how many of us could agree to a commissioning of the church like that? Probably a handful, but not many.

Truth is, this move by Christ is very counter to our culture. From the very first nomadic to agrarian lifestyles the group you associated with (much like the family) enabled your successes and failures. To be a part of a particular group was not just a matter of category identification, but a matter of life and death itself.

We are removed from that life and death circumstance in our lives today (yes, there are likely some instances where it is still critical). Our groups create our behaviors and our identifiers. Ask a young person who they are they stumble with a response. Most likely they will say “I am a baseball player” etc. Which is a thing they do, but not who they are. Ask an adult and they would most likely give you a career/job answer. The stereo type of a lawyer, doctor, golfer, dancer, etc would probably give you more insight into who they ARE at that point.

Over decades this organizing seems to have conditioned our behaviors in taking initiative and action. We no longer take a risk at going out into the world as Disciples of Christ by ourselves or as a couple. We no longer seek out ways to be the church or do the mission of the church even though we have authority of the Spirit through baptism.

This is crazy talk

Think about it. case example, is a youth director organized or shaped any differently than a recreation director or soccer coach in many parents eyes? You/I are expected to organize the activities, teach them skills all so that they can make ‘varsity.’ When a congregation member feels the inkling to do something they come to some person and say “I think WE need to do… ” When that person comes to me I want to say “God hasn’t placed it on me to do that, but obviously has for you so go do it.” As a good staff member of many churches I will give a “Great idea, here is some options to move forward with on that.” But you know this story, they do not move forward. That person doesn’t have their pre-conditioned coach and team to go with them.

So this is my thought. Organized sports (and our overall obsession with organizing) has killed the mission of the church to the point where we disregard the authority of the Spirit and the counter cultural sending that Christ gave to us as Disciples.




About Gavin Richardson

guy, husband, dad, church communicator, youth pastor, youth ministry trainer, dog owner, social media participant anthropologist, writer, speaker, internet community builder, bill payer, bit monastic, co-creator of but not necessarily in that order


  1. Gavin, you are correct, people are scared without the organization with them. I guess it boils down to verification. We don’t trust God’s calling on our lives so we have to verify it through committees and other official church processes to get it funded, approved, sponsored, supported and implemented. By the time all that happens the passion is usually gone and people are too tired to do the work they were called to do.

    I would also add that we assume church should be like organized sports in that you get what you pay for. I’ve enrolled my son in Upward Soccer again this year and I know exactly what to expect. Every Saturday morning after Easter through late May we will have a game. Since he is 5 he will practice 30 minutes before the game and the game is only about 30 minutes long. Even as the coach of his team my total weekly commitment is maybe 2 hours. That fits in nicely to my schedule and what I am willing to commit to. I know what I am getting myself into and have the wiliness to do it.

    With ministry/outreach there is no solid piece of commitment. I don’t know if the outreach I feel compelled to do will start to take over my life. Sure it starts off with 2 hours a week but then it goes to 4 or to 16. Soon it takes over my life…but oh wait…isn’t that what God calls us to do? Isn’t our lives suppose to reflect God’s light to the world?

    I think people think commitment to a mission/ministry equals commitment to a sports team. You get in, out, and on with your life. You don’t want to think about it transforming and possibly defining your life.

    • Thanks Jim, I like your mention of not trusting God’s calling.

      Was talking about this with a fellow church member who is feeling a need to start a Sunday night service & some other ‘crazy’ ideas. Though we want some help in our discernment, does some of the processes we put ourselves through a way of sabotaging our calling because we are not really that committed to it?

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