Sports are a connector between believers and non-believers. Interactions on the court or field are not about differences; they’re about similarities. One Challenge has been in the sports ministry game for nearly 65 years. Dave, of Sports Ambassadors (an OC ministry) says, “Sports is the one thing that provides a way to develop relationships with others in a natural way.”
From May to July, Dave served with three separate trips to four countries using basketball as the means to share the gospel and help local churches connect to their communities.
In May, the men’s basketball team from the University of Northwestern (MN) to Spain. This was the second year Sports Ambassadors took a team to this particular location in Spain. Dave said it was incredible to see the potential for long-term ministry.
“This area is a place of incredible need but they are finding that sports is very effective to help the pastor to connect with the community and also for the players to connect with the people and share the gospel openly,” he says. “You drive through all these small towns, 5 to 15 thousand people, and the church planter is just saying, ‘in this town there’s no known believers and no church, the next town same thing.’ We get to the providential capital, which is about 300,000 people, and he says, ‘We are up to eight churches now, and each one averages about 10 people,’ and they’re excited about that.”
Although in the U.S. these numbers seem low to us, this is growth for these Spanish towns. The Lord is moving through local government officials as well, Dave says. A request was made from these officials for a Christian coach to start a youth league.
“This is an incredible open door coming from city leaders who don’t identify as believers but you can see each year there are becoming more and more interested and engaged with the gospel,” Dave says.
The second team Dave led went to two countries in Southeast Asia. In one country they partnered with Youth for Christ to help with basketball camps and a 3-on-3 tournament with international students, most from Mainland China.
In the second country, they helped long-term workers engage a community in a very restricted area.
“A highlight for me was coming across people who have no concept of the gospel, never heard the gospel, and being able to share the gospel with them, see them engage with it; as well as helping the very few believers in these areas with their long-term work,” Dave says.
This team had three young ladies, and they were able to engage with 20 or so young women who were a part of a basketball club in the more secure nation. “Seeing our team’s girls just develop really good relationship with these girls, and now they are messaging back and forth and continuing the relationship was a highlight,” Dave says.
There is much work yet to be done in this nation, but Dave said he enjoyed helping and supporting these long-term workers engage with this community and help plant the seeds for further engagement with the gospel.
The final trip of the summer took place in Mindanao, Philippines located in the Southern Islands. One Challenge has done sports ministry in the Philippines for over 60 years, but there is still need for the gospel, particularly in the rural areas. The team was a SA “dream team” Dave says, where all the players put ministry before the game.
“All those guys were there for the ministry, the basketball was second. Seeing how each guy would share individually or corporately, very clearly and succinctly, they have the heart to share, and seeing Filipinos respond to that, engage with that have the church planters excited,” he says.
Many people after the teams 24 games in 12 days connected with church planters for further discipleship.
Why Sports Ministry?
“I keep telling players, God’s given you a gift that is one of the greatest gifts in this day and age for the believer to connect with the unbeliever,” Dave says. “Trophies and championships are great, but what does that really matter? Getting a college scholarship is great, but eternally speaking, what does that matter? But you can use that gift, and give it, like the little boy with loaves and fish, to Christ and watch him multiply it.”
Sports Ambassadors instills a “Pray, Play, and Say” philosophy in it’s players. Check out photo archive of years of sports ministry trips around the world on the SA Facebook page.
“We always encourage our players when they come home as they play pick-up or organized ball, ‘who on your team, who do you play with doesn’t know Christ,’” Dave says. “We encourage them to pray for those guys, play in a way that honors the Lord, and each time have to intentionality of sharing what the Lord is doing in your life.”
Pray with One Challenge
- One of the players for the Northwestern team is in the process of getting to Spain to continue using basketball. Pray for open doors for him to share the gospel and impact the community.
- Pray for more people willing to go and share the gospel with others, whether it is through sports or other ministry.
- Join us in praying for Dave and the rest of the SA team to make wise decisions. Pray they are Spirit-led on where to send teams and where to engage long term.
One Challenge is an international mission sending agency empowering local church ministry in more than 100 countries around the world. One Challenge uses sports as a vehicle to create opportunities for sharing the gospel, planting churches, helping churches engage their communities, and developing disciple-making networks.
One Challenge’s Mobilization department can be reached at:
One Challenge is an international mission sending agency empowering local church ministry in more than 100 countries around the world. We seek to empower the whole body of Christ to bring a transforming love and hope to all people. When invited by local leaders, OC facilitates local bodies of believers to identify, train, and send global workers toward realizing a “from everywhere to everywhere” vision. For more information, please email OC Mobilization at email@example.com. Or go to our Mobilization blog called “Prepare for Impact” at https://prepareforimpact.life/blog/.