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OPINION

FIRST-PERSON: Tapping America's sports-craziness

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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FRANKLIN, Tenn. (BP) -- The boy came to the altar during invitation time with a simple salvation tract and told the inquiring pastor, "I did what this book said -- I asked Jesus into my heart."
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The boy had participated in a basketball league and learned of salvation during each week's practice as the volunteer coach utilized basketball terminology to introduce the Gospel. The boy, having learned that we are all sinners and God forgives our sins through Christ, accepted Jesus.

What's more, he asked if he could give his testimony during the banquet at the end of the season. He stood in front of that large gathering and shared the booklet with fellow players, their parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, clearly explaining the plan of salvation.

Only God knows the eternal impact the young boy had.

America is sports-crazy -- crazed enough to spend billions each year on everything from Frisbees, fishing, golf, softball, water and snow skiing to tickets to all kinds of sporting events. Athletics and athletes command a huge influence -- both good and bad -- on our culture.

Consequently, churches have an exciting, culturally relevant opportunity to share the Gospel with participants and spectators alike in their communities through sports and recreation. Opportunities abound for churches to use this nonthreatening environment as an entry point to evangelism and discipleship.

Folks may come to a sporting event who would never think of coming to a worship service. They will especially come to an event that includes their children. The key for the church is intentionality.

Several ministries have come on the scene that use sports and recreation as an intentional evangelism tool. Entities such as Upward Unlimited, In His Grip Golf, Connect Ministries, Outdoor Ministry Network, Infinity Sports, Sports Crusaders, Sports Reach and others are ready to help churches capture the imagination of our sports-crazy society. These ministries' core goal is that every participant at every event hears the Gospel.

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Growing churches are not doing "SOS" (same old stuff). They are using every tool at their disposal to spread the Gospel. With sports, kids want to play; parents want their children to have quality learning experiences; and churches want to reach their communities.

If we wait on the world to come to our Sunday morning worship services we will miss a majority who are unaware of the value of what we offer. Conversely, if we use all available tools and meet them at their point of interest, we have a great opportunity to capture their imaginations.

If you can capture a person's imagination, you have access to their time, a channel to influence the mind, impact the heart and introduce them to Christ the Savior.

The message is eternal; tools are ever-changing. The question for each church is, How do we impact our world?

John Garner www.recreationandsportsministry.com is a sports ministry consultant and life coach based in Franklin, Tenn.

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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