Jameis Winston, the Heisman-winning quarterback of the Florida State Seminoles (whom OSU almost defeated), said in a recent interview with ESPN, “I have played at every level of football, except on Sundays.”
Winston, who boasted of his playing days in Little League and in High School, was of course referring to the NFL. The comment shows just how much has changed in so little time, as a vast majority of Little League and youth sports leagues play games on Sundays these days.
American society as a whole, which used to leave Sundays as sacred, no longer views it as the Lord’s Day, but rather a good day to catch up on yard work, shopping, or finish out and drive home after a weekend baseball tournament.
This troubling trend has taken untold numbers of children and their families out of “Big Church,” as they seek to find the skills that take them from the Little League to the “Big Leagues” someday.
Of course it would be preferable if we could turn back the clock and society would no longer stand for sports on Sundays. That seems unlikely, and Christians are increasingly engaged in sports on Sundays. There are various ways to respond to this, including calling on Christians to make an even greater commitment to Sundays with their church family.
For those who cannot or will not give up sports on Sundays, Upward Sports founder Caz McCaslin has another idea. Saying that the trend of youth sports on Sundays “stinks,” he also sees it as a missions opportunity. He said, “Churchgoing families missing church to attend their kids’ sporting events on Sundays is a problem, but it’s not nearly as big a problem as all of the families that don’t attend a Bible-believing church at all.”
“Instead of shunning these (Sports-on-Sundays) families, instead of shaking our heads when they miss a Sunday morning service, maybe we, the Church, should … show them how to be intentional about being the Church to other, non-going families at these tournaments. (We could) pray over them … and send them instead of judging them. (We could) celebrate with them … let them share all the amazing things that God is doing on their mission.”
McCaslin’s call toward evangelism has to be more than just leaving a Gospel tract with your tip for the waitress at IHOP after your ball team’s post-game midnight meal. It must be intentional and active, if it is to be redeeming at all. In addition to outreach activities, imagine what a statement it would make for a Christian family to find a sunrise worship service at the locale of the tournament and attend, with the player even wearing his uniform to the service.
Far too often we convince ourselves that by skipping church to attend a professional sports event or youth league, we will find ways to be salt and light to those around us. We then end up spending all our emotional energy at the game and have little salt to go around.
If this shift toward sports on Sundays continues, Christians who do not feel they can bring an evangelistic thrust to the tournament really should reconsider their priorities and involvement. If sports has no redeeming opportunities for evangelism and discipleship, then we should shudder to think of all the time, money and energy we have given to it. Sports thus can become an idol.
At its best, sports provides an avenue for physical training, excellence, character development and reflecting the character of Christ in a public way. To that end, every church member and church should reconsider its attitudes about sports on Sundays, actively looking for ways to honor Christ, seven days a week.