Well the football’s truly here…and, although you won’t see any flags on my car, I’m enthusiastic about the World Cup. Naturally, I realise there’s many who can’t stand the beautiful game and for them the final on July 11th can’t come soon enough! But whether we rate football or not, think about this: that God came to our turf to share our struggle and play the game of life with us. Wow! Football is a “religion” and the flag emblem of the cross of St.George, as well as being symbolic of English nationalism, is filled with Christian meaning. The famous story of George and the dragon is well known. He told the people if they would believe in Jesus and be baptized he would kill the dragon. And 15,000 were baptized! That’s effective evangelism!
Now this may take some imagination but there are “dragons” today and as a church we have a special responsibility to be honest as great is the darkness that covers the earth. Satan is real – “the god of this evil world” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and many of the difficulties that prevent us from accomplishing God’s work can be attributed to him (Ephesians 6:12). However, if God wants us to “make disciples” (Matthew 28:19f) He will give us the strength and courage to do it despite any obstacles that may come our way. Really we need to be like those powerful floodlights in football stadiums – “light for the whole world” (Matthew 5:14-16) – shining for those who are playing in darkness and in danger of losing the game. And like a good football team we do this more effectively when we train and focus together, combining our lights as the priesthood of all believers to expose the injustice and cruelty of our world and ultimately to win people for Jesus. Moreover, as we mature in Christ we should have an even greater assurance (James 1:2-4) and if people think we’re foolish then “We are fools for the sake of Christ” (1 Corinthians 4:10). There is no comparison between an astronaut walking on the moon and God, in His son Jesus Christ, actually walking on the earth and our mission is to get people excited about this Good News which is multicultural and universal.
I came across this saying once that “an average church is filled with people doing jobs. A growing church is filled with people doing ministry.” I think there’s a case for being more daring and finding new ways of telling people that they may know God is with them. Atheists dismiss it outright, humanists insist everything must have a rational explanation, others argue that Christianity has failed because sin and suffering is still present in the world, and yet the Gospel is infectious (yes like football fever!) when people see that it’s not just about discussing or theorising our faith, but actually living it out and showing that it’s about a real person and that relating to Jesus is a vital experience. And the real challenge for us in this secular (post-Christian?) age, as well as being open-minded, enterprising and inventive is to remain Biblical. Gospel truth must never be compromised to make it more acceptable, but our presentation and methods can be altered to suit each situation (so clear in the Book of Acts). Lastly, victory for the best team in the World Cup (come on England!) is nothing compared to the victory the individual has in Christ.