When some of us think of football we may think of things like excessive testosterone, legalized violence, cutthroat competition, or an overused topic in sermon illustrations. We might think of middle-aged men who are trying to eradicate their own demons by screaming at a 10 year old who missed a tackle. We might think of the NFL work stoppage as players and management quibble over how to split 9 billion dollar profits. Or we may think of the creeping corruption in college football that is slowly eroding the purity of the game.
But what if the game of football could be used to stir the hearts of young men toward a life of character and service? What if football could become a means for inspiring young men to think beyond themselves, their team and their record? What if football could be the venue that instilled life changing lessons and values into the hearts of impressionable young men – and the whole experience changed the trajectory of their lives?
For the past several years, Greg Roeszler and his team of coaches have sought to bring these priorities to young football players in the Sacramento area through Greg’s “Playmakers” organization. As I’m writing this, about 300 players from around the area, including a team of deaf students, just completed participation in Playmaker’s annual football camp where football and life skills are being taught. Greg is relentless in his vision to change the way we think about sports and coaching. I have learned a great deal from him that has impacted how I approach coaching freshmen football. And Greg, and Playmakers is making a difference in our community.
Sometimes we scratch our head and wonder how to bring the Gospel to the world. Few things are more intimidating to us than the thought of talking to others about Jesus. And I get that. It’s not an easy thing to do. But one thing we can do is live in our world (whatever our world happens to be) with a missional mindset. We go to our jobs, our neighborhoods, our teams, our schools with the conviction that God has put us there to manifest the reality of His kingdom. We engage the world, in other words, with confidence that God is up to something in the lives of the people we interact with and He wants to work through us to spread the good news of His Gospel.
When we adopt this perspective, a whole new set of opportunities to share the Gospel unfold before us. Football practice becomes a mission field where we point young men toward what is good and excellent and right. The cubicle world of Intel becomes a place where we demonstrate what life is like in God’s kingdom. Our neighbors become people whom we pray for and love. Our job becomes more than a job. The teams are kids play on become venues where we seek to discern where God is moving. We feel the weight of a calling – to make disciples of Jesus – wherever we are and whatever we are doing.
The key then is for us to live out the truth of what we claim to believe. We engage our world with hopeful confidence that the Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of all people. When we think this way, and live this way, there simply is no greater adventure!