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The Future of the Church, Youth and Sports: How the Church Can Impact Youth

in a Culture of the Athlete

Anthony Bass, Ex NFL Player

Athletics for years has offered a strategic opportunity for the Kingdom of God to make
great advances in our culture. Has the church taken advantage of this platform to save the
sinner and empower the believer through the power of God's Holy Spirit?

Saturday, April 10 - 10:45 a.m. at the Learning Resource Center 235 at Oral Roberts
University.
Athletics for years has offered a strategic opportunity for the Kingdom of God to
make great advances in our society. And now with the loss of discipline within our
culture, poor health, and the recession, the church has a kronos advantage that would
allow it to exponentially advance the Kingdom and to instill biblical values into the
culture at large. The Church can impact youth in a culture that exalts athletes
through a unified proactive effort via consistently highlighting athletes and coaches
who perpetuate biblical values, by utilizing athletics as a means of developing
personal discipline, through incorporating athletic dietary habits to promote good
health, and by standing in the gaps caused by the recession to expand God’s work.
As a result, this platform will allow the church a comprehensive way to save the
sinner and empower the believer through the power of God's Holy Spirit.

It is not a coincidence that the "Businessmen's Revival" unfolded in the wake


of the 1857 market crash…Paul R. Dienstberger notes…our forefathers in earlier
generations and not just church leaders had an opinion that the panic had a Divine
Hand of retribution because of the idolatry of money. Samuel I. Prime, editor of the
New York Observer, wrote that the panic was "a judgment." He, along with other
contemporaries, found the cause in a lust for mammon accompanying the Gold Rush and
the rapid industrialization of the country.i Twenty years later C. L. Thompson wrote "We
were becoming a people without God in the world. In His providence the greed of gain
was preparing its own remedy…it must be noted that there was a vast multiplication of
the Fulton Street meetings during the two month crisis.ii The Fulton Street meetings
stared, on September 23, 1857, when Jeremiah Lanphier held his first prayer meeting in
an upstairs room of the Old Dutch Reformed Church Building on Fulton Street in New
York City. He prayed alone for the first half hour and then six men joined him and the
numbers grew week to week until the 3rd Great Awakening was in full bloom. It ignited
Revival in the U.S. and abroad.iii In January, 1858 excitement had spread across the
nation and the press began reporting a "Businessman's Revival."iv

In John 3:8 Jesus, responding to Nicodemus’ queries about the Spirit, says,
8
“ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it
comes from or where it is going, so is everyone who is born of the Spirit." God is
moving even though we can not tangibly see His hand; however, we can see the
affects of His power influencing our world. As the church, we have to have the
discernment to see that God is moving and join along in what He is doing. Henry
Blackaby says, “When God reveals to you what He is doing, that is when you need
to respond.”v How do we respond? First we can help change the myth of the athlete.
Here is a joke currently infecting social media outlets: GUESS WHICH ONE.......36
have been accused of spousal abuse, 7 have been arrested for fraud, 19 have been
accused of writing bad checks, 117 have directly or indirectly bankrupted
businesses, 3 have done time for assault, 71 repeat 71 cannot get a credit card due
to bad credit, 14 have been arrested on drug-related charges, 8 have been arrested
for shoplifting, 21 currently are defendants in lawsuits, and 84 have been arrested
for drunk driving in the last year…Can you guess which organization this is? NBA
Or NFL? Neither, it’s the 535 members of the United States Congress.
For years the enemy has ransacked the image of the athlete; however, we can
use athletics as a conduit of developing disciples, but first we must deal with the
image of the athlete. From the Greeks to the present day, the influence of great athletes
has been tremendous. However, today's media has enhanced sports and the people who
play them dramatically. Athletes are seen all over the place, we see them in commercials,
on television shows, we read about them in magazines, and we watch them on national
television all of the time. Sports are some of the most watched television programs.
People of all ages look up to these athletes.vi Sports and Sports celebrities have become
major spectacles of today’s media culture. Sports celebrates have been looked upon as
role models for decades, and with the technological advances in broadcast and
interactive media, it appears that famous and infamous athletes are everywhere.
Interestingly, a recent study found that females agreed more than males that athlete role
models influence them to buy certain brands. vii

Even if you are indifferent to the subject one would have to concede that athletics
and the influence of the athlete are here to stay. Research shows over the last two
decades the growth of youth sports has reflected the popularity of professional sports in
our society. Sporting events and news are available to the public twenty-four hours a day
on television and radio: sports are an enormous industry. The outstanding popularity of
the sports industry has profoundly affected youth sports organizations. An
estimated twenty-five million children age six through eighteen participate in at
least one school or community based athletic program. These numbers increase
exponentially as the age of boys and girls entering sports keeps falling.viii However,
because of the prevailing sordid myth of the athlete most often agree with the underling
implication of conventional wisdom—most athletes are trouble makers. However, the
church has an opportunity to reverse the curse and deconstruct the pejorative stereo type
athletes often carry. The church can begin to create its own myth by highlighting players
and coaches who perpetuate biblical values. We must intentionally do this because the
monolithic stance the media has fabricated for the athlete. And, by redeeming the myth
we could encourage many more young people to participate in athletics.

Dworkin, Larson, and Hansen (2003) found that young people viewed
extracurricular activities as an important growth experience in which psychological
skills such as goal setting, time management, and emotional control were learned.ix
One study involving urban youth shows sports involvement can have positive
influences on social competence and self-esteem and may deter early marijuana use.
Another study involving rural African American girls finds that sports involvement
may decreases the likelihood of delinquent behaviors.x Additionally, sports also offer
great social and physical benefit to the society. The zeal to win and do well in sports
creates strong values and attitudes in people which are also reflected in other aspects of
their lives. Sports help in the development of a strong social environment which
motivates people to constantly perform to the best of their abilities.xi As a society we are
now embracing the fact that athletics has an emotional benefit; yet, we would be remised
not to highlight the physical benefits of athletics. Young athletes learn both fundamental
motor skills (e.g., running, jumping and hopping) and sport-specific skills (e.g., how to
putt a golf ball or shoot a jump shot in basketball) that allow them to stay active
[throughout their lives.] Often times because of participating in sports early in life
individuals develop an appreciation of fitness, which leads to a lifelong pursuit to stay in
shape.xii The residual benefits for playing sports are many; however, the one I would like
to highlight is discipline. Sports are an excellent way to enhance self- discipline. It trains
you to set goals, focus your mental and emotional energies, and become physically fit.

Participating in sports provides a situation where you learn to want to do


well to accomplish goals and work hard and strive to do your best, which, in turn,
teaches you to integrate the same thought processes and disciplines into your
everyday life.xiii This self-discipline is needed today especially in light of the obesity
epidemic, which is ravaging our country. One of the biggest health stories of the year has
been the rise in obesity among both adults and children in the U.S. We've all heard so
much about the "obesity epidemic" that it's easy to think the story is being blown out of
proportion. After all, people putting on a few pounds may not seem to warrant the
proclamation of a national emergency. But while obesity may not be the Black Death, it
is a severe public health crisis.xiv Today in America one of 7 low-income, preschool-aged
children is obese… Experts agree that as more and more obese children become obese
adults, the diseases associated with obesity, such as heart disease, cancer, and especially
diabetes will surge.

According to Marion Nestle, PhD, chair of the department of nutrition and


food studies at New York University, the costs of these illnesses will be
"astronomical." James O. Hill, PhD, agrees. Hill, director of the Center for Human
Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, claims that at the
rate we're going, obesity-related diabetes alone "will break the bank of our
healthcare system."xv The prevalence of obesity in low-income two to four year-olds
increased from 12.4 percent in 1998 to 14.5 percent in 2003.xvi Through athletics the
church has a practical means of teaching the biblical principle of stewardship that
will lay the groundwork for solid disciples and will help curb the obesity epidemic.
Athletics not only disciplines our bodies but it disciplines our souls via instructing us
what to put in our bodies. Now, Sports nutrition can be a complicated topic for athletes
simply seeking a balanced way to eat healthy; most athletes desire is to focus on eating a
satisfying meal that will also help them achieve peak performance,xvii but there are some
basic principles in sports nutrition that are applicable to nearly every athlete.xviii

If playing athletics simply taught you the habit of eating right to perform your
best, that in itself would pay huge dividends on our cultural war on obesity. The truth is,
our culture’s spiritual bankruptcy is affecting all of life. This is a fact we can tangibly
see with the state of our economy. Because of our economy, Virginia high school
athletics, could take a major hit if proposed budget cuts to sports programs are
approved, affecting thousands of student-athletes across Fairfax County, Virginia.
The cuts include a 10 percent reduction to activities and athletics -- around $1.8
million -- that would see the elimination of freshman sports, winter cheerleading
and indoor track, as well as the elimination of the advisor for the drill team, a 50
percent reduction of swim and dive practice times, the consolidation of
transportation services and the elimination of around 300 coaching supplements.
Student-athletes may also get hit with a $100 fee per sport to participate in all
Virginia High School League athletic programs. The fee is estimated to bring in an
additional $900,000.xix

In America, there are about 25 million athletes ages 6 – 18. And, it takes about 2.5
million coaches to lead them. It is noteworthy that these 2.5 million coaches spend an
average of eighty hours a season with our kids. The majority of these coaches are
volunteers…xxNow with the recession the need is exacerbated, and the church has a prime
opportunity to stand in the gap. Astonishingly, there is no one entity that runs athletics
across the country. Therefore, we, as the church, have a prime opportunity to walk
through this open door before the world says, “We don’t want God in our sports either.”
Within Christendom, when it comes to exercise most people reference 1 Timothy 4:8 and
use it as a way of devaluating exercise. 1 Timothy 4:8 reads, “ 8For bodily exercise
profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life
that now is, and of that which is to come.” What the NASB and KJV translates as
“profiteth little” in greek is pro.j ovli,gon Which is translated “for a short time” in
Js 4:14, and could be translated the same in 1 Ti 4:8. I observe a contrast between profits
as short time and profits now and that which is to come.

The text is not saying that exercise has lesser value in contrast to spiritual
exercise because the same adjective is used to qualify both actions. The text
communicates both practices are beneficial, but the former practice will only last as
long as we have these mortal bodies, and the latter practice will be beneficial
throughout all eternity. [faith, hope, and love] [The scripture may suggest the latter
practice will also be a habit we keep throughout all eternity as well.] Therefore,
exercise has tremendous value for the believer; all believers should be in shape. Are
you in shape? Athletics for years has offered a strategic opportunity for the Kingdom of
God to make great advances in our culture. However, because of the loss of discipline
within our culture, poor health, and the recession, the church has a tactical advantage for
not only exponentially advancing the Kingdom but also for instilling biblical values into
the culture at large. The Church can impact youth in a culture that exalts athletes through
a unified proactive effort via consistently highlighting players and coaches who
perpetuate biblical values, by utilizing athletics as a means of developing personal
discipline, through incorporating athletic dietary habits to promote good health, and by
standing in the gaps caused by the recession to expand God’s work. As a result, this
platform will allow the church a comprehensive way to save the sinner and empower the
believer through the power of God's Holy Spirit.

Involved

People becoming involved

Work shop
Logistical issues
i http://www.prdienstberger.com/nation/Chap6ndp.htm
ii http://www.prdienstberger.com/nation/Chap6ndp.htm
iii http://tinyurl.com/yjgvssc
iv http://www.prdienstberger.com/nation/Chap6ndp.htm
v Experiencing God
vi http://www.megaessays.com/viewpaper/55942.html
vii http://tinyurl.com/ylayt45
viii http://www.exampleessays.com/viewpaper/76751.html
ix Research in Youth Sports: Critical Issues Status* White Paper Summaries of the Existing Literature 11-01-04
x http://www.athleticscholarships.net/sports-training-environment.htm
xi http://psyblogger.com/influence/influence-of-sports-in-our-society/
xii 4 Hedstrom & Gould Research in Youth Sports: Critical Issues Status 2004
xiii http://www.essentiallifeskills.net/self-discipline.html
xiv http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/obesity-epidemic-astronomical
xv http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/obesity-epidemic-astronomical
xvi http://www.obesityinamerica.org/
xvii http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/sportsnutrition/a/SportsNutrition.htm
xviii http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/sportsnutrition/tp/SimpleSportsNutrition.htm
xix http://www.fairfaxtimes.com/cms/story.php?id=932
xx http://www.exampleessays.com/viewpaper/76751.html