After a record-breaking start to the year in terms of rainfall, you would be forgiven for missing the signs that summer is on the way. But if you are not smelling the familiar scent of neighbours’ barbeques or eating ice creams just yet, for those who love sport, the calendar will tell you that June has arrived, and the commencement of summer sports will soon be upon us. There will be a feast of sporting activities, with tennis at Wimbledon, cricket at Lords, Formula One at Silverstone, as well as the football European Championships, the cricket T20 World Cup and the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris. It is enough to saturate even the most ardent sporting enthusiast! So, for those of us who love sports and Jesus, these events give us even more opportunities to combine our passions.

It was such a delight for me recently, to join Christians in Sport on their podcast, to talk about how people are coming to faith presently and how, as an organisation, they are using their platform to invite people onto the next stage of their faith journey this summer.

There were four key takeaways from our conversation about how sport connects with people coming to faith and offer great encouragement for how we can apply these, this sporting season:

  1. Social media – the Talking Jesus research supports the idea that social media and web searches play a significant role in people coming to faith. A pastor recently shared with me that he had seen more people come to his church through TikTok than personal invitations in the last six months. In the sporting world, social platforms allow Christian athletes the opportunity to tell their stories of faith directly to their fans. This helps build plausibility structures for those exploring and allows Christians to share these on their pages and platforms.
  2. Friendship – sport is an extraordinary way to make friends. Some of my best friends started out as teammates. It can be a great vehicle for a conversation starter and create relational depth. I have created many deep bonds with others over the mutual highs and heartaches of sporting victory and defeat. Most people who become a Christian today credit a friend, a neighbour, a colleague or a family member as the most significant human influence. We don’t become friends with people to convert them, but we recognise that good news spreads fastest through relationships. 
  3. Hospitality – the events of this summer provide the perfect excuse to get together, build relationships and bless our neighbours. The futurist Patrick Dixon, says that this is key for the church in this season. In the Gospel of Luke, there are over 50 references to food. Scholars note that in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is either going to a meal, at a meal or coming from a meal. If you want to be more like Jesus, eat with more people. When new believers talk about the key conversations that turned doubt into faith, they often describe them as taking place over food. Getting people together to talk about the real things of life, their hopes, fears and challenges over pasta bake or coffee is where the transformative conversations and prayers take place for so many. Why not gather people around the great sporting events of this summer, host and be hosted, and invite Christians and those still on a journey? And pray that the conversation goes deeper than the scoreline!
  4. The Bible – in the Talking Jesus research, in answer to the question, How did you come to follow Jesus for yourself?’, after growing up in a Christian family, the next cited factor is reading the Bible. After Google, it is where non-Christians look for answers on Christianity. In a world of fake news, people are finding truth and hope in the pages of scripture. One of the great blessings of the Christian community is that organisations provide superb booklets to share the good news with Bible verses and stories of Christian athletes. This summer, why not take advantage of the tracts being offered by great organisations to help people engage with the word of God and give them to friends or use them at invitational events?

There are loads of ways to engage in sport and mission this summer. This page from the team at Christians in Sport is an excellent starting point. I pray you enjoy the sporting banquet and that many people say it was in the summer of 2024 that they chose to follow Jesus.

Talking Jesus report 2022

Talking Jesus report 2022

Groundbreaking research on the state of faith in the UK Find out more
Friendship Jesus' Way: Why friendship is part of the God story

Friendship Jesus' Way: Why friendship is part of the God story

In the lead up to International Friendship Day, Phil Knox sets out this four-part series on why friendship is something we should all be investing in as Jesus followers