Football/Drama: Using social activities to win souls for Christ
It is now the vogue in some churches to organise such social events as drama, entertainment and football matches, among others, to draw youths into their fold. The motive, apparently, is to catch them young for the Lord Jesus, as well as, encourage them to discover their potentials and maximise these for their own benefits and the society. Much as well-intentioned as this might appear, some people are likely to read other meanings into it, thinking spirituality has nothing to do with such social activities. But really, is there any advantage in such engagements? How effective are these methods in winning the souls of these young ones and keeping them? Aren’t there other ‘serious and conventional’ ways of evangelising and capturing the youths for the Lord’s Kingdom? CHRIS IREKAMBA reports.
‘Some Have Tried To Make Gospel So Easy, As If God Is Desperate’
(Most Rev. Emmanuel A.S. Egbunu, Bishop, Lokoja Diocese/Archbishop of Lokoja Province, Kogi State, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion)
There are basically three main approaches to evangelism: pre-evangelism, which involves preparatory initiatives to attract an individual or community to the gospel; there is the actual gospel encounter, which involves specific programmes geared towards explaining what God has done about human sin and the need to respond to God’s offer of salvation in Christ; and then there is the post-evangelistic stage, which has to do with following up and building up on the response to the gospel encounter. Some call this discipleship, and it is life-long.
As for the unconventional methods of reaching the youth, such as, football, drama, and the likes, that would easily fit into the pre-evangelistic mode. Missionaries also do this by providing educational, agricultural and health institutions or other social amenities to meet the felt needs of the people and win their trust before the actual gospel encounter. The Lord Jesus went to the Sea of Galilee, where people could be found; Apostle Paul went to the Temple of Areopagus (Acts 17:22-34) in Athens, and reasoned with the philosophers to gain their attention. There is nothing wrong with such initiatives, if only they are not allowed to become ends in themselves. These things are meant to meet the people for their interest to be able to point them to the greater offer of God. Whoever wants to sell his wares must go to the market; whoever wants to get the attention of people to the gospel must also first pay attention to their interests and needs. It’s a matter of building relationships to establish trust. People’s response to the gospel will be largely dependent on how much they think you care about what interests them before telling them about the God, Who cares much more for them. If not done, they could become suspicious of the evangelist’s intention.
Some have used music, movies and dinner for that purpose. Of course, proper boundaries must be set. We cannot violate God’s ethical and holy standards in the name of attracting people to the gospel, as some people have tried to do. Some people have tried to make the gospel so easy, as if God is desperate that they get saved anyhow. While it is true that we can come to God just as we are, we cannot come to God anyhow, on our own terms.
Some people suggest that all your problems will be taken away, when you decide for Christ. The biggest problem – SIN – is solved. The other ones find their level. We must also follow people up and build up their faith through teaching from the Bible, so they know how to remain saved and live lives to please God in the power of the Holy Spirit, Whom God gives to anyone who comes to Christ.
‘Effectiveness Depends On The Organisers Of Such Programme’
(Archbishop Joseph Imariabe Ojo, General Overseer/presiding Bishop, Calvary Kingdom Church, Lagos-Badagry Expressway)
The conventional method of evangelism has always been person to person. With this method, the person attempting to lead someone to Christ is able to do the presentation and help the person encounter Christ and say the sinner’s prayer. After that, he is also able to follow up the convert for a reasonable length of time.
There will be nothing wrong in using the so-called unconventional methods, as far as; the goal of the programme is to win souls for Christ and the Kingdom. The organisers should be able to include in the programme salvation message and give opportunity to people to decide for Christ. The effectiveness of it depends on the organisers of such programmes. If you know what your goal is before the programme, you should do all you can to pursue it to a logical conclusion.
The enabling environment should be the distinguishing factor in deciding, which method one should use. If the environment is conducive for a crusade, open air preaching, street witnessing or one-on-one, then one can decide, which method will be appropriate. The goal is soul winning. Attempt must be made to ensure that people are led to receive Christ, as their Lord and Saviour. It is possible for someone to find Christ watching a drama or football match that is well coordinated with soul-winning in mind. Care must be taken not to make the mistake of thinking that a huge crowd equates that many souls have been saved or that all participated in the programme were all saved. Their salvation should be the goal of such programme.
There is also a very disturbing trend these days, where some churches hire comedians to come and entertain people during programmes. This kind of programme does not lead to the salvation of souls. I believe comedy should be left for the entertainment world and not the church. In Church, whatever we do should be seen as ministering to people and not entertaining them.
‘This Kind Of Strategy Should Involve People Who Have A Kingdom Mindset’
(Pastor (Dr.) Johnson .F. Odesola, Assistant General Overseer (Admin/Personnel)/Pastor-in-Charge Region 1, The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Redemption Camp)
Youth generally love sports. Many of these youths may not like or be interested in attending church, but they can spend hours playing games. Sport provides a great platform to spend time with them in their environment. Through sports, many lives could be impacted and transformed by God’s grace. However, the most important key is that this kind of strategy should involve people with a kingdom mindset.
The use of sport is a means of evangelising for Christ. Apparently, when you organise football, for example, you will definitely see a crowd of young fellows around, and afterward you can share the word of God and make an altar call.
It is true there are many negative things associated with sports in this contemporary time, but there is also a lot of good associated with it. Sport is neutral; it is neither good nor bad, depending on the person involved in it. We believe the church could help redeem sports and it could be one of the most powerful tools to reach youth and young ones for God’s glory.
The advantages in sports include physical gains; physical exercise is good for mind, body and spirit. Furthermore, team sports are good for learning accountability, dedication and leadership, among many other traits. Putting it all together by playing a sport is a winning combination. For young people, playing sports also reduces the amount of idle time that could get teens into trouble, because the idle hand is the devil’s workshop. Sports are an escape from peer pressure and a stress relief for some participants. Sports help you to be more self-confident. The health gains include, giving strength and stamina, as well as, reducing body weight. Sport is very relational; whether the sport is organised or recreational, participants may build relationships they would not have otherwise. High school and college athletes often hang out and become good friends with teammates. Lastly, sports break down every kind of barrier, such as, tribal, religious, etc.
There are also the spiritual gains. For instance, if new converts are properly mentored and supported, it helps to address the needs of youth, and helps young people to get involved in evangelism, discipleship and church planting. Through the use of sport, church can be seen as being approachable, relevant, and concerned about their environment.
In terms of costs, while no amount of money can be considered too much, when seeking to win souls for Jesus, the souls won per thousand Naira spend is far higher, when you compare the sports platform to all other platforms. The greatest attraction lies in the fact that sportsmen, women and enthusiasts gather at different locations. Rather than throwing punches in the wind, your evangelism effort is taken to and focused on the location. The area that calls for great attention is how to follow up and ensure that the new converts remain in the Lord. Another area that calls for attention is how to ensure the sportsmen and women keep playing the game they love and at the same time, are exposed to Christian teachings. Over time, the love for Jesus and His kingdom will outweigh the love for sports.
‘As Long As A Method Is Not Sinful, It Can Become A Divine Tool In God’s Hands’
(Bishop (Dr.) Chris Kwakpovwe, Publisher, Our Daily Manna)
Any method can be used to win souls. Drama and football, among others can be used to reach the youth. Likewise, organising dinner and other more sophisticated methods can also be used to reach adults and more sophisticated people.
Indeed, anything or method can be used to win souls because God is in a hurry to reach men.
The devil is also in a hurry, and he is doing overtime to win souls.
As long as a method is not sinful, it can become a divine tool in God’s hands to reach the world. Heaven at last is the goal!
‘If Sole Aim Is To Convert Them To Organiser’s Church, Then The Idea Is Fake’
(Fr. Prof. Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua, Director of Mission/Dialogue, Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Abuja/Consultor, Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims (C.R.R.M), Vatican City)
Football and drama falls into the form of dialogue of social engagement, encounter and friendship. Through this media, it is possible to harness the potentials of young people. This can only bring them to the knowledge of Christ, if the Christians in the group behave in a way and manner that their actions could witness to the life of Jesus Christ. In this context, the good behaviour of the Christians becomes a practical gospel. I do not think that the expression: “Churches are now using unconventional methods or social means to engage/evangelise the youths, by introducing football and drama, among others, as a means to reach out to them and share the love of Christ with them” is appropriate in this discourse. The gospel is to be preached at all times through words and actions.
I have no basis to really judge how effective these methods have been in winning souls and ensuring that these young ones are saved and remain saved. I say this because there is no art to find the mind’s construction on the face. However, those who use football and drama as a means of winning souls could be thinking of making the youths change from one religion to the other or fishing members from one denomination to the other. I think this is a very wrong motive. If the sole aim of bringing the youths together is to convert them to the Church of the organiser of the events, the disadvantage is that fake and self-made pastors would use the occasion to discredit and demonise other denominations from where they are hoping to win members. If the convener aims at making the youth’s better human beings, one could talk of the advantages. Now another poser, “How and at what point is the gospel preached during football and drama? Perhaps, the drama could centre on the life of Christ and African communal values that are also Christocentric, but what is the football centred on? Ordinarily, football and drama fall within the discipline of dialogue and not evangelisation in the real sense of proclamation of the word akin to the pulpit.
‘Proper Philosophy Should Be To Use Them As Means And Not As An End’
(Pastor Mike Onyeka, Senior Pastor/Vision Bearer of Victorious People Assembly Intl Inc. (House of Praise), Aba, Abia State)
No Church that is conscious of its responsibilities can afford to play with the destiny of its young ones. They are the next generation of that Church and of Christians in their respective families.
The main need of the youths in every church is how to get them to become born again and disciple them to enable them remain Christians even after becoming adults. The Bible said we should train a child the way he should go, so that even when he becomes an adult, he will not depart from it. So, you need to reach them first by getting their attention and two, by making the gospel attractive to them according to their age groups.
Things such as drama, football and dancing help to draw their attention. But the proper philosophy should be to use them as means and not as an end. As much as possible, the contents and environment of these activities must be spiritual and Jesus centred. The instructors and teachers of these activities must be first and foremost Christians and not just actors, dancers or footballers.
It is also important that the Church be interested in the secular education of its young ones. They should be assisted to go to school and also acquire vocations. Periodic mass academic and vocational training programmes should be part of the church programmes.
Jesus looked for the people. He went to wherever He could find them and used every situation He needed to get the gospel across to them. But He never lost the focus, the gospel of the kingdom. It would be counter productive to make church programmes too dry for the young ones in the guise of holiness or spirituality and then force them to seek for entertainment outside the church. It is better to give them wholesome entertainment in the church and preserve them for Christ.
‘I Know A Bishop That Got Converted Through Football’
(The Rt. Rev. (Dr.) Peter Ogunmuyiwa, Bishop, Diocese of the North/Abuja of the African Church/Coordinating Chaplain, CAN, National Ecumenical Centre, Abuja)
Generally, the youths are the life of any organisation. In our church, we also undertake such programmes for our youths. In addition to football, we also have Jesus movie, Life and Alive Billgate, Boyscout and Boys Brigade. These are means of bringing the gospel to them, and I want you to know it has been effective. I know a bishop in my church that got converted to Christianity through football. He became a Christian in the church and today; he is a bishop in the church. I think some of these things are good at catching the youths for Christ. You know that these youths are very exuberant. Little things such as, football and other social means attract them. So, I think sports and other social means are very good means of winning their hearts to Christ.
For instance, we organise football competition between one diocese and another and in this exercise, our women are not left out. We also have table tennis, Bible quiz and drama from where we got so many converts. At each of the programme, we distribute tracts because we have spectators that are not church members and so, we let them know that what they are doing is for Christ and before the game starts, prayer is made. Also at intervals, we preach Christ to them, that He is the greatest goal anybody can aspire to have in life and they should embrace Him. So, we use what they have to give them the picture of the greater goal, which is when you receive Jesus Christ into your life, which earns them the kingdom of God. So, we have different types of games that are introduced on yearly basis and many youths look forward to them. Of course, not all readily accept Christ, but there is no time a game is organised that we don’t witness people giving their lives to Christ. So, I think it is a good means of evangelisation. In fact, we have one Sunday in a month for Christian drama for the youths and you will see non-Christians coming to church because of that and joining in the drama and with time they get converted.
For instance, we have so many that are not clergy but they are very good Christians.
Are there disadvantages? Yes, there are. For instance, if these youths are not properly guided, especially the ones that are good Christians, by the time you introduce them into this kind of thing, they might leave after they had become skillful. Some of them may not want to come back to the church and before you know it, they begin to identify with clubs and such other things. If it is not properly controlled, they may fight and quarrel with each other, which is why the adults are always there to control and regulate what they are do.
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