Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Mahaney on Sports and Discipleship

C.J. Mahaney wrote an excellent post today at the T4TG blog on how sports can be a vehicle for discipleship. Here's the central idea:
Playing sports holds great potential for growth in godliness for our sons, but only if we as fathers lead our sons theologically and strategically. I fear that all too often our sons devote significant time to playing sports with little growth in godliness.
Many people think and teach that music has inherent value for the church (and in Christian schools), but sports is an evil that may be (or perhaps should not be) tolerated. I think that argument is preposterous.

Athletics can, and perhaps most often are, misused and over-emphasized. But I'll argue that music is, too. The performance-orientation in athletics programs is just as prevalent in fine arts programs. In fact, it may be even more dangerous in fine arts programs since we're not alert to it. The carnality that is demonstrated on the soccer field or on the basketball court (or in the coach's box) is no more reprehensible than the carnality on display at the fine arts festival. Oh, it's far more subtle in the high culture of Bach, Beethoven, and John W. Peterson, but it's there. I've heard parents say that parenting boys is easier than girls because you know when the boy is sinning. I don't know if that's true, but perhaps (don't blame the messenger, ladies) the people who say such things offer an analogy that is relevant to this discussion of athletics and music.

The bottom line to me is that music is not inherently more valuable than sports simply because you can play the piano in a church service but not kick a soccer ball. Worship is marked by spirit and truth, not by the external forms of activity that are taking place. If athletics can be melded with discipleship in such a way as to create young worshipers, then I'm on board. Sounds like that's what Mahaney is doing.


Paul said...


I read CJ's post this morning and am glad you gave it some time; 'twas definitely worthy. Your reflections are excellent, big-time dittos here.

Bring on The Madness!!

Josh said...

CJ's post is right on the money and your parrallels to music are also undeniable, Ben. However, the problem lies with many coaches, administrators and even pastors who have forgotten to use athletics for discipleship. Winning seemed to be the only focus and the best athletes were often praised publicly for great athletic accomplishments. Sometimes they were even ascribed a level of spiritual maturity within the Christian school or youth group based simply on the fact that they were athletic.
Athletics are definitely overemphasized in our culture. However this is not a reason to shun athletics for the believer, it is an opportunity to advance the cause of Christ using the platform of athletics. Many underestimate the impact that a godly coach or an outstanding athletic who is committed to serving Christ can have.

Josh said...

I love how you lumped together "Bach, Beethoven, and John W. Peterson" without missing a beat! It's a little like saying "Calvin, Edwards, and Rick Warren."

Ben said...

Just checking to see if anyone actually reads this stuff.

Josh said...

"Barry Sanders, Walter Payton, and Kevin Mack."