Thursday, February 23, 2017

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Soccer Evangelism

I really don’t like soccer (sorry). This is not a putdown to the millions across the globe who love the sport. I’ve honestly tried to watch the World Cup; there surely are some exciting moments, but I lose interest after a few minutes.

Now there are those in the world who simply cannot accept that I am not into soccer. So they attempt to persuade me to see that soccer is the best sport around; I’m perfectly OK with this sort of “evangelism” but as of yet I have not become a “soccer disciple.” How have some argued for their sport?

One argument goes like this: “it is the most popular sport in the world.” That is irrelevant to me; popularity does not dictate inherent value. Soccer isn’t even the most popular sport in America, so this argument sometimes singles out Americans as “weird” relative to global standards.

Another argument is: “you just don’t appreciate the finer points of soccer strategy.” That may be, but I don’t see how strategy is radically different or exclusive relative to other field sports. Besides, American football has tons of rather brilliant strategy, which is very interesting to me, but I’m not really much of a football fan. Scratch that line of reasoning.

Another assertion is: “Soccer is the most fast-paced and exciting sport.” Any professional sport that ends in a tie (‘nil to nil’) is not exciting to me. In my mind, a play at home plate from an outfield throw, or a last-second shot from 3-point range is an awful lot more exciting to me than anything in soccer. This “most” argument is also very intriguing to me when it comes from relativists (who deny the validity of absolute statements) … because how can anything be the “most exciting” in a purely relative world?

Another is: “well, soccer is more exciting than baseball.” (Ah, a retreat from absolutism … ) To each their own I suppose, but to those that have used this argument I usually reply with “you don’t appreciate the finer points of the strategy in baseball.” Sounds familiar?

Another is “Soccer fans are more sophisticated than baseball/hockey/football fans.” Can’t see it; I know great people who are fans of soccer and/or basketball. And I know some incredibly annoying soccer and/or basketball fans. I have yet to see any real difference between fans; fans of all sports at times do incredibly stupid things.

My point here is not to “bash” soccer. I fully accept that some people love soccer. But I have yet to discover anything in the sport itself or in the lives of those who love it that compels me to love soccer.

Unfortunately, this is often how our attempts to present our faith in Messiah come out during “evangelism.”

We try to persuade people that Yeshua is the only way to God, the only way to fulfillment. Yet we present our faith in ways that are, quite frankly, rather uncompelling. Why do we believe in Yeshua? “Well because so many around the world do.” When rejected, we counter with, “you just can’t appreciate the finer points of theology/prophecy” or … “but our faith is so exciting.” Sometimes we present Yeshua like we are endorsing a political candidate. Or we think that by “being tough” and saying harsh and even spiteful things that we are “in the spirit.” Or we put our faith in a bubble and divorce it from the real world by ignoring questions about human suffering. Often these arguments are no more compelling than the ones friends of mine tried to use on me to “convert” me to loving soccer; same arguments, different topic. Don’t get me wrong: we need to call out sin and we need to avoid a “fluffy” Gospel. But boiler-plate reasoning is a real turn off to many.

But often the reason we fail to be persuasive is not our apologetic strategy. Rather, it is that some believers in Yeshua live rather uninspiring lives. By “uninspiring,” I don’t mean “unexciting” and so on: I mean offering little that is to be admired by others. This is a real problem because in the faith Yeshua taught, life transformation should be evident; heck, it should be obvious. Yet in some believers, Messianic or otherwise, that is not the case. We/I go about our lives no differently than anyone else; we don’t live like repentant people. We don’t behave like people with something to live for as the early believers did. We quote Bible verses and espouse our brand of theology but we leave people wondering how these Biblical truths impacted us (save for our voting record). If you want to get an idea of what those who do not believe in Yeshua think of those who do, I wholly endorse this comprehensive study in the book "unChristian". It might just open your eyes by holding a mirror to believers in America.

The point of all of this is simple. If you really want to be an effective disciple (as Scripture commands), then mind how you walk with Yeshua. Don’t just regurgitate “apologetic tricks” that are often misapplied and don’t directly address real concerns people may have about our faith. Yeshua told us that if we had seen Him we had seen the Father (John 14:7); note that as others see you they should see Yeshua. If not, all the rhetoric and persuasion we attempt will come up short.

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