A bold statement, which may sound a little strange or even crazy to you. You might be thinking to yourself: aren't these two completely different worlds?
I am a passionate footballer and a passionate missionary. Two things that, in my opinion, go really well together and have a lot in common.
What is a footballer? What is a missionary?
Google gives the following definitions for a soccer player and a missionary:
A footballer or football player is someone who plays soccer. Whether professionally, for 15 years or just a few months.
A missionary is someone who is sent on a religious mission, especially one sent to promote Christianity in a foreign country. Someone who is called to preach the gospel and make disciples of the nations.
So far, these two activities don't seem to go together very well.
Here are five points why the two things combine well:
1. Football Players Are Team Players
Football is a team sport. Footballers know that great success can only be achieved together as a team, that it is extremely important to be a cohesive team. A team that strengthens and supports each other. Likewise, everyone is equal and welcome on the football pitch, regardless of their background or origin.
Missionaries also work as a team. As a missionary, you work with people from different countries, cultures and denominations. In missions, it is important to work together in the body of Christ and to honor diversity.
2. Footballers Travel
Professional football players in particular travel to get to their games. But amateur soccer players also travel distances to get to their games. This distance is often not that far, maybe even just to the next village (my longest away trip was only 45 minutes). But traveling, whether far or wide, to do what you love (playing football) is part of football.
Missionaries travel in the same way. You often imagine a missionary going somewhere far away to Africa and that's not so far-fetched, as a missionary you travel a lot and I've actually been to Africa. But often it is simply a church or youth group not far away that is visited. And a missionary is also happy to take on these journeys to do what he loves.
3. Football Players Have Enthusiasm
Footballers are enthusiastic, on the pitch but especially off it. Personally, I could talk about this wonderful sport all the time: all the things I've experienced, victories, defeats. But also what's going on in the football world at the moment: who won against whom, which player has changed clubs etc. Footballers just can't stop talking about football.
As a missionary, you often have a similar characteristic: you can't stop talking about Jesus or telling others about him. To bring people closer to who Jesus is and what he accomplished on the cross.
4. Football Players Have Passion and Dedication
Footballers are passionate and dedicated people, for the sport but also for their favorite club. Many football fans would say that they love their club or would give everything for their club. Football fans build an emotional relationship with their club and for some this is also a big part of their identity. Friendships are formed between football fans that go far beyond football.
We also see this passion and dedication in missionaries who give everything for Jesus, love him and would do anything for him. Here too, faith, or the relationship with Jesus, becomes an identity.
5. Many Professional Footballers Are Christians
We can find some Christians in professional soccer: David Alaba, Keylor Navas, Jürgen Klopp, Kaka as well as many others publicly declare their faith and talk about how their faith in Jesus gives them strength.
We can see that footballers and missionaries have a lot in common and that a footballer is in a good position to be a missionary. Because the qualities of working together as a team, being enthusiastic or having passion and dedication are not only an advantage when playing soccer, but also as a missionary.
I am convinced that God wants to send footballers into missions to show God's love to people in a very practical way through sport.
Do you want to experience for yourself how soccer and missions go together?
In the Spring DTS 2024 football track we will get together as people who love football and sports. We will learn why football and missions fit together well and how we can reach people with God's love through football. The track will be full of learning but as well full of practical things and reaching out.