New national sports ministry network launched at Trent Bridge

Why should Christians engage with sport? The Rt Revd Tony Porter, the Bishop of Sherwood is passionate about making Ministry of Sport available to every diocese in the Church of England. To that end he invited each diocese to send two delegates to the historic Trent Bridge Cricket Ground last week to launch a special sports ministry network.

It was part of Bishop Tony’s commissioning statement as the Archbishops Sports Ambassador on 13th April that he should ‘ …build up relationships with those bodies that do not yet have a link with the Christian Church.’ He said:  “The purpose of the network is to involve parish churches within the diocese in the world of sport and to share the good news of Jesus.”

Notts Cricket Club’s Chief Executive, Lisa Pursehouse, welcomed more than 50 delegates, including one from Berlin, to the all day event held in the Derek Randall suite overlooking the famous cricket pitch.

Her opening words reflected Bishop Tony’s hope for the day:  “We share a passion for sport and we are here to talk openly and confidentially, to seek solutions that add value to the wider community and we are committed to working together.”

During his talk he emphasised the local church being a presence where sport for the Christian is just as much a mission field as going abroad or working amongst the business community, and warned against the celebrity culture: “This is not about sport, this is not about the Ministry of Sport, this is about Jesus.” He closed by saying: “I would be thrilled to hear in a year’s time that each diocese was having three prayer meetings a year. I pray that we will hear also of celebration events, taking Christians in Sport seriously, evangelistic events, but most important is rooting everything in prayer.”

Graham Daniels, Chief Executive of Christians in Sport embraced the first principle of his organisation to ‘Pray, Play and Say,’ encouraging delegates to be excited about Jesus, and have a vision to engage with people.

He said that sport and playing sport really matters, that it is “His gift to humanity, and a creation to be redeemed by people like us.”  He asked the question: ‘What can we do through and beyond the London Olympics to change the face of the legacy of sport?’

“We have something to say to people who yearn for the truth,” he continued. “The local church or gathering around the word of Christ and the sacrament must drive the mission and gospel in sport. We need to take the good news to those who haven’t heard as they’ve been playing sport all weekend!”

The statistics * point to a huge mission field, revealing that there are 150,000 sports clubs in the UK with 10 million people participating and at least 10,000 Christians involved in those clubs.

Managing Director of Christians in Sport, Keith Proctor said: “Christians need to get stuck in to the world of sport in some way, and be excellent, whether it be playing or in an admin role or whatever they do… and pray for opportunities to share their faith.”

There was a workshop exploring the vision and practical examples of sports ministry affecting sports clubs, communities and schools in each diocese which inspired great discussion. Three key outcomes were: Vision is crucial and needs top level leadership; a sports prayer meeting in each diocese is an effective communication hub; need to present the case for sports ministry in jargon-free (and churchmanship neutral) language.

Whilst delegates feed back to their respective dioceses, a task group will meet up next week to consider the next step in the light of the positive comments following the launch.

For more information about the Sports Ministry Network contact Bishop Tony Porter at bishopsherwood@southwell.anglican.org  or Keith Proctor at Christians in Sport: keith@christiansinsport.org.uk

*Source ‘Sports and Recreation Alliance’

Photo (Dan Matthams): shows Graham Daniels, CE of Christians in Sport; Lisa Pursehouse, CE of Nottts CC; and Bishop Tony Porter.

Trent Bridge group