Several years later I began to follow Christ, and my life changed. But the gospel which I embraced was a narrow, “world-negating” gospel concerned primarily, if not exclusively, with a new relationship to God. Sports and competition had little place for the committed follower of Jesus Christ, in my understanding. Sacred activities such as prayer, worship, and evangelism were what really mattered. All other activities were secular—inferior, wasteful, and frivolous. I succumbed to what Shirl Hoffman calls a “degraded view of sport”, an attitude expressed in an article in an evangelical magazine in the early 1970s: “Among the various things we can relax with, athletics are low on the scale of demonstrable religious significance.”
I still remember the joy of discovery when I came to understand a much wider view of the gospel and fuller understanding of the Bible’s teaching on creation. The gospel was a gospel of the kingdom: God is restoring his rule over the whole creation. Seeing Jesus Christ in cosmic proportions as Creator, Lord, and Redeemer opened up a new, liberating understanding. I was able to understand sports and competition as gifts of God in creation to be richly enjoyed with thanksgiving.
Dr. Mike Goheen occupies the Geneva Chair of Worldview and Religious Studies at Trinity Western University, and is a Teaching Fellow in Mission at Regent College, Vancouver. A long-time pastor, worldwide lecturer, and author, he speaks and writes on mission and worldview for folk in many different confessional traditions.