The World Cup and the Gospel

Pray as they play

Is there a way to use the World Cup in our evangelism, asks Dr Lincoln Harvey in The Tablet.

The World Cup is now well under way. We've had some brilliant games and some wonderful goals. It is shaping up to be a great tournament. But is there a way for us to use the World Cup in our evangelism? The short answer is yes. But we should be very careful. No one likes a spoilsport.

Despite football's popularity, many people can't work out what the fuss is about. The World Cup seems like a colossal waste of time. There's no crop being harvested, no product being made. It is unnecessary, useless, simply pointless, in fact.

Of course, football does have a point. To state the obvious, it has a goal. But the goal makes no sense outside the game. The ball doesn't fly into the net because it lowers cholesterol, nor because it helps build the economy. If things worked like that, we'd simply make them bigger, score more goals, gaining more benefits. But football can't be rationalised like that. It is, instead, radically self-contained.

To put this in technical terms, football is autotelic. Its goal is intrinsic. That's why the fans don't like it when it's made to serve an outside interest. We don't want it harnessed to a political agenda, nor polluted by finance, a profit margin. Football is not an instrument. That's why the Church should be careful. Sport should never be used, no matter how high the motive. Outside interests spoil the sport.

Read more:

The theology of the World Cup: football, evangelism and spoilsports (The Tablet)

Image: The Bible Society.

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