Athletes from around the world will soon converge in Sochi, Russia, for the 22nd Olympic Winter Games in February 2014, and millions across the globe will gather around their television sets to watch. For Christians, this creates a unique opportunity to share the gospel, not only at the games but within their own communities.
While it is important to use the Olympics as an opportunity for ministering to, and sharing the gospel with, those in the host city of Sochi, and to be a witness to people from the many nations who will gather there, it is equally important for Christians to use the Olympics as an opportunity to spread the gospel around their own communities.
To help meet the challenges of this task, the Engage Sochi team has prepared a resource kit called “Engage Your Community.” The packet has been designed to help Christians use the Olympic Games as a way to share the gospel regardless of where they are.
The games are one of few reoccurring events that cause people from around the globe to put their differences aside and bond together.
Both the Olympic motto and Olympic creed remind us that to be human is to continue in our struggle against the negative forces of this world.
The Olympic motto’s challenge of “Citius, Altius, Fortius” (Faster, Higher, Stronger) are concepts that stir feelings of greatness within us. And yet, the Apostle John reminds Christians that greatness comes not from what the world sees, but who we are in God’s eyes and through our relationship with Jesus Christ (1 John 4:4-6).
The Olympic creed reads, “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”
As those who have put our faith in Jesus, we are a people who are “more than conquerors.” We have been promised victory, and the prize for that victory is not an earthly medal that will fade and tarnish over time, but a crown that will last forever (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).
“The message we have to share is so much more precious than winning a gold medal, something only a few ever get the chance to do,” said Marc Ira Hooks, co-director of Engage Sochi. “We are talking about something that every person can have – a personal relationship with God. And the Olympic colors help tell that story.” Hooks noted that the colors used in the Olympic rings are the same colors that Southern Baptists have used for years to share the gospel.
“We are very excited about this project,” he said. “The second the torch is lit in Sochi, people from around the word will be tuned-in to what is happening in Sochi. What better way to start a conversation?”
Prepared by the Engage Sochi team and written by church leaders across America, the “Engage Your Community” resources kit contains Olympic outreach ideas, sermon outlines, and small-group lessons for every age group.
The kit also includes sheet music for the Engage Sochi theme song, “Where the Sea Meets the Snow,” written especially for the project by Nashville worship leader and songwriter Jeff Bourque.
“This is not just a thing for churches in the States,” Hooks added. “Churches from around the world will be using these materials to help reach the people in their communities share the message of Jesus with their friends and neighbors.”
Hooks said the packet is available in Russian and will be used by Russian-language churches across Russia and Europe. In addition, churches in other countries will host special Olympic-themed services and events using these materials.
To download the “Engage Your Community” packet, visit http://engagesochi.org/resources.
An online version of the color-based evangelism presentation is currently available in English and in Russian. Other language translations and a downloadable mobile app will be added in early 2014.
The online presentation can be found at http://engagesochi.org.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marc Ira Hooks is an International Mission Board writer based in Europe. He also serves as co-director and Olympic event coordinator for Engage Sochi. He can be reached at [email protected].)