Soccer and the Gospel
If You Build It...
By Joshua Hampton
Perhaps you have heard the catchphrase from the 1989 movie Field of Dreams. In the film, an Iowa corn farmer hears a voice telling him to build a baseball field in the middle of his corn. “If you build it,” an eerie voice intones, “he will come.” After the farmer completes his task, Shoeless Joe Jackson (long dead) appears and asks to play catch. Later, the ghosts of the 1919 Chicago White Sox team arrive to play a game.
From its origin in this far-fetched script, this catchphrase, “If you build it, he (they) will come” has become a popular declaration for all kinds of things—even the church. But is the statement really true? I don’t think so. Perhaps there was a time in America when one could simply construct a new church building, put up a sign, and the community would just show up. That time, if it ever existed, has passed.
In his book The Rise of the Nones, James Emery White states, “This generation is not thinking about religion and rejecting it. Instead, they are simply not thinking about religion at all.” The None Generation hasn’t necessarily rejected church; they simply give it no thought.
From 2008 to 2012, the percentage of nones in America increased from 15% to 20%. This is an American phenomenon, not a global one. Across the world, since 1970, the 20% who claimed no religious affiliation has dropped to 12%.
WE CAN PUT UP A SIGN ON OUR PROPERTY, AND THEY WILL KNOW WHERE WE ARE; BUT IF WE INVEST IN THE COMMUNITY THEY WILL KNOW WE CARE, AND THAT WE LIVE THE GOSPEL WE PREACH.
What does this mean for the American church? It means we must become more deliberate about reaching out to our neighborhoods and communities. We must consciously seek to be salt and light wherever we are.
It will take a greater effort than a church sign or a simple invitation. We must insert ourselves into the fabric of our local communities. We must make connections with people who may not care one thing about religion or the church. Most nones are not atheists or anti-spiritual, just ambivalent about church. So, we must go to them. We must invest in their lives. And, as we begin to build relationships with our neighbors, we will gain their trust by demonstrating genuine love and concern, following the example of Christ.
We constantly need to look for opportunities to be salt and light. Jesus met people in the fields and by the seashore. He encountered people in the marketplace, by remote water wells, and in the synagogue. The same strategy will work for us as we go out of our way to invest in the lives of others. City events, sports leagues, educational institutions, and more constantly seek volunteers to help. While every venue may not be suitable for a church congregation, we should become known as the church that is always involved and ready to help.
We can put up a sign on our property, and they will know where we are; but if we invest in the community they will know we care and that we live the gospel we preach. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).
Many today do not attend church, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t searching for the truth found in Christ. It is our responsibility to build relationships that allow us to share that truth. Jesus repeatedly said go. He never instructed His followers to put up a sign or confine their ministry to a building. Signs and building are wonderful, helpful things, but they are no substitute for going.
Perhaps its time to change the catchphrase from “If you build it, they will come” to “If you go, they will listen.”
About the Writer: Joshua Hampton and his family are planting a church in Missoula, Montana, along with Josh’s parents, Clayton and Tammy. Learn more: www.fwbnam.com.