First Timothy 4:8 reminds us that “while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way.” Although this is part of a much larger context, Paul’s intent is to commend godliness more than demean physical training. Yet his intentional juxtaposition of the two produces a set of interesting questions for the athlete, questions perhaps even more relevant in our cultural moment today than in his own.
What does it mean to be godly in the midst of physical training, and how do we practice it? If we find that athletic training consistently shapes our daily lives, how does faith apply to this physical activity? How do we live consistently at the intersection of physical training and godliness?
In the 1850s, the first American YMCA intentionally sought to mesh evangelical Christianity with the practical pursuit of a sound body, mind, and spirit, equipping young athletes to use sports as a platform for spiritual growth.
One hundred years later, sports ministry organizations such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Athletes in Action began offering high school and collegiate athletes a vocabulary for faith and sports integration, organizing camps and experiences so athletes and coaches could not only grow personally but also use sports as a platform for ministry.
Given the existence of these organizations and many others like them, struggling with living out the Christian faith in the context of sports is hardly a new concept.
Yet since the beginning of the faith/sports movement, surprisingly little has actually been written in book form to practically help athletes, coaches, and parents think holistically about integrating their Christian faith and their lives as athletes.
People’s imaginations regarding faith in sports have often been stunted by pre-game end zone kneeling, mid-game points to heaven after positive plays, and post-game interviews thanking “my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Intuitively, people crave more substantive expressions of the Christian faith in the context of sports—they just aren’t exactly sure what that should look like. Unfortunately, many athletes become involved in some form of sports ministry without ever thinking deeply about how they are living their own lives, both on the field and off.
The Assist offers just that—an assist to the player, coach, or parent who wants a wide-angled understanding of how to live the Christian faith in the context of sports. Its goal is simple: to move Christians from simply clichéd spiritual sayings decorating their bodies or T-shirts to actually living out their faith in the midst of competition.
Brian Smith takes the canvas of the sports culture and carefully puts color to it, helping us as athletes to practically understand what it looks like to move beyond superficial faith expressions to actually glorifying God—on His terms.
Smith writes with the mind of both an athlete and a minister. His words are birthed from years as a Division I track athlete, his long-time service as a campus minister, and literally thousands of conversations with athletes attempting to walk with God in the prime of their athletic lives. He has the practical experience of one who can draw upon his own internal challenges as a competing athlete, combined now with years of being a listener to the struggles of other athletes in his role as a minister. He gets it, and has a clear vision of what faith in sports should produce.
The Assist is a biblically-driven and practical guide for answering the question, “What does it mean to be a Christian athlete?” While written specifically with the athlete audience in mind, Christian coaches, administrators, and parents will benefit from its teaching. It will also serve as a valuable resource to those in sports ministry, acting as a go-to guide for discussion with athletes and coaches at the high school, collegiate, and professional level.