How Sports Reach is Impacting People, Teams, and Churches

Faith and Athletics+Featured // August 22, 2019 //

I want to start with a ‘Thank you’ to Robby Speer for the impact that he has made in my life and the way that our softball ministry is run. Before I go into detail with how Sports Reach has impacted our team, I would like to talk about how Jesus has impacted my life, which then led to the relationship with Robby.  

I spent a large portion of my life, thinking I was “saved.” When I was nine, I said a prayer that a VBS leader said would save me. As a child, I didn’t fully understand what it meant to “be saved” or the full meaning of the prayer. Although I prayed a specific prayer that day, God was not at the center of my life during my youth. 

I grew up on the ball field, and the ball field became my church. Honestly, as the years went by, the sport became my god. Throughout my life, I’ve played softball on many fields, and I’ve competed in many tournaments. As I aged, I competed at higher levels and became a decent ballplayer. As the competition heightened, so did my desire to win. I played ball to win, and there were even games I hustled to the point of injury, yet I kept playing as hard as I could. I wasn’t considered the most talented player on the team; however, I was known for how hard I hustled on the field, and my eagerness to play is what encouraged the coach to put me on the field. I played the game for my team, myself, and to win.  

During my softball-consumed years, I attended church inconsistently, still thinking I was “saved.” I only went to church when my team went when I was dating someone who went to church or when the family went for the Christmas service. I believed in Jesus, but I took him for granted and believed the Son of God owed me forgiveness. I considered myself the “Good Ole Boy,” since I did a lot of good things and was nice to people. Looking back, I realize how misconstrued my perspective of God and Christianity was while growing up.

Amid everything, I got married to my strong wife and had a child. Unfortunately, softball almost ruined my marriage. I was playing ball four nights a week and gone every weekend, which took a toll on my wife and young child. Once I realized the negative impact of my busy schedule, I decided to hang up the ‘ole cleats, and only play ball during my free time. When I did play, I still played to win and for self-gain; however, everything changed when our family experienced tragedy firsthand. 

In December of 2016, our family lost my wife’s father, my kids’ PawPaw, the man who trusted me with his only daughter, my pal, the Vietnam veteran: Mr. Ronald R. Smith. I did what most men are perceived to do during tragic circumstances: I sucked it up and pretended I could handle everything on my own. I was angry with God and didn’t understand why my father-in-law was taken from my family. Even though I was angry with God, we started going to church more consistently. I witnessed my oldest daughter give her life to Jesus Christ and enter a relationship with God. As for me, I was still “handling it on my own.” 

A few months later, I realized I was not saved and that I couldn’t do anything without Him. One Sunday morning at church, as we worshipped to “Old Rugged Cross” (Ronnie’s favorite gospel song), I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. That morning, I learned it’s only by the grace of God that people become saved and through faith in Jesus Christ that we enter an eternal relationship with God.  

After entering a relationship with God, I started running a 3-on-3 basketball league at the church. I also had an opportunity to create a BBQ Competition to raise funds for the Men’s Ministry. I was eager to serve any way I could for the glory of God’s Kingdom. Then, I was approached by the pastor to start a softball team up, and I willingly agreed to help. I was finally back on the field, but with a higher purpose. However, while investing in different ministries, it seemed like our church’s sports ministries needed more Jesus and more people sharing of God’s Word. I was stuck and trying to figure out how to spiritually enhance our sports ministries. 

Thankfully, I had the opportunity to play with my talented little brother who was reaching high levels of softball. During this time, he had the privilege to play softball with Sports Reach Ministry. From his experience with Sports Reach, he gained a new friend, Robby. Afterward, he introduced me to Robby, which allowed Robby and I to discuss my experiences with softball and Robby’s ministry through sports. Robby also visited our church to our BBQ Competition. 

March of 2019, Robby and his son revisited our church. After a long night of discussion and a morning meeting with the team, we acknowledged that we need to be more direct with people while intentionally sharing God’s Word with people we encounter on the field. We discussed how there will always be those who doubt us because they knew us before we had become saved but to keep showing them how God has transformed us. We also discussed the importance of how we must use the softball field as a platform to share God’s Word and witness to the non-believer. Robby gave me several beneficial tips for ministering to my teams: (1) treat my team like a small group, (2) don’t limit my team to church members only, (3) play in the open leagues with both church and non-church teams, and (4) be intentional.

During the church’s spring/summer league, we had a bible study, after every game, in the stands. I vocalized myself, so outsiders could also hear the lesson. Often, we had other teams, and fans stop in to listen to the teaching which centered on glorifying Him. We were playing softball to glorify God first and to win second. God radically transformed the way I play softball, and my motives for playing the game. God used softball to create a way for my church to minister to believers and non-believers. God used Sports Reach Ministry to help create a Christ-centered sports ministry for my church. Those involved with Sports Reach Ministry prayed for God’s Word to be shared through the ministry. They invested time into our team, including myself, provided beneficial advice for us, and created a way for me to have a Christ-filled relationship with Robby. 

God took something I loved doing for myself and created a way for me to use it to glorify Him. Through this, God provided me with strong brothers to walk through life with and added friendships that will last because of His glory. I am thankful for what God has done through Sports Reach Ministry, and I look forward to seeing how it increases the Kingdom of God.

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