I wonder if you’ve ever prayed or hoped for someone famous to become a Christian? Have you wondered what impact it could have on the world if that movie star or this top athlete came to faith? Now I’m focussed on sports ministry in Japan, I have often imagined what it would be like to have Japanese athletes at the elite level giving praise to God from the winner’s podium.
When I was a university student with a growing passion for both sports and gospel ministry, I was heavily influenced by such an athlete: Jonathan Edwards, the British triple jumper. He took gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and the world record he set in 1995 still stands today.
He was also open about his Christian faith and took opportunities to share how his relationship with Jesus impacting every area of his life, including sports. After he retired from competition he was an a presenter on “Songs of Praise”—a British TV programme where they visit churches around the country and record worship songs—and was in high demand to speak at church events.
Then, in 2007, just as I was finishing my master’s degree and feeling called to become a missionary, newspapers reported on Edwards’ “leap from faith”. He openly declared that he had “just stopped believing in God”.
At the time I was shaken, along with the whole UK church. What had happened? Was playing sports not compatible with following Jesus? Was Edwards right to say that God didn’t exist, or his existence didn’t matter?
But looking back it is clear that whilst churches were happy to utilize Edwards’ public platform for God’s kingdom, we had not been so concerned with supporting his walk with the Lord. We were interested in his fame, not his faith. And the result was tragedy and confusion.
So if a famous sports personality such as the baseball star Ichiro came to faith, I’m sure Christians across Japan would rejoice. I would too. It’s a good thing to pray for Christians in prominent positions in Japan. But I am convinced that we must also pray for the church in Japan to become a community that prays and cares for the faith of Christians who daily face the pressures that fame brings. Above all else, we must guard their hearts.
By Levi, an OMF missionary
Will you pray for Japan?
- Pray for Christians in prominent positions in Japan that they will remain faithful and strong in their faith.
- Pray that the church in Japan will become a community that prays and cares for the faith of fellow Christians, no matter how famous they are.
- Pray that all Christians in Japan (missionaries too) would remain strong in our faith and morally upright.