When I tell people about my passion to reach and disciple Japanese men for Christ, I hear the same question: But how do you get to spend time with them? One answer is to play sport.
There are great opportunities: 70 per cent of all Japanese people are involved in sport in some way. Yet sportspeople are a minority in the church. I long to see more Japanese churches embracing sports ministry because of how God used it in my own life.
Among family and my church youth group, ultimate frisbee was a key factor in my coming to trust in Christ.
You may not have heard of ultimate frisbee—it’s a sport. An actual team sport with its own World Championships. I started playing at university, and through it God influenced my life profoundly. It is no overstatement to say that without this sport I would not be a missionary in Japan.
Real life witness
There was a Christian senior frisbee player on my team, and through him I came to see the difference that a true grasp of the gospel makes on a person’s life. I saw how salvation brings peace on the pitch when things get heated. I saw what sanctification looks like in a culture where peer pressure rules. His witness, and that of other sporting Christians, taught me about mission, fellowship, discipleship, and other aspects of the Christian life that had previously been mostly theoretical phrases.
Acceptance in Japan
I’ve played on a few frisbee teams in Japan and have always been amazed at how quickly I am accepted as one of the team. For sure it involves an investment of time, energy, and money (and it has forced me to raise my game with language study). But through this little-known sport that involves throwing a plastic disc around a field, I have more conversations about life, faith, God, and Christ—on the sideline, in the onsen, at the nomikai than through any other ministry I’m involved with in Japan. It’s not for nothing that the unofficial slogan of ultimate frisbee is, “Sport is the best means of communication.”
I play other sports besides frisbee—long-distance running, boxing, and rugby mainly. I have found the same acceptance and openness in all of these groups. The door is open to make disciples of Christ in the sporting community. And with the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and the 2019 Rugby World Cup also being held in Japan, these opportunities will surely increase.
Will you pray for Japan?
- Give thanks for the opportunities sports teams provide for Christians to build relationships and share and live out the gospel.
- Pray for more Christians and churches to take the opportunities presented by sports to share the gospel.
- Pray for Christian outreach connected with the 2019 Rugby World Cup and 2020 Tokyo Olympics to bear much fruit.