Recently I’ve been thinking about how our surroundings affect our faith. Who you interact with and what you spend your time on can have a huge impact on how or even if you connect with God. I took this idea to some friends and asked them about their faith within their campus community. The following is the second post in this series.
I have to admit, sports have never been my thing. I danced for 15 years of my life, but I can’t do anything that requires throwing, catching, or hitting. Some people are definitely more gifted than I in the hand-eye coordination department, and my friend Ben Hancock is one of those people. He is a walk-on player for Pepperdine’s Men’s Volleyball team, and a religion major. I asked him some questions about his faith:
What is your faith background?
I was born and raised a Presbyterian.
Do you feel that team/sports participation has affected your faith (positively or negatively) in any way?
My participation in team sports has definitely shaped my faith in a positive way. Being able to participate in a team sport taught me a great deal about community, submission, humility, and love.
Do you ever find it difficult to uphold your faith (beliefs, values, etc.) on the team?
Occasionally, when the topic of discussion is something I find personally disinteresting or immoral, it becomes a dilemma between speaking out or being respected.
Do you ever discuss faith at sporting events or with your teammates?
Yes, before every game I do a little devotional and my teammates have asked questions or made comments that have created a platform to discuss faith.
Do you think that faith should be more integrated or less integrated with your team?
I think faith should be more integrated into the lives of all believers, particularly in sports.
Do you have any ideas to implement your answer to the last question?
Continuing to pursue God in a way that is visible yet not aggressive can provide platforms for discussion. Also, living my life in a way that is loving and self-sacrificial to the guys on my team is a primary role in building trust which can change cultures.
Do you evangelize your team? Why or why not?
I don’t actively talk about my faith unless I am asked, but I think living in a transformed way is evangelism in itself. Letting the guys know that they can trust me and that I care about them is a powerful way of sharing the gospel.
What advice do you have for current athletes or potential athletes who want to maintain their faith while involved in sports in college?
Pick your battles. Not every athlete is a Christian, but there are plenty who are. Our goal is to play hard, and love those even who do not believe. To be on a team with someone who does not share your beliefs is a great way to live out the gospel in a trusting and loving relationship.
Anything else you’d like to say about faith, athletics, or your experience with those?
Jesus loves sportsmanship. Chin up.
I love what Ben said about changing our culture. Generally, people who are experiencing a disconnect with their faith and their community are really just battling a culture war. Sometimes these cultural norms are obvious, like if your friends commit crimes for fun, but sometimes they are more insidious, like the culture of negative self-talk among teenage girls. I believe that it’s up to us to shift these cultural norms so that our friends and communities can experience the fullness of life with Jesus. Ben said that he tries to live in a loving and self-sacrificing way so that his teammates can trust him, and trust has the power to change culture. More than that, being loving is already a culture-shift in some cases!
Thank you, Ben, for you words of wisdom. I pray that you would continue to live in love for those around you!