What can the church learn from Rio 2016? a list of 10…

So, the curtain has closed on the most recent of Olympic Games, in Rio, Brazil, the GB team have had their most successful, and congratulations to them by the way, especially the late night cheering for Jason Kenny, Bradley Wiggins, Laura Trott and Mo Farah. Various blog posts have been written about the legitimacy of the Olympics, and the cost of each medal- from essentially public money via the lottery (a lottery that most Christians who wrote these blogs probably hardly plays) , but the questions and reflections from the Olympics might be those that the wider church might reflect on.

  1. Not investing and planning for what looks like its weaker event is an embarrassment. Apologies for the suggesting that the Paralympics is ‘weaker’. But not investing in this has been a critical weakness and legacy for Rio 2016 and the IOC, an embarrassment. And , if the world is looking at sport and criticising it for this fallacy, then might the church, in thinking about its so called ‘weaker’ churches,. or weaker communities want to think about how these are people and areas that need not to be forgotten but built up.
  2. Investment in Sports in junior levels takes many years to find national recognition. And even this involvement is nothing without the support of parents. But from the days of GB ‘just pleased to be there’ at the olympics (even i remember when we won just one gold) A culture shift has been needed, and investment and strategy in Junior sports, just so that the Laura Trotts have the platform to be successful at the very highest level. Investment in sports may have made the nation healthier, but only 67 people at the top will adorn the newspaper coverage.
  3. Whilst the GB team and funding prioritised sports it knew it could win Golds in – ie the more successful sports effectively got more money, to get better exposure, and more sponsorship.. and at this olympics the GB team won medals in more sports than ever (more than the USA). Might a strategic approach to the next generation of the church be appropriate and one that has long term impact in mind. Can new cultural church be grown in forgotten communities, like the athletic coach find the next super star.  And good coaching is important – like good discipleship.
  4. The Media shows us that culture is still anti female, even in the most successful celebrated females in society. What does that say to a church that might be hell bent on being relevent and taking the media as one of its cues?
  5. Really important aspects of society are too much at times to keep focussed on forever, the distraction of sport in the olympics has been welcome, but that doesnt mean that important aspects like Syrian boys lifted from rubble, Brexit and other important stories are forgotten. The church has responsibility not to be distracted from its mission, of providing hope in dark places, in a way that the olympics has been able to do so.
  6. The Olympics is set within a specific culture, and this has had a huge effect. The blame of the empty seats in the grounds has laid squarely with ‘the hosts’ but even with a huge population is a ticket to an olympic tennis match, or swimming competition really a priority for someone who is struggling with food, shelter and daily survival. Churches are too in local contexts, national, and imported marketing and franchising of essentially the cultural products of Christianity – a ministry event, however good, is limited by culture. If the church buys the notion that ticket sales maintain ministry – then which settings is this going to appear to be successful?
  7. Real cultural legacy in Sport involves more than money. It involves people like me, and you reading this to be more involved. Involved coaching local sports teams, involved going to the gym, involved creating opportunities for our children to play sports, and not moaning that a tennis racket costs £20, but we shelled out £400 for a PS2. The church and its future is a similar participation activity.
  8. There are people that dont get sport but like the Olympics. There are some people who dont like sport and dont watch the olympics. There are people that love sport but hate the olympics. Humanity is a complex bunch when it comes to Sport, its a similar complex bunch when it comes to faith, religion and participating in it.  Does the variety of the Olympics lend itself to be inclusive, is it a personal connection to an olympian, is it the drama of glory, or the national pride. Or the story of the ongoing glory, the 4th gold, the triple triple. Without the narrative, man running for 10 seconds isnt that important.
  9. The Montage at the beginning of last nights TV programme was pretty lengthy, detailing the clips of all 67 GB medalists, their best bits. If there was a Best bits of the church montage for the last 4 weeks, or 4 years – what would it say?
  10. Finally, during the Olympics, (those of us who watched it), we dreamed, we hoped, we scored every hockey penalty, every Mo Farah step, every Liam Health Row, every Peaty Swim, every Daly and his partner (who the media also forgot) Dive. When we think of the church – what dreams, hopes and encouragement do we on the inside give it, do its spectators give and have of it.

What might be on your list of what the church could learn from and be prophetically challenged by the Olympics?




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