I remember quite vividly the first time I joined the Lingnan rugby team practice a few years ago because by the end of the session I felt like heaven seemed a lot closer; I was out of breath and death was almost certain! After some rugby tackling practice with our Zimbabwean student, Antony, a.k.a. “Mr Muscleman”, I felt like I made the wrong choice in accepting coach Jung’s invitation to join the practice! This was also when I officially became “Uncle Sam” since firstly I didn’t want the players to call me “Pastor Sam” and the captain at that time was called Sam as well!
Fast forward to last Sunday, I saw a group of players playing #AsATeam! I haven’t been to the training for a while and I was pleasantly surprised to see quite a number of new faces in the team. Before the game I was asked to pray for the team but I said that someone who has been more involved should pray. I was really encouraged to hear the passionate prayers by the two students who prayed.
At the final whistle, as we realised we finally made it and won the championship – normally a place reserved for bigger universities who have more resources and players – I said to our coach that before the awards ceremony I had a few words to say, but more importantly, that I wanted to pray. I think quite a few of us were “sweating from our eyes” by the end and I knew that it was a moment to treasure.
Finally here are couple of things I learned:
1. Never give up and never look down on yourself
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46a)
I believe that even some Lingnanians could replace the word “Nazareth” to “Lingnan”. When applying for jobs it normally goes like this; HKU, CU, HKUST….. others. The same is probably true even in sporting events. People have also questioned why I chose to stay at Lingnan and not go to other more “prestigious” universities, but God’s way is higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. It is actually not just a choice of one or the other. I believe that God has called us into all the campuses, but we need to follow His timing. The players believed in one another and they were able to achieve something that only few believed was possible. Well done to the coaching team and the players!
2. Don’t just make a team filled with Christians, go to a regular sports team and bless them!
It is probably more comfortable to ask other Christians to join a team but the fact is that not all Christians are gifted in sports! It is like asking everyone in church to join the choir when there are so many great singers outside who just need to be discipled. Moreover, why just stick with Christians when there are so many non-Christians who need to experience the love of God through a Christian’s presence in their team? I was in a seminar recently where I learned that in Australia more than 30 percent of its population are involved in organised sports each week and most are TWICE WEEKLY, compared to 8.8 percent of the population who attend church ONCE a MONTH. This should give us some sobering thoughts.
A rugby club doesn’t always have to be known for its drinking culture and its rowdiness. Indeed, rugby as a sport was seen by some as a form of “muscular Christianity” during the Victorian period. If we need to develop a way to reach out to the 90 percent of the population who are non-churchgoing then we should go to where they are; engage with them where there is common ground and demonstrate the love of God through our actions and words. Often we are like the “older brother” in the parable of the prodigal son; we spend too much time thinking about what we should do right and forget to just go out to the “Bohemian world” and engage the lost. Then we can truly say “Emmanuel”!