What The Church Can Learn From FIFA

I am not a soccer fan. Obviously not, because I refer to it by its American name, instead of its nickname given by its loyal fans. To be honest, I think I would like soccer and every so often I consider keeping up with it. I like the international feel of soccer, its simplicity, and besides baseball, I would prefer my boys to play soccer than football (unless they grow to be Christian Goliath types, than football it is).

I was all set for the World Cup, even filled out a bracket – US beating Spain 27-21, whoops, I mean 2-1. I even watched Bend It Like Beckham. Yeah it was a girls night that Susan was hosting 3 years ago but I remember the movie (Ok, I watched 15 mins, ate some chips, and left but again, this all counts as evidence of building an appreciation for soccer). But everything changed for me with this World Cup with the poor officiating and the terrible leadership of this all-world grand event. I think it’s absolutely ridiculous to not have some type of instant reply or utilize technology in professional sports. The simple reason is that the fan should not know more than the official. This is a problem for all major sports (beloved baseball included, but with such a long season, many mistakes can be accounted for. That said, tennis is probably the best sport at using technology to account for human error).

If you saw my Facebook status update the other day, I compared the President of FIFA, Blatter to a deadbeat dad who promises to get his kids real Christmas gifts … next year. I said that in light of his recent comments that said he would look into bringing the technology debate back to FIFA … after the WC is over. Then, yesterday I read on the ESPN ticker that the officials who made poor calls during the WC would not be officiating the next round. Now unless there is evidence that they were bribed and not simply mistaken, I find this incredulous. They decide not to use technology to get the call right and then banish the official for getting the call wrong – he’s human, of course they are going to miss calls!

It really bothers me to willingly withhold a solution (or at the very least, attempt to begin to solve a problem). Further, it especially bothers me when it pertains to something with truly enormous life-altering (and eternal) importance. As someone outside of the soccer world, FIFA looks quite idiotic. Similarly, it’s a worthy exercise to imagine what those outside the Church think of it. What do they believe is idiotic? Certainly they may be wrong on some points. From outside the soccer world it may seem, it may be hard to truly appreciate the reason that the goalie gets to use his hands (seems inconsistent). If you have played the game or ever been a goalie, you probably see it as a rather obvious solution. Those outside the Church may not see the need or the significance of Jesus’ sacrificial death and the centrality of the resurrection. If you understand evil and redemption or have experienced forgiveness, you probably see its necessity.

At this point, some of you are thinking, “Ok, so what?”. Others are thinking, “Did you just compare the resurrection to a goalie using his hands”. Yeah sorry about that but keep reading, I’ll try to upset you further.

What are some issues that the Church today needs to rethink, consider and discuss? Let’s discuss consumerism. Let’s begin with women in ministry. Already decided on that, what about colonialism? What about a retelling of the Gospel that answers global and local crises (yes Jesus is the hope for all. That is the foundation, but there is an entire tower to be built on Jesus’ mission, His Kingdom, His Hope …)?

Usually when you mention these examples, conservatives accuse you of being liberal. Please hear what I am saying, as one who believes in the orthodox doctrines of the Church (Jesus is Lord, Scripture is infallible, etc.), words like rethinking, reframing, even redefining are not bad words. Words, concepts, ideologies are fluid, they need to be adapted to be understood in culture. We as evangelicals do this with international missions and children’s ministry. It’s part of contextualization and in a post-Christian Western society, the problem is we don’t do it enough.

Though I wish it was only a matter of technology that could help the Church rethink some issues, I do believe that unlike sports organizations, the Church does not have to wait for meetings. We can have these discussions in our living rooms tomorrow, in the car with our family, in Sunday Schools, online, in coffee shops, and wherever else conversations happen.

I gave up on FIFA and the World Cup, nobody cares (nor should they). But we as a Church should care when people give up on the Christian faith. In fact, we mock the work of Jesus to not be grieved for people. It’s not about being “relevant” but it is about caring enough to reframe conversations so it is understandable, it is about loving people enough to care for them in order to share about a Savior who cares even more. It is about listening, sharing loving and allowing the Holy Spirit to work through us.


  1. Jim Peterhoff says:

    Good post bud! I enjoy reading it and only wish it was a bit longer (irony, you tell me my stuff is always a little long and here I am calling your’s short). I love the ideas of rethinking, redefining and contextualization. Hope to chat with you about it soon!

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