Christmanship: A Theology of Competition & Sport by Dr. Greg Linville
Book Review by Todd Blackledge, January 2016
I have been involved with or around the world of athletics my entire life. My father was a football coach for over forty years, beginning as a high school coach, moving on to the collegiate level and spent the final sixteen years of his career as an offensive line coach in the NFL. I began participating in various sporting activities at a very young age, and played football, basketball and baseball through my four years of high school. After high school, I attended Penn State University on a football scholarship and was the team's starting quarterback for three years. During that time I was awarded the MVP of the Sugar Bowl when the Nittany Lions defeated Georgia to win the National Championship.
In 1983, I was drafted by the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs and played professional football for seven seasons, retiring in 1989. The very next year I began a career in sports broadcasting and have continued in that profession to this day. I give you this background information simply to confirm the statement that I have been involved in sports, in some form or fashion, for my entire life. In 1980, as a sophomore at Penn State, I made the most important decision of my life by accepting Jesus Christ as the Savior of my life and declaring Him as the Lord over my life, dreams, goals and future. This marked the beginning of a challenging new adventure as my worlds of sports and faith intersected.
From the early years of my faith journey until now, I have been interested in understanding how these two powerful passions of my life can appropriately blend and work together. I know that some people believe sports and competition can have no connection with genuine faith in Christ. I've heard others suggest that the "sacred" and "secular" parts of our lives are both valuable but need to remain separated. I am of the belief that it is possible to live a life of worship, expressing gratitude and praise to our Creator God, through anything we do, including participation in sports.
No one that I have met in the thirty-three years that I have walked with Christ has taught me more about the dynamic relationship of sports and faith than Greg Linville. My relationship with Greg started when I competed both against and with on recreational basketball courts and softball fields including winning a state softball tournament. Eventually, we spent time together in home bible studies and men's groups. During our time together, I learned about and witnessed firsthand Greg's theology of sport and competition and his concept of "Christmanship."
More than anything he confirmed my belief that Christian athletes should be the hardest working, toughest and most dedicated members of any team or in any athletic competition. As true "ambassadors of Christ" Christian athletes should set the standards of integrity, humility, fair play and respect for the game being played.
Greg has always supported his teachings and theology with a deep understanding of Scripture and practical applications of how to live out our faith through athletic competition. As his University and Seminary students can well attest, Greg's knowledge of the Bible and how it relates to sports and competition is unprecedented and is bolstered by his understanding of the practices and training methods of ancient Greek athletes. I found it fascinating to learn from Dr. Linville about the Academies, where Olympic athletes were trained. The concept of training the total athlete: body, mind and spirit was widely recognized and utilized in the ancient world. It leads one to consider the possibility that the best way to maximize the full potential of a modern athlete is to take a similar three pronged approach to training.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who aspires or feels led to be involved with sports and recreation ministries. The interest in sports and competition has never been higher in our society than it is today. Likewise, the ugly issues of cheating, poor sportsmanship, greed and scandal have never been more prevalent in the world of athletics than they are now. Athletes and coaches at all levels in all sports need to be taught, and encouraged that there is a better way, a higher way, to enjoy sports and competition. Sports ministry is growing worldwide and with it the opportunity to transform and redeem the way society views competition. The potential harvest is enormous and we desperately need more workers to invade the playing fields, courts, stadiums and gymnasiums all around us. Hopefully, as you read and study this book by Dr. Greg Linville, you will be more equipped to share a new vision to athletes and coaches of competing for Christ, and expressing our deep gratitude to God by the way we play and instruct.
"I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."
Where to buy this book: You can purchase this book at CSRM's store, here.