By most estimates, sports outreach probably reaches back 2000 years. The birth of modern sports outreach, however, can be traced back to the late 1800’s. In 1844 the YMCA was formed in England and then adopted by the U.S. in the 1860’s. Their mission was to reach young men for Christ. In the midst of the YMCA movement, James Naismith invented the game of basketball in order to have a winter sport that the boys could play. It is amazing to think that basketball was originally invented to share Christ with young men! Unfortunately, during this time, the church viewed athletics as evil and forbid its members from participating.
In response to this Christians began to go outside of the local church to use sports to reach non-Christians. It was during this time, that FCA and AIA were born. These ministries saw the effectiveness of using sports as a ministry tool. The church’s response to this was to build gyms on their campuses for the sole purpose of providing recreation for their members. The church no longer viewed sports as evil, but they viewed those who played sports as evil. So the church decided to protect its people by providing a safe place for Christians to compete with themselves.
It was not until the early 1990’s that more churches began to recognize the importance of using sports to reach the lost. As a result, the churches began to look for more creative ways to use a variety of sports to reach their communities for Christ.
CSO believes that it is now our responsibility to assist the church in its efforts to use sports to build relationships with non-Christians.