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The Christian Athlete: Glorifying God in sports by Brian Smith

29 July 2022

For Andrew Wingfield Digby, this book would have been a godsend in 1972

IN JUNE 1972, I strolled from my college in Oxford to the University Parks to listen to the announcement of the team to play Cambridge at cricket. I had missed a few games to take my Finals, but was very confident of selection. I had been the leading bowler the previous season and missed being elected skipper by my team mates by only one vote. As the player who had pipped me for the captaincy read out the names, I was horrified to discover that I was not on the list.

That evening, I was taking my girlfriend (now my wife of 48 years) to the Christ Church May Ball — a major expense on a student budget. It was a disaster. I was devastated. I still think that it was a poor selection. . . Anyway, what I needed at that moment was to be handed a copy of Brian Smith’s excellent book, The Christian Athlete. Perhaps it would have given me the godly perspective to make the May Ball a happier experience for us both.

Brian Smith works for Athletes in Action, the sports-ministry arm of Campus Crusade for Christ. He and the organisation for which he works have been part of the phenomenal growth of sports ministry around the world. I, as a former director of Christians in Sport here in the UK, have had a small part to play in that growth. The link between sport and Christian faith pioneered in Britain by people such as C. T. Studd, Eric Liddell, and, more recently, David Sheppard is now assumed by a whole generation of sportsmen and women who love their sport and also love Jesus.

Even as I write, more than 1000 young athletes are preparing to go on Christians in Sports “Sports Plus” Camps. Smith has written a comprehensive guide to the challenges facing the serious Christian trying to be serious also about their sport. He deals with, among other things, motivation, pressure, winning, losing, injuries, and even being dropped from your team — that would have been my chapter back in 1972.

He argues for wholehearted participation in sport and justifies his position with solid biblical teaching. I particularly enjoyed the chapter in which he uses Jonathan’s relationship with David to explain how to be a good teammate. He sums up the purpose of the book well: “it is written for athletes — specifically the Christian athlete and Christian athletes are called to a higher standard.”

One word of warning: you will be taken to the United States; so “athlete” means all sports, locker rooms are changing rooms, coaches are more important than here, baseball is a foreign language, and there is a tsunami of split infinitives. Cope with all that, and this book will help us all to reach that “higher standard”.

Canon Andrew Wingfield Digby is Associate Minister of St Mary’s, Swinbrook, in the Burford Benefice.


The Christian Athlete: Glorifying God in sports
Brian Smith
David C. Cook £11.99
Church Times Bookshop £10.79

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