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Posts Tagged ‘soccer’

Unless you knew me when I was 16 or 17 years old, you probably don’t know that I was a pretty decent young baseball player. I pitched and hit well, although “Barber” Cobb—whose barbershop was where the action was in Smithfield, Texas, always thought I was a better catcher.

When we moved to Germany to do mission work, baseball was one of those things I was keenly aware of sacrificing, not so much playing baseball, but specifically, I knew I would not be coaching my yet unborn sons’ little league teams in Germany. What I didn’t know was that I was about to fall in love with a whole new sport Fuβball.

I remember going down to the TV lounge at language school in Prien, Germany, every Wednesday night to watch the little black-and-white TV when a Fuβball or soccer game was on. Now I had played some version of soccer in elementary YMCA sports, but not nearly the organized version that children today play, so I knew almost nothing about it. Not only was I learning vocabulary–little words like Tor (goal), Ecke (Corner), and big, German words like Schiedsrichter (referee) and Abseitsposition (offsides position), but I was also learning something central to German culture. It wasn’t a question of whether I liked soccer or not, it had to be learned, just like the German language.

There were no Germans in language school—obviously–so when I watched, it was with classmates from countries like Japan, Romania, Italy, Venezuela, Greece. They did not know the vocabulary either—but they knew the game! I remember the night it dawned on me that I was the only real soccer illiterate in the room.

The historical cultural isolation of the United States throughout our history has had some positive results, but one of the negatives is that when we go out into the world beyond our borders, we have trouble with the languages that other people speak—and I’m talking not only about their verbal language, but also their cultural languages. In the best case scenarios, this has led to simple misunderstandings, but in worst cases, it has led to what the rest of the world calls American imperialism.  For us Americans, it just feels like the American way!

Sidestepping the political potholes, I want to suggest to you that to be a World Christian, you as an American have to learn to speak the language of world culture.  Here are just a few examples of what I am talking about

  1. The World Cup – This tournament is the largest followed sporting event in the world. Over one billion people will watch the final game, which is at least 10 times the number that watch the Super Bowl in a good year. If you want to have a conversation with someone in Ghana or Ukraine or Brazil or Japan, soccer is a world topic of conversation.
  2. Metrics – Most Americans are exposed to the metric system sometime in school. A few scientific disciplines even use it regularly, but most of us are helpless when we go to other countries and need to cook in a metric oven or to know if 20 degrees is coat weather or shorts.
  3. Exchange – How often have I seen LST team members walk up to an exchange window, hand the man a handful of money and walk away with whatever they receive back, totally clueless as to what just happened or how much they have. Yesterday, I had a desperate email from a team that had exchanged dollars into Euros, which are one of the currencies that are stronger than the US dollar, so for 100 USD, they had received 70 Euro. To them, this meant that they had lost 30% of their money by exchanging. This is a good example of how Americans can be either victimized or made fearful by their own inability to speak the language of world culture.
  4. Major world cultural events – The example that I want to use for you is one that only a few will have ever heard of, yet just this year the Eurovision Song Contest, in its 55th year, was shown around the world and live-streamed on the Internet. Thirty-nine countries entered songs and artists, vying for the best song in the world! It’s like American Idol on steroids!

So why should Americans care about any of these kinds of things? Well, maybe Americans can get by with being culturally isolated, but World Christians cannot! If we want to connect with people, speak to their hearts, share their lives, then we have to know where they live and learn their languages.

We Americans must resist the temptation to exchange the “Go into all the world” command for “Come meet me in my comfortable building or home and speak my language if you want to know about Jesus.” And we should start becoming such a people with those in our own country who don’t speak our cultural languages.

Question: What other world events should World Christians know about?

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