More than half the world watched the 2018 World Cup, and viewership numbers should be similar if not better by the time the 2022 tournament comes to an end Sunday. Jesse Bradley, a former professional goalkeeper and the pastor of Grace Community Church in Auburn, Washington, is using the tournament’s global appeal to introduce people to Christ.
Bradley partnered with Global Media Outreach, which is the ministry behind GodLife.com, to create both digital and written content explaining Christianity through the lens of the World Cup. One of the foundational parts of the campaign are videos less than a minute long discussing things like how the World Cup is similar to heaven.
The goal of the videos is to present God and faith in a way that is appealing and easy to understand.
“Right now across the world, people are searching and starving for hope. … Hope is relational,” Bradley said this week in an interview with Sports Spectrum. “Hope is available. Hope is found in Jesus.”
The videos are being strategically distributed across social media, websites and YouTube to reach people around the world. More than 200,000 people have indicated they want to start relationship with God and follow Jesus after interacting with the content, according to the data gathered by GMO.
Once someone indicates they want to follow Jesus, GMO can follow up to offer support with next steps. There is also a series of discipleship videos available for people to watch. Ultimately, the objective is to connect those who are interested with a local church.
“We don’t want people simply to make a decision to follow Jesus,” Bradley said. “We want them to grow and enjoy that relationship. We want to empower people, and we want to cultivate next steps that are going to help them grow in their faith.”
Bradley — who has appeared on CBS Sports Radio as an analyst during the World Cup — came to know God during his time at Dartmouth College after taking an introduction to world religions class. He was required to read John’s Gospel for the class, and it was the first time he’d read the Bible.
While playing professionally in Zimbabwe, Bradley took a prescribed medicine for malaria that nearly killed him. He didn’t figure out until after returning to the U.S. that all the symptoms he was experiencing were side effects of having a toxic level of the drug in his system.
It took Bradley 10 years to fully recover, but he says the experience brought him closer to God.
“I learned how to open up and let God into my pain and how to talk to God about my feelings and my fears,” he said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in 2018. “The level of depth and intimacy, it was like nothing I’d experienced before.”
Bradley encourages Christians to see social media and the digital world as another evangelism tool that can be used to share the hope of the Gospel.
“Every follower of Jesus really is an online missionary, and the content and the tone and the attitude that you share online, it can spread the light and love of Jesus,” he said this week. “And there’s incredible potential right now, so I hope that the body of Christ is active locally, globally and digitally.”
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– Walker Zimmerman grateful to rep U.S. at World Cup as he leans on God’s love
– Goalie Keylor Navas focused on faith as he leads Costa Rica at World Cup
– U.S. star Christian Pulisic draws strength from God as he makes World Cup debut