When I first became a Christian I was convinced that I just needed to live the right way and play the right way then the Gospel would speak for itself through my life. But the more I read the Bible and the more I’m around my teammates in the locker room, the more intentional I’ve become about sharing the Gospel with them through my words. We spend so much time together, talking about so many ridiculous things. I let my teammates talk to me about whatever they want to, most of which I don’t care about and don’t want to take part in. So if I listen to them and their priorities, why not speak to them about what I care most about?
This year my teammates and I have had a lot of conversations about what matters most to them, what they believe, and what they think about life and death. All the topics most people don’t want to bring up, these are the things I talk about with the guys. We’re constantly walking through hard questions. About once a month, I find myself sitting down in the locker room with five to six guys, talking about things such as, “Why does God allow suffering if He’s a loving God?” or, “If God is sovereign, why does He elect some and not others?”
I don’t know if there are any other Christ-followers on my team. From our conversations, I know some grew up in Christian homes but most of them will admit it’s not important to them. For me, I’m convinced the Bible is true and there’s an answer to all things. I want my teammates to know they can come to me with questions about God. If I don’t know the answer right away, I’ll find it in the Bible. If the Bible doesn’t have a specific answer, I’m fine saying that it’s part of the mystery and wonder of the Gospel faith.
It’s not easy being the only Christian on my team. There are times when I think it’d be great to have someone to walk through the season with. But the Lord has equipped me well in knowing His Word so I don’t feel afraid to answer people’s questions about faith. It’d be great to have camaraderie and other Christ-followers to bounce questions off of, but if I’m the only one here at this time, I know God will use me. He is sovereign, and He knows who needs to be on this team at this time. I’m grateful for the opportunity to represent Him, and I’m going to walk faithfully in that.
In Philippians 2:3, Paul encourages us to, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” As Christ-followers who are also professional athletes, how do we do that? In one sense I need to constantly fight for a starting spot, showcasing myself as better than those whom I’m up against, but if I heed Paul’s advice, I need to count other’s interests above my own. I’ve battled with this throughout my career, but I believe the answer lies in following Christ’s call on your life and doing the very best you can with what you’ve been given, while showing the love of Christ toward others. When my teammates do well, I’m not going to pout or throw a fit for not being able to start. Instead, I’m going to celebrate their victories. I’m going to continue to fight for the best spot, but I’m not going to cheat or take shortcuts to get there. I’m going to do it the right way.
If I was told I could either be a very successful professional athlete with a large platform, or a really good teammate with great opportunities to share the Gospel, but who never gets a chance to play, I would have to choose the latter. Thankfully, the Lord hasn’t asked me to make this decision, but I know I find more joy in people finding Jesus as their Savior than I do when I have a great game on the field.
— Ryan Hollingshead, midfielder/defender for FC Dallas
The Increase, part of the Sports Spectrum Network, is a community of Christian pro athletes sharing their personal stories of the decrease of self and the increase of Christ (John 3:30). Visit TheIncrease.com for more stories and videos.