New tool opens door to more Olympic ministry

EUROPE (BP) -- Athletes from around the world will soon converge in Sochi, Russia, for the 22nd Olympic Winter Games in February 2014. Millions across the globe will gather around their television sets to watch this event. For Christians, this creates a unique opportunity to share the Gospel, not only at the games but within their own communities.

While it is important to use the Olympics as an opportunity to share the Gospel in the host city, it is important for Christians to use the event to spread the Gospel around their own communities, said Marc Ira Hooks, an IMB correspondent based in Europe and co-director of the Engage Sochi project.

The International Mission Board launched "Engage Sochi" earlier this year as an evangelism and church planting project for the 2014 Winter Olympics. The Engage Sochi team prepared a resource kit called "Engage Your Community." The kit helps Christians use the Olympic Games as a way to share the Gospel regardless of their location.

"The message we have to share is so much more precious than winning a gold medal, something only a few ever get the chance to do," Hooks said. "We are talking about something that every person can have -- a personal relationship with God. And the Olympic colors help tell that story."

Hooks noted that the colors used in the Olympic rings are the same colors that Southern Baptists have used for years to share the Gospel. It contains Olympic outreach ideas, sermon outlines and small-group lessons for every age group. The kit also includes sheet music for the Engage Sochi theme song, "Where the Sea Meets the Snow," written specifically for the project by Nashville worship leader and songwriter Jeff Bourque.

"We are very excited about this project," Hooks said. "The second the torch is lit in Sochi, people from around the world will be tuned-in to what is happening in Sochi. What better way to start a conversation?

"This is not just a thing for churches in the States," Hooks added. "Churches from around the world will be using these materials to help reach the people in their communities share the message of Jesus with their friends and neighbors."

The packet is also available in Russian and will be used by Russian-language churches across Russia and Europe. In addition, churches in other countries will host special Olympic-themed services and events using these materials.

To download the "Engage Your Community" packet, visit engagesochi.org/resources. An online version of the color-based evangelism presentation is currently available in English and in Russian. Other language translations and a downloadable mobile app will be added in early 2014. The online presentation can be found at engagesochi.org. For more information contact Hooks at marc@engagesochi.org.


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