“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” – Matthew 28:18-20, NIV
The Great Commission is a great challenge: reaching “all nations” with the Good News and teaching them to follow Christ… Even with the help of modern transportation, the internet, and cell phone technology, Jesus’ commandment is still a tall order. How can we possibly engage in evangelism and discipleship on a global scale?
One very strategic way is by partnering with like-minded ministries and organizations. That’s why Biblica is working with Athletes in Action (AIA) – to extend our reach and make more disciples in more nations. And together we are finding creative ways to fulfill the Great Commission.
For instance, taking God’s Word to those who are gathering to compete and participate in the Winter Olympics.
Athletes from 92 nations will be at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games. It’s the perfect opportunity to take the gospel message to those who haven’t heard, as well as international Christian athletes who need encouragement and discipleship.
According to AIA’s Tim Pitcher, his organization has already shipped 16,000 Bibles to South Korea.
“Sixteen thousand Bibles is a lot of Bibles,” admits Tim. “Our Korean national staff are there. They’ve been handling a lot of the set up for the Winter Olympics.”
The plan is to have a portion of the Bibles sent to the AIA headquarters in Seoul, to be used in the future. The rest will be sent to the two Olympic villages for distribution in and around the Games.
They will also be given to local churches to distribute.
“This began with the London Olympics,” Tim explains. “We began to realize the need for a full Bible in outreach, rather than just a New Testament. When those Bibles get taken home, just having the New Testament is good, but not as helpful as having a full Bible.
“That started the process of me beginning to create the ‘Struggle and Triumph’ Bible.”
For Rio, he wanted a Bible with meta-text material, such as ‘The Principles’ (five biblical lessons), athlete testimonies and stories, and a gospel presentation. When the time came to produce the “Struggle and Triumph” Bible, Tim says AIA naturally turned to Biblica.
“You guys have the market on creating and helping us produce the Bibles with your resources – especially your translations. So this is a partnership that is able to do this.
“In Rio, we had Portuguese, Spanish, and English. And probably about 10,000 of those were distributed in Rio. Extra Portuguese Bibles stayed in the country. English and Spanish were shipped back to the U.S. AIA headquarters. They’re used as our teams go out around the world and campus staff uses them in their ministries.
“It went well in Rio,” Tim says. “So we tweaked the Bible to make it a little more Winter Olympic-oriented and translated it into the host language of Korean, as well as Russian and Chinese – our Korean staff send a lot of missions trips into areas that speak that language. Whatever Bibles are left over after the Olympics will continue to be used in sports and campus ministries and outreaches.”
AIA is experienced with chaplaincy at the Olympics. They’ll be in the village on Sunday to provide a traditional Sunday worship service but also be there daily, meeting with athletes, praying, working with athletes who didn’t have the performances they wanted. And they don’t just minister to the U.S. team, but to athletes from a variety of nations.
Tim says a lot of athletes will be interested in AIA before their competition. “It’s a little bit of a good luck charm kind of thing. So we try to engage with them. And we’ve found that we can also have a ministry to the families and parents of those who are in the Olympics. They’ve invested so much time and energy and money into their kids. We want to be there for them too.
“We try to connect athletes with either a member of our staff or one of our partnering ministries in the country that they’re from.” Contact information is exchanged and athletes are referred to AIA’s 30-day devotional app on YouVersion – “Struggle and Triumph.”
Athletes in Action has been using sports as a platform to help people answer questions of faith since 1966. They believe that sports has the power to open doors and create connections in a way that few other things can. AIA’s vision is to “see a day when there are Christ-followers on every team, in every sport, in every nation.” They are working toward that goal by building spiritual movements everywhere through the platform of sports so that “everyone knows someone who follows Jesus.”
Sports, they believe, is the universal language. And it can be a key to fulfilling the Great Commission.
“We believe entire cultures and nations can be changed for the better as athletic leaders use their unique positions to point others to Christ.”
And Biblica is certainly in agreement with that. We know that when a Bible is place into someone’s hands, it has the power to change everything.