IRVING—To show God’s love and demonstrate support for students, members of First Baptist Church in Irving have adopted the varsity football team at MacArthur High School the second year in a row.
“When I came on staff, it became aware to me that churches in our community were pouring into the football teams at Nimitz High School and Irving High School, and yet no one had that sort of investment in MacArthur’s football team,” said Colin Hairston, minister to students at First Baptist in Irving.
“At that point, I spoke with our church staff, and we all were eager to jump on this opportunity to love on these football players and point them to Jesus. For me, it was an easy commitment.”
Stand in the gap
During football season, church members of varied ages show support for the players and their families with encouraging notes, care packages and attendance at home games.
“I try and be abundantly clear that this partnership is not a result of us showing favoritism to MacArthur above the other high schools,” Hairston said. “On the contrary, we are simply eager to seize an incredible ministry opportunity to spread the love of Christ in our city.
“I have heard so many cool stories from last year, and the response to this ministry has been overwhelmingly positive. After each game, parents usually go down to the edge of the stands, and the players come to the edge of the field and greet their families. Some players, however, do not have their families present at the games, so they would have no one to greet them.
“That is why it’s really appreciated when our church members can be at the edge of the stands and call out to their players and let them know that they are being supported. This is such a special thing to see our church members step in the gap and show their players that there are people in the stands supporting and cheering for them, even when their parents aren’t able to come.”
Understanding the gift is for them
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At the end of this season, the church once again plans to provide lunch for the players and their families.
“One of my favorite moments from last season was when First Irving hosted MacArthur’s football team at our church,” Hairston said. “They were our special guests in the worship service, and we were able to give each player a Bible with their name engraved on it. It was so special to not only give them the treasure of God’s word, but to have their name engraved on it.
“Our prayer is that this not only communicates that this Bible is for them, but ultimately that the good news of Jesus Christ is for them. It was a special moment, and I cannot think of a better way to wrap up the season.”
As a result of this outreach, the team has been able to see the church in action, he added.
Evangelism and discipleship
“This partnership itself accomplishes one of our goals of this ministry—namely, for us to be an expression of the love of Jesus to our community,” Hairston said. “It is our prayer that with every handwritten note and every game attended, that our community sees the love of Jesus in all of it.
“Through this partnership, we have two hopes for the football players and their families at MacArthur High School. First and foremost, it is our prayer that these players and their families come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ through this ministry. The ultimate need of every player and every person on the planet is to see their need for Jesus and repent and believe in him for salvation. That is our message, and our foremost goal is that God would bring about salvation to these football players and their families.
“Secondly, we also want to connect families to churches that love Jesus and can help them grow in their relationship with Jesus. We unashamedly invite every single player and their family to get plugged into First Baptist Irving. However, some of them already have Jesus-loving, Bible-believing churches that they are connected to, and we celebrate that. Whether it is First Baptist Irving or another church that loves Jesus, we want to encourage families to get plugged into a family of faith.”
By continuing the connection on and off the field, Hairston recognizes the opportunity the sports outreach opens up to influence the city for Christ.
“The potential impact that this could have in our community is endless,” he said, quoting Ephesians 3:20-21.
“Knowing that our God is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, I don’t want to have small expectations from our big God,” Hairston said. “Therefore, regarding this partnership, I am praying for revival at MacArthur High School, for the entire team to put their faith in Christ, and that the kingdom of God advances all throughout the city of Irving.”