There are plenty of people and organizations who write, think about, and live at the intersection of sports and Christian faith. Below, we list a few books, websites, and podcasts that seek to offer reflection and insight for Christian sportspeople. No doubt there are plenty of additional sources we could have included, but we tried to keep the list relatively short with a focus on cultural reach and depth of content. If we’re missing something essential, let us know!
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Sports Spectrum is the premiere Christian sports media outlet. Founded in the 1980s as a print magazine, it continues to publish quarterly issues. It has also moved online where it provides frequently updated content and stories, mostly focusing on testimonies and profiles of Christian athletes and coaches. Because Sports Spectrum is part of Pro Athletes Outreach (a recent development) it probably has greater access to elite Christian athletes than any other media organization. Check out this feature story from The Ringer to get a glimpse of the unique media space occupied by Sports Spectrum.
Think of this as the Christian athlete’s version of the Player’s Tribune. A sister publication of Sports Spectrum (both are part of Pro Athletes Outreach), The Increase aims to be “the voice of the Christian athlete” with devotionals and testimonies coming directly from the athletes.
Athletes in Action is one of the “Big Three” North American sports ministry organizations (Pro Athletes Outreach and FCA are the other two). Its website provides a great place for discipleship resources related to sports and also content that examines contemporary sports culture through a Christian lens.
Legendary Sports Illustrated writer Frank Deford accurately described the Fellowship of Christian Athletes as the “grandaddy” of the Christian sports ministry organizations. Founded in the 1950s, for many years the FCA published the leading magazine in the sports and Christianity space. Eventually Sports Spectrum took over that title and as of 2017 the FCA no longer publishes a print magazine. But the FCA continues to provide plenty of essential content. You can find inspirational stories and practical wisdom through the “FCA In Action” section on its website. And the FCA also has a resource page with an extensive library of devotionals, discipleship content, and past issues of its now-defunct magazine.
Across the pond in the United Kingdom, Christians in Sport is the premiere sports ministry organization. Its website offers numerous resources for discipleship and leadership training that would also be applicable to the North American context.
Brian Smith is on staff with Athletes In Action. For a few years he was one of the main writers for AIA’s website (referenced above). Now, he offers his thoughtful perspective on sports and Christianity at his own website. The author of The Assist, Brian is one of today’s leading voices when it comes to thoughtfully integrating faith with sports.
Roger Lipe is on staff with FCA and serves as a character coach for Southern Illinois athletics. Through his blog, newsletter, and videos, Lipe has become one of the most important leaders and providers of practical resources for the growing field of sports chaplaincy.
One of the most influential gurus in sports ministry history is Wes Neal. A former staffer with AIA, in the 1970s Neal developed an approach to integrating Christian faith with athletic competition. Neal published his ideas in book form as the Handbook on Athletic Perfection. The book developed a strong niche following within the sports ministry community, and in the decades since the Handbook was first published, Neal has continued to spread his ideas in different forms and under different titles. Kingdom Sports is an attempt to bring Neal’s principles to a new generation of Christian athletes and coaches. Based in Nebraska and led by influential sports ministry leaders Gordon Thiessen and Ron Brown, the Kingdom Sports website includes discipleship content and resources, a blog, videos, and more.
The leading sports ministry organizations in the United States are closely tied with evangelical Protestantism, but they have generally included Catholics in their ranks as well. That match has not always been easy, especially for Catholic athletes and coaches. With the formation of Catholic Athletes for Christ in 2006, Catholic sportspeople have a sports ministry organization that more closely aligns with their theological beliefs and practices. The CAC website includes basic details on its mission and organizational structure, as well as an extensive collection of interviews with Catholic athletes.
One of the most interesting recent developments in the sports and faith space is the growing interest among Christian academics and scholars to seriously study and contribute to conversations related to sports. In 2013 and 2014, an informal collection of theologians, academics, and sports practitioners formed the “Sport and Christianity Group” to do this work. They created a twelve-point “Declaration on Sport and the Christian Life” and also developed plans for future gatherings of like-minded Christians. In part because of the efforts of this group, there have been two Global Congresses on Sports and Christianity (in 2016 and 2019). The group’s website, Sport and Christianity, is infrequently updated, but it does provide a useful snapshot of the basic ethos and ideas behind the efforts to more effectively connect Christian academics with Christian sports practitioners.
As the flagship journal for thoughtful evangelicals, Christianity Today has published numerous articles and essays over the years that cover sports. On their website they have a page where all of their sports-related stories are collected, making it a treasure trove of useful content for Christian sportspeople.
The world of sports and Christianity is dominated by evangelical Protestants. In part this is because evangelicals have so effectively organized themselves through sports ministry organizations like FCA, AIA, and PAO. But in part this is also because liberal leaders within mainline Protestantism have tended to distance themselves from sports, only speaking about it when they have something negative or critical to say. Even so, the primarily evangelical Christian leaders in sports would do well to listen to other Christian perspectives. Marcia Mount Shoop provides one such voice. A pastor and theologian who fits within the realms of progressive mainline Protestantism, in the early 2010s Shoop launched a blog series titled “Calling Audibles” that discussed big-time college sports from a theological perspective. Out of that series came Shoop’s book, Touchdowns for Jesus and Other Signs of the Apocalypse. Although Shoop does not focus her writing exclusively on sports, she continues to discuss the subject at her “Peace-ing Together” website.
Stuart Weir, the leader of Verité Sport, has been involved with the international sports ministry community for a couple decades. This website serves as his online headquarters. The “Downloads” section is especially useful as a resource, with links to an impressive collection of book reviews, bibliographies, devotionals, and more.
A clearing house for a vast array of free, high-quality sports ministry training resources developed through the facilitation of an informal global network of Christian sports ministry leaders. Unlike some of the other websites mentioned here, this one is global in scale, with a truly world-wide vision.
The website of the Association of Church Sports and Recreation Ministries includes a blog and other resources aimed especially at strategies for sports outreach.
Sports Spectrum Podcast: Led by Jason Romano, who formerly worked for ESPN, this podcast is the gold standard when it comes to conversations on sports and Christian faith. With episodes released Monday through Friday, you won’t find a better blend of frequency, quality, and depth of conversation.
Dig Deep: Sport, Faith, Life: This podcast was launched in preparation for the 2nd Global Congress on Sport and Christianity. Hosted by Chad Carlson and Brian Bolt, it features in-depth discussions (usually with a guest expert) centered on cultural, historical, and theological issues in sports. Although it is currently on hiatus, the back episodes are a treasure trove of thoughtful conversations that transcend the news cycle.
Home Team Podcast: Launched in February 2020 by NFL player Sam Acho, ESPN sportscaster Sam Ponder, and pastor Steve Carter, the podcast has an All-Star cast and a goal of providing open and thoughtful conversations on faith, sports, and culture.
Going Deep: Sports in the 21st Century: A project from Marcia Mount Shoop and her husband John Shoop, this podcast explores current issues in sports with a focus on cultural and ethical analysis. It offers an interesting blend of perspectives: Marcia brings her expertise as a theologian, author, and pastor, while John offers a view shaped by two decades of experience as a football coach at the big-time college and NFL levels.
The Christians in Sport Podcast: The official podcast of Christians in Sport, the sports ministry organization based in Britain (see above for more). This podcast combines both discussions of key issues with interviews focused on the faith of specific individuals in the sports world.
Female Athlete Mission Podcast: Although men are often the public face of sports ministry organizations, the number of women involved in sports ministry is just as high (one scholar even estimated that it was higher). This podcast gives Christian women in sports a space to share their experiences and discuss the issues they face.
All In Sports Outreach: An interview-based podcast that features inspirational faith stories from coaches, players, and others in the sports world. It includes a range of voices, stretching from youth sports to professional sports.
Ron Brown’s Kingdom Sports Podcast: The podcast from the Kingdom Sports initiative, this show is hosted by longtime college football coach and sports ministry leader Ron Brown. True to the mission of Kingdom Sports, it focuses on discussing and applying Wes Neal’s principles for integrating Christian faith and athletic competition.
Faith on the Field Show: A weekly radio show hosted by Philadelphia-based sportswriter Rob Maadi, this show features conversations with prominent Christian athletes and coaches about their faith.
Brock Huard’s Above and Beyond: The Intersection of Faith and Sports: Hosted by Seattle-based college football analyst Brock Huard, this show is similar to “Faith on the Field” in its basic format: a radio show that features conversations with prominent Christian athletes and coaches about their faith.
Catholic Sports Radio: Hosted by Bruce Wawrzyniak, this podcast follows the format of inspirational faith-based interviews with sportspersons, but with a distinctly Catholic focus.
The UNPACKIN’ It Podcast: UNPACKIN’ it is a sports ministry that focuses on the sports fan. Its podcast, hosted by Bryce Johnson, features conversations on faith, sports, and life from an impressive array of guests in the sports world.
Bad Soccer Dad: A podcast that highlights Christian engagement with the world of youth sports and (as the title suggests) often includes the perspective of parents. It usually features guest experts who discuss important issues and ethical considerations.
Consider this a “starter pack” of important books related to sports and Christianity. We do not necessarily endorse all of these books, as they take on a range of perspectives. But we do believe that they are important and that they provide a good place to begin if you want to explore written resources on sports and the Christian faith.
Since we kept the list limited to eight books per category, there are plenty of books that we had to leave out. Some notable exclusions:
- Expensive books. We tried to make sure that all of the listed books can be purchased at a reasonable price. Academic books that are over $50 were kept off the list.
- “Religion and Sports” books. There is an entire genre that considers the extent to which sports are like religion. Sometimes those books overlap with Christian themes and ideas. But often they are focused more broadly on “religion” as a cultural construct and category. We kept our list confined to those books that deal more directly with Christianity.
- Devotionals and biographies. There are hundreds of sports-based devotional books and faith-based sports biographies and autobiographies. Because of the sheer volume of books in those categories, we did not attempt to provide a guided list. At least not yet. In the future, we do plan to provide some suggestions in the faith-based sports biography genre. In the meantime, if you are interested in those types of books (especially devotionals) a good place to go is Cross Training Publishing.
History and Cultural Analysis
Practical Guidance/Christian Living in Sports