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Leisure, recreation & sports evidenced in Bible, he says

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–With references peppered throughout the Old and New Testaments, the concept of leisure is biblical, said Dale Connally, who teaches in Baylor University’s recreation and leisure services division.

Use Scripture “to help the people in your church make wise choices about what they do when not in church or working,” Connally, of Waco, Texas, told recreation ministers in a seminar on the philosophy of recreation and sports at Rec Lab, Feb. 25-March 2 at LifeWay Glorieta Conference Center, Glorieta, N.M.

Connally defined leisure as freedom from external, compulsive forces of life (such as work) in order to pursue personally pleasing activities that are not only worthwhile, but provide a basis for strengthening faith.

“External freedom is a very important concept of leisure,” Connally said. “In a lot of leisure activities, only the person doing them understands the rewards involved in that activity (such as running a marathon).”

But there are other common components involved in leisure as well, he said.

Activities must be pleasant, bring happiness, provide a sense of freedom, playfulness, perceived risk, ritual and humor, he said. Recreation, sport and games all fall under the big umbrella of leisure, he said.

“Recreation is a leisure activity with expected benefits that are positive to the individual. They can have external benefits as well, such as aerobics or hiking,” he said.

Sport is related to games and recreational activity, Connally said. “Sport is a game or activity that is organized, has a wide appeal and a governing body.” He cited tournament bass fishing as an example.

Leisure, the arts, sport and rest are listed in several places in the Bible, Connally said.

In the Old Testament, leisure is first spotted in “ideal” form in the Garden of Eden.

Before the fall, Adam and Eve were going to have freedom from the compulsive forces of work to have a faith-based relationship with God, he said.

The Sabbath is the idea that people are to have freedom from work (Exodus 20:8-11).

Music and dance or the arts are listed in Psalm 150:4.

Celebration of the holy days (or holidays) is a form of leisure. In fact, Connally said, he believes it was the precursor to camping.

“During the feast of the tabernacles, Jews thought about the Exodus. They erected tents to get away from the hubbub of every day life to think about how good God had been to them in the past.”

Hospitality or leisure as a social recreation is found in the Old Testament he said. “They took people into their homes, provided them food, drink and access to their dwelling.”

In the Songs of Solomon, sex is mentioned as a leisure activity, Connally said. “One of the things, simply put, is for the pleasure of sex within the traditional marital context.”

In the New Testament, celebration (John 2), rest (Matt. 11:28-30) and quality or abundance of life (John 10:10) are mentioned.

In 1 Corinthians 9:24, Connally said sports is used as a bridge between recreation and evangelism.

“Sport can help us reach out to our culture. There are more examples of sport in the Bible than I’ve recorded. I suspect some of the parables had a more leisure concept to the people of that day than to us.”

Rec Labs are leadership conferences for ministers who work in the field of sports and recreation and are sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. More than 100 people attended the Glorieta conference. A separate Rec Lab was held in January at Lake Yale Conference Center in Florida. For more information about Rec Labs, call (615) 251-3848 or e-mail John Garner at [email protected].

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  • Terri Lackey