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Major Sports Event Partnership helps spread Word in Athens

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (BP)–Christian ministries have converged on Athens for the 2004 Olympic Games with a unified, organized approach to evangelism through a comprehensive volunteer network they call “More Than Gold.”

Major Sports Event Partnership (MSEP) is the strength behind More Than Gold. Organized in 1998, the partnership has witnessed God move in powerful ways, said Michael Wozniak, global facilitator of MSEP who also is a fulltime Christian worker with Radio Bible Class. Missionaries from more than 150 countries have been unified through this effort, which includes more than 70 agencies involved in Athens in a variety of mediums (television, radio, Internet, literature and CD/DVD).

“We have learned that we can do so much more collectively than alone,” Wozniak said in an e-mail interview with Baptist Press. “First of all, it is biblical. Second, it avoids duplication. Third, it maximizes our efforts and models good stewardship. Lastly, an organized platform provides peace of mind to the organizing sports bodies knowing that we are working together with one voice.

“We are seeing this play out in Athens as resource agencies, churches and community agencies bring different gifts to the table that complete the body, all under the theme of More Than Gold. I believe we will achieve a greater return on our ministry efforts for it.”

Wozniak defined MSEP as a network empowering both athletes participating in global events as well as the church through outreach strategies and resources geared to major sports events to reach the world. Resource agencies share content and encourage local adaptation through printing of literature. Television and video resources also are shared, Wozniak said.

“We are a network, and not an organization, [a network] that is Spirit-led and Kingdom-minded,” Wozniak said.

Chris Boltin, associate consultant in mission volunteers ministries for the Georgia Baptist Convention, said MSEP is an effective way for dozens of diverse ministries to come together in Athens for outreach.

“As Southern Baptists, it would represent something like the Cooperative Program,” Boltin said. “Sure, we can do things on our own, but collectively we can do so much more. MSEP provides us a vehicle through which we can all communicate and make sure we share resources and that collective synergy to get things done better.”

On Aug. 5, Boltin left for Athens as the leader of a 12-person delegation of Southern Baptists working within the MSEP network. The Georgia Baptist Convention has been among the recognized leaders within the Southern Baptist Convention in Olympics outreach since 1996, when the Games came to Atlanta. Boltin worked the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and has helped develop the More Than Gold pin, which is a primary witnessing tool for the Athens Games. More than 34,000 of the pins have been shipped to groups represented in Greece, Boltin said.

“The Olympics are a totally different culture, and within that, there is a totally different subculture, and it has to do with pin trading,” Boltin said. “As Southern Baptists, we were trying to meet people at the point of their need. In years past, we’ve used things like the salvation bracelets and different witnessing tools, so that’s how we came up with the idea to do the More Than Gold pin.”

Athletes walk around the Olympic village displaying one or more of the several pins they have been given, Boltin explained. “If you’re wearing it, according to the pin culture that means that you’re willing to trade it,” he said.

“It’s an amazing way to just start up a conversation. But with these pins, we don’t trade them for another pin. They’re given away as a free gift, which is very symbolic of the plan of salvation.”

The pin depicts a red flame with five different colored stars, each representing a part of the plan of salvation. Volunteers are trained to use each color to talk about what the Bible says about eternal life.

Blue represents hope, followed by black (darkness), red (Christ’s sacrifice on the cross), gold (eternal life) and green (growth).

“They never lose their appeal,” Boltin said. “I even had some groups that re-ordered the pins that we used during the Salt Lake City [2002] Olympics. What’s interesting is, you go up and witness to people and they will have the pins from ’96, they will have the pins from 2000 and so they’ll say, ‘Oh, yeah, I remember your group. I know what that’s about.’ So it’s interesting to go up to a stranger on the street and they can explain what the pin means to them.”

A pack of 100 pins costs $35. For more information or to place an order for pins, call (770) 936-5346.
Allen Palmeri is a staff writer for The Pathway, the Missouri Baptist Convention’s newsjournal.

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