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Olympics outreach in Australia to include 5,000 Baptist volunteers

HURST, Texas (BP)–Thousands of athletes and fans will travel to the Olympics next year, worship sports and return home following Christ, according to leaders of Reach-Out 2000, a ministry to the Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, Sept. 15-Oct. 1, 2000.
About 5,000 Baptists are expected to volunteer for the Olympics ministry, which will begin in June and carry through the Olympic Games themselves, said Sam Mings, executive director of Reach-Out 2000.
The ministry is a joint venture between United States-based Lay Witnesses for Christ International, which Mings leads as president, and the Baptist Union of New South Wales, in the Australian state where the Olympics will be held. It’s part of the Olympics Task Force, a ministry partnership embracing a multinational array of denominations and Christian groups.
Reach-Out 2000 will share the gospel with sports fans from around the world, present the Christian message to secular Australians and strengthen Australian Baptist churches, predicted Phil Skinner, general superintendent of the Baptist Union of New South Wales, who recently visited the United States.
“We’re hoping to reach young people from around the world,” Skinner said. “This will be a transnational missions experience. Because of the Olympics and the multiculturalness of Australia, there will be a number of nationalities there. People will come [to the Olympics] as unbelievers and return as believers to countries that are closed to the gospel.”
The effort is bigger than Baptists, he added. “This is a kingdom matter — not a Baptist thing, an Anglican thing or an Episcopal thing — that starts something we desire to see happen,” he explained. “We’re praying for this to happen.
“We’ll use sports as a mechanism to reach people with the gospel. But evangelistic passion and enthusiasm will be reignited and enhanced. We will equip people in evangelism. The temperature will go up; the bar for evangelism will go up.”
Not only will that atmosphere fuel evangelism, but it also will encourage Australian churches, Skinner noted. “It will give the local church a creative opportunity for the gospel to be proclaimed in its community. It will reignite evangelistic flames for some churches and enhance it in others.”
Reach-Out 2000 volunteers will serve churches and minister in communities, even in rural areas, across New South Wales, Mings reported.
The ministry will include large rallies, such as “Evening with the Olympians,” featuring current Olympic athletes, and “Night of Champions,” which also will feature former athletic stars, Mings said. Multi-gold medalist Carl Lewis, the most decorated Olympic athlete of the century, will present his Christian testimony, even electronically in sites where he cannot attend.
The ministry also will feature sports clinics, beginning several months before the Olympics, if enough qualified volunteers step forward, Skinner said. Volunteers will branch out from Sydney, a city of more than 4 million people, and also minister in small towns throughout the region.
“Australia is a sports-mad nation,” Skinner added, explaining the desire to conduct the sports clinics in as many places as possible. “This is a tool to reach people.”
In addition to the sports clinics, volunteers will be involved in hospitality ministry to athletes and fans at the games, as well as providing witness training in Australian churches, where they also will help with worship on Sundays, Mings said.
“We’re not just looking for people to grab people on the street and hand out the Four Spiritual Laws,” Skinner said. “We’re looking for people who want to participate in a mission experience. They will go home — to the United States, Japan, Britain or wherever — and be changed. It’s a two-way street. They will change others, and they will be changed.”
“We’re stressing accountability” in ministry relationships, Mings said of the partnership between U.S. Baptists and Australian Baptists. “We want to utilize our spiritual gifts. And we want them to want us to come back. This is the Australians’ Olympics. We want to proclaim Christ to the world. We also want to build up the Baptist churches.”
Lay Witnesses for Christ has participated in four previous Olympics ministries, but planners think the 2000 Games will be the best opportunity so far, said David Preston, the organization’s senior vice president.
“We’ve never had the support we’ll have in Australia,” he said. “Being able to serve alongside Australian Baptists will help us.”
Tony Woods, a missionary with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board who spent 20 years in Japan and worked in ministry at the Nagano Olympics, is coordinating ministry efforts. He’s assisted by a missionary journeyman and eight “international directors” overseeing various phases of the ministry.
Volunteers are encouraged to participate for at least 10 days or more, Mings said. For more information, contact Mings at Lay Witnesses for Christ, P.O. Box 127, Hurst, TX 76053; phone (817) 284-3594; e-mail [email protected].

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  • Marv Knox