The 2014 Winter Olympic Games create a unique opportunity to share the Gospel, not only at for Christians at the games but those within their own communities as well.
One movement that is embracing this idea are the people behind Engage Sochi. Engage Sochi is an initiative that mobilizes Southern Baptists to evangelize to the people of Sochi before, during, and after the Olympic Games.
Co-Director Marc Hooks says, “Olympic ministry has focused primarily on the time during the Olympics and Paralympic Games. However, Olympic cities begin building their infrastructure years prior to the Games. If we use the momentum provided by the Olympics to begin building a church infrastructure prior to the actual events, in 2014 there will be new churches ready to receive and disciple those reached by mass evangelism efforts during the games. And, that paves the way for follow-up and discipleship after the Olympics as well.”
During the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Engage Sochi team will coordinate approximately 400 Southern Baptist volunteers who have partnered with local Russian Baptists. Together they have launched at least one house church group in Sochi and a second home Bible study that is near the Olympic mountain venue in Krasnaya Polyana.
Engage Sochi is using traditional Olympic ministry method of trading “evangelism pins” and using the arts to engage people throughout the Olympic venues. The main task will be to spend time talking with people and forming relationships.
Hooks says, “We don’t want these to be one-time conversations. Having the opportunity to follow-up with people is very important.”
There will also be native Russian-speaking volunteers from across Eastern Europe and the United States who will spend time in Sochi neighborhoods in an effort to connect with the local people and share the Gospel outside of traditional Olympic venues.
“The Olympics are a wonderful way to reach people. Not just in the Olympic city, but across the world. The Olympics bring us together. So, at the same time that churches are reaching out across the world, we want them to use the Olympics as a way to reach people in their own communities,” Hooks said.
“We are very excited…we are talking about something that every person can have, a personal relationship with God.”