On Friday, 9th October, 2015, Hillsong Church London put on their annual Overs Vs Unders Rugby Match. The annual event is a celebration of rugby, friendship and community, where the Overs (men ages 30 and over) take on the Unders (men under age 30).
With a crowd upwards of 500 people of all ages who turned up to support their respective sides, the event was felt to be a major success. In true Hillsong fashion, there were fireworks, film crews, and no shortage of spirit or enthusiasm.
Kris Mikkelson, the pastor of Hillsong Guildford and sports chaplain for London Irish rugby club, has a passion for sport – especially rugby. When talking with Engage 2015 after the match, he shared why Hillsong continues to organize the annual intra-church contest, “Most of all, it’s just about friendships. We always get over four or five hundred people out. It’s a good celebration, a good night out, and people make friends. It’s just good. People come around a common interest and it’s been a brilliant thing for us to engage with people in the community who wouldn’t usually see church.”
It’s difficult to argue with him, as the crowd was bustling with excitement. After an Unders score, their supporters could be found chanting, “We want another one!” Much to the dismay of the Overs fans.
Kris gave his thoughts on sports ministry, and why it can be such a powerful tool for the church, “Whether it be rugby or music or something like that, it’s something that people have in common. Whether they be Christians or not, they come to something like this and they find out that we’re normal, average, ordinary people. I think that changes their perception of Christians, and hopefully God after that.”
He admits that the excitement surrounding the Rugby World Cup has certainly contributed to the enthusiasm for the Overs Vs Unders match saying, “It has raised the profile of rugby. You look around tonight, there’s hundreds of people who have come down. I think it has really stirred up some excitement.”
The event was a success, and churches continue to utilize large sporting events like the Rugby World Cup as platforms to reach their communities for Jesus. As Mikkelson says, “the fact is that sports is people.” Hillsong and many others have used that way of thinking to foster community among those not just inside the church, but outside the church as well.