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  • Writer's pictureMark Alan Williams

It Was Better Than The Olympics Opening Ceremonies!

Updated: Mar 26, 2019

I was so blessed to witness this extraordinary gathering.

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Recently I watched the 2018 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies from PyeongChang, Korea. They were wonderful: full of Korean cultural celebration, pageantry and dazzling effects. The synchronized drone light show was the highlight for me. It would have been awesome to be there in person. However, a few years ago I attended an outdoor stadium ceremony in Seoul, Korea that I think was even better!

About 60,000 cell group leaders gathered for their annual Day of Prayer that I was privileged to attend in 2009 in Seoul, Korea.

The event I attended was a Day of Prayer during the 2009 International Church Growth event hosted by the largest church in the world, Yoido Full Gospel. About 60,000 cell group leaders from that church gathered in a stadium for the event. These were not just cell group attenders, but the leaders of cell groups of about 10. It was mindboggling to think of how many were part of that enormous church.

In comparison to the 2018 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies, it didn’t have all the dazzling laser lights and pyrotechnics. In fact, the most colorful element was that each section of several thousand cell group leaders, representing a region of the city of Seoul, had on the same color T-shirts and in most cases umbrellas, pool noodles or other decorations. It was huge, but it wasn’t flashy.

However, I believe it was even more impressive than the Olympics Opening Ceremonies.

Here are 3 reasons the ceremonies I attended in Korea were better than the Olympics Opening Ceremonies:

#1. Olympic athletes are exclusively young people. But Christ’s “Gospel Olympians” are all ages!

Watching the Olympians march in the Olympic Opening Ceremonies revealed one thing very much in common: they are all in the first half of life. They represented many countries, but all had this same trait in common. The average age for USA Olympians is 26.5, “a standard age range for athletes competing at this level.”

That’s me in the sun glasses, amongst true “Gospel Olympians” including my host Hendrik Vorster who is on my right side (holding a camera).

However, the ceremonies of the Day of Prayer for cell group leaders at the Full Gospel Church was for all ages, even older guys like me.

I like that because the Christian life isn’t a sprint, or a mid-range race. It is a life-long Marathon. Thus, here is our challenge:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2a NLT)

We must run with endurance, right into our older years, until the end! As we reach the end, I hope you and I will be able to say with the Apostle Paul “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7 NIV)

No matter our age, we will be able to lead in ministry for Jesus. In fact, one thing I love about prayer is the fact that even when you or I are on our deathbed, we’re not out of the game with God. As long as we are conscious, we can do one of the most important activities of all: we can pray!

#2. All “Gospel Olympians” are winners.

The number of athletes parading into the stadium in PyeongChang was impressive. It’s always fun to watch all their smiling faces and it takes some time for all of them to enter since there are so many. There are 2,952 athletes competing in the Winter Olympics in 102 events.

If my math is correct, that means there will be 306 medals given. Thus, the vast majority of athletes will NOT win a medal; gold, silver or bronze.

However, in Christ, everyone can be a winner and receive the commendation “well done thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23) when we stand at the bema judgment seat for Christians.

This is taken from the parade of dignitaries I was marching into the stadium with (the guys in dark suits). It was almost overwhelming! I felt like a “Gospel Olympian!”

As a special guest of a member of the Church Growth International, when I went to Seoul and attended the Day of Prayer, I got to march into the stadium with the dignitaries, such as my wonderful friend Dr. Hendrik Vorster. It was an amazing feeling—I felt like an Olympic athlete parading into the Olympics Opening Ceremonies!

The sheer enormity of the event was amazing. But what made it even more special was the fact that everyone in that stadium was there to worship the Lord Jesus who loves us all. There were no losers! All “Gospel Olympians” who faithfully serve Jesus are winners!

3. Olympic medals are a short-term reward, but Christ’s rewards are eternal!

While most Olympians will not win any medal, even most of those who win medals will not become rich or famous. They’ll get the medal and a little money, but not a lot to show for all their immense effort. Since 1912 Olympic gold medals are no longer solid gold.

I hope the Olympians have enjoyed the journey, because there is no pot of gold at the end of the Olympic rainbow for most athletes.

While Shaun White earns about $10 million a year, primarily from endorsements, he is a big exception to the rule. Most Olympians earn nothing from Olympic competition. Many countries provide travel expenses, but that’s it.

However, “Gospel Olympians” earn eternal rewards!

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way as to take the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (1 Corinthians 9:24-25 NIV)

How awesome is that. Our “crowns” (rewards) will last forever! Praise God!

Note: A few years ago, Carolyn and I got to visit the birthplace of the Olympics in Greece. You can see some photos and my article HERE.

Your thoughts are welcome! Please leave your comment below.

Each section had their umbrellas, pool noodles or other decoration.

All was done to the glory of Jesus!

I was told that the stadium was used in the 1988 Summer Olympics held in Seoul.

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