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More than fame and money

Hal Donaldson is editor of the Pentecostal Evangel. He spoke recently with Kirk Noonan about this Olympics edition.

Evangel: Why is the Pentecostal Evangel devoting an entire issue to the Summer Olympics?

Donaldson: It’s important for people to know that there are current and former Olympians who are following Jesus Christ. These are people who have had all the world has to offer — fame, money, freedom — and yet they weren’t satisfied. They found happiness and purpose in Jesus Christ. He changed their lives.

Evangel: Who needs to read this issue and why?

Donaldson: This issue will interest virtually everyone — whether you enjoy sports or not. The real-life stories of Olympic athletes will offer hope to people who are dissatisfied with their lives. They will read how they can choose the same path many well-known athletes have taken and receive a new beginning by accepting Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.

Evangel: What are some of the highlights of this issue?

Donaldson: There are testimonies of six athletes, including Jorginho, who is one of the most famous soccer players from Brazil. There’s an article about an Olympic swimmer — now pastor of an Assemblies of God church in Paraguay — whose life was in chaos until he met Jesus Christ. You will also read about Michelle Akers, who last year captured the attention of the world by competing in the World Cup when she was fighting chronic fatigue syndrome. And there are inspiring stories about a judo medalist and a basketball player.

Readers will walk away from this issue knowing there is peace with God and that He is able to meet every need.

Evangel: Why should people pass this issue along to their friends?

Donaldson: This magazine is similar to a greeting card. When people have a birthday or an anniversary, you give them a card to show that you love them. By handing this magazine to people who aren’t currently following Jesus Christ, it’s a way of saying you love them and you care about where they spend eternity.

Evangel: How do readers respond to the Evangel’s sports-theme issues, such as the annual Super Bowl issue and this Olympics issue?

Donaldson: For the most part, people are pleased that we want to publish material that is timely and relevant. They realize these special editions reach a large segment of our society that is interested in sports. People are thrilled to know that athletes like David Robinson, Reggie White and others are followers of Jesus Christ.

Evangel: What would you say to those who are critical of devoting an entire issue to sports?

Donaldson: Every time we distribute an issue like this, we receive many responses from people who have made a decision to follow Jesus Christ. Thousands will read this magazine who aren’t currently believers. However, hundreds of them will be after they read this issue. If we care about where people spend eternity, we can’t forfeit a great opportunity to lead people into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Evangel: Do you expect this issue to appeal to women as well as men?

Donaldson: The Olympic Games transcend gender. They capture the attention of the world — young and old, male and female. This particular issue of the Evangel includes three well-known female athletes. I’m confident it will appeal to both men and women.

Evangel: How is training for the Olympics similar to our walk with God?

Donaldson: The athletes featured in this issue learned long ago that success in athletics requires dedication and daily commitment. Following Jesus is similar. If you want the hope, peace and joy that come from knowing Jesus Christ, you must commit yourself to learning who He is. You do that by talking to Him, reading His words and following the example given us in the Bible.

Evangel: The Games are all about winning and losing. Is there a spiritual analogy here?

Donaldson: If readers know Jesus Christ and are following Him, they are winners in eternity. They will live forever in heaven. But, according to the Bible, those who don’t know Jesus Christ are going to be losers in eternity. They will be forever in hell.

I would encourage anyone who doesn’t know Jesus Christ to read this issue in its entirety, to turn to the ABCs of salvation (see page 32), repeat the words and make a decision to follow Jesus Christ. Then attend an Assemblies of God church on Sunday. At the end of the service, let the pastor or an usher know that you have recently accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and that you want more information on following Jesus.

Evangel: What would you want someone who does not know Christ to know before reading this issue?

Donaldson: That we care about them as individuals. This magazine was published and given to them because we want them to experience the splendor of heaven and the peace that comes every day from knowing Jesus.

Evangel: When you were growing up, did professional athletes who were Christians have any influence on your life?

Donaldson: Yes. I remember as a teen-ager that there were Christian athletes who seemed to have their lives together. They were at peace with themselves and made an effort to tell others about Jesus. But there were others whose lives were in constant turmoil. They were always in the news for the wrong reasons. I decided early on that I wanted to be like the athletes who knew Jesus.

Evangel: Is it your hope that kids will read about these athletes and follow their example?

Donaldson: Absolutely. Young people are going to look up to someone. It’s better for us to present them with Christian role models than for them to follow someone who will lead them astray.

Evangel: Anything else?

Donaldson: Jesus loves every person. He died on a cross for your sins and mine. He knows every mistake we’ve made, and yet He still loves us. He wants the best for us. If we will just humble ourselves, confess our sins and choose to follow Him, we will gain the promise of eternal life. Gold medals are prized items here, but they do not compare to the streets of gold awaiting Christ’s followers in heaven.

 

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