Hi Stephen, glad you could talk with us. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and where you are currently in ministry?
Sure. I’m married to Shareen and we have two children – Bill (13) and Charlotte (12). I am part of a great ministry team at Anglican Churches Springwood, do some guest lecturing at SMBC, and enjoy a bit of writing.
What did your former life involve? How come you ended up in ministry?
Thanks to the grace of God, I became a follower of Jesus when I was about 10. I loved being a Christian, read my Bible, prayed, was involved in youth group and tried to witness to my friends at school. In around Year 10 I read up on apologetics which I found extremely helpful. I then felt I could believe with my head as well as my heart. Knowing what I believed and why I believed stood me in good stead for the future as I sought to live out my faith at university, work, on the backpacking circuit, and in the sporting world.
Growing up, I really enjoyed playing sport, and by the end of Year 12 a future career in professional cricket was a genuine possibility. I played in the NSW Under 16 and 19 sides with the likes of Steve and Mark Waugh and Mark Taylor. I thought it would be good to have a Christian cricketer playing at a high level. However, I ended up falling into the category of those who “almost made it but not quite”. I continued playing Sydney First Grade cricket into my early 30s, made some great friends, and did my best to be a Christian witness and encouragement within that environment.
I worked as a lawyer in the city during my 20s which was a great experience. All the while through my university and lawyering years, I was very involved with ministry at my church – doing youth and young adults work, and occasional house party speaking and preaching.
Eventually—and abbreviating a much longer story—I thought it would be good to do full time what I was doing part time, and so went to Moore College. I’ve been serving full time as an Anglican minister in Sydney since 2004, except for 2009-12 when I served part time while doing a PhD in New Testament Studies (evangelism and apologetics in the book of Acts) at the University of Sydney.
Was it a hard decision to give up a possible cricketing career to pursue this different track?
Well, actually, it wasn’t my decision, it was God’s. I thought a career as a Christian cricketer would have been a great idea, but obviously God had other plans. Yet throughout my life I’ve wanted to serve God, and evangelism, preaching and the training of leaders have been particular passions. So although I was very disappointed when cricket didn’t work out, the main thing in my life—serving God—remained the same.
You’ve written a few books, the most recent being The Good Sporting Life. What motivated you to write it?
I’ve always been interested in thinking about how Christianity impacts all areas of our lives, sport being one of them. A few years back I was talking to an older Christian man who had been a keen sportsman. He reflected that when he was younger he could see no real connection between his sport and his faith. It was as if sport was something that God let him do in his time off. I think that for many Christians their sport and their faith may not be well integrated.
The aim of the book was to help believers think about sport Christianly, so that it is part of their Christian life, not separate to it. In my view sport is a great gift from God but, like all things, it takes place in a fallen world. So depending on how we approach it, it can be a real plus for our spiritual life and for the kingdom of God, or a real minus. The aim of the book is to help it to be a plus. I tried to make my writing as biblical, practical and interesting as possible. I interviewed a lot of sportsmen and women from around the world, and I share a lot of stories. My hope is that Christian players, parents, pastors and fans will read the book, or at least think about the topics that it addresses.
You’ve written another book in recent years, Travelling the World as Citizens of Heaven. What motivated that book? Do any of the reasons overlap with why you wrote your book on sport?
Actually, when I finished my PhD and had written an academic book on the topic of evangelism and apologetics in Acts, I wanted to write a popular Christian book on the same themes. But I thought: “Why would someone buy a book on evangelism/apologetics by Stephen Liggins, when they can buy one by John Chapman or John Dickson or Rico Tice?”
So, I decided to write on topics where I felt that I had something to say, and where there was a gap. Sport was one topic, and another was travel. I mean, have you ever read or heard a talk on the topic of Christianity and travel? The answer is almost always: ‘No’. Yet – Covid-aside – travel is one of the most widely-practised but least addressed things that Christians do. There is very little specific help given to assist Christians in thinking about the topic wisely.
As with sport, I take the view that travel is a good gift from God that takes place in a fallen world. If they undertake it, I want Christians to see travel as part of their Christian life, to address it with godly priorities, and experience the benefits while avoiding the dangers. In both the travel and the sport book, I want Christians to live out their faith in all areas of their life—not just at home, work and church, but also on the sports field, in the dressing room, on the cruise ship and in the youth hostel.
The Good Sporting Life and Travelling the World as Citizens of Heaven are both available from Matthias Media.
You can read reviews of both books at The Gospel Coalition Australia.