A number of Orangemen have kicked off an innovative campaign with the goal of spreading the gospel to football supporters across Northern Ireland.
Pitch-side advertising boards highlighting the Word of God are already apparent at a number of Irish Premiership grounds, with ongoing plans for further expansion.
Such promotion is only the first step of the Gospel Goal initiative, as brethren from its steering committee aim to ‘score’ with their target audience.
One of its members, Paul Clydesdale, explained the genesis of the religious outreach through sport emerged following a meeting of chaplains in Co Down last year.
“At that meeting we were challenged to practice our Christianity, not only within the Institution, but also at home, at work and in our social activities,” the Portadown Orangeman said.
“That stayed with me and I prayed over the next few days for guidance on the challenge laid down.”
Coincidentally, at the same time, Paul noticed Linfield Football Club had put a notice on social media asking for pitch-side advertisers.
“I thought this would be a tremendous way for the Loyal Orders to spread the gospel.
“After issuing an appeal, within days I had enough money to put the board up at Windsor Park.
“Seeing the potential, a group of Orange brethren formed Gospel Goal together to evangelise to all football supporters across the Province and spread the good word of the gospel.”
The pitch-side board is now a regular fixture at Windsor Park, as well as similar advertising now secured at the home of Glenavon FC, Mourneview Park in Lurgan, and at the Coleraine Showgrounds. Boards are also now prevalent in the lower leagues, including at Rathfriland and Moneyslane football clubs.
Current messages on the advertising include ‘He is my Defence’ and ‘Trust in the Lord’.
“Our goal is to cover all the Irish league grounds with the boards. The boards are really the first step – we are also producing tracts to meet the people and speak to them about the gospel.”
Describing the response to the campaign as “unbelievable”, Paul said: “When we were giving out tracts at a Coleraine-Linfield match last season the supporters actually queued to receive them, with only a small number discarded afterwards.
“The boards are already planting debate among supporters and the wider football community – opening up new opportunities to speak about the gospel.”
That message was reinforced during Northern Ireland’s recent Euro 2016 campaign through the promotion of passages of scripture along with football related slogans on social media.
Paul, who recently completed a sponsored walk to raise funds for the project, revealed an official launch is due to take place at Parliament Buildings next month.
More information is available on Gospel Goal via Facebook, Twitter, and its dedicated website – www.gospelgoal.com.