Friday, September 20, 2019

Pregame Chapel Talk - Excellence Mindset

During this season of college (American) football, we are following this set of characteristics for our team –
Saluki Football Players are:
Ø Consistent
Ø Disciplined
Ø Trusted
Ø Leaders
Ø Excellent
During the preseason I led teambuilding sessions on each characteristic and each week during the season my game day chapels will feature one of these character traits.

This past week the theme was: Saluki Football Players are Excellent.

After a very brief introduction to the theme, I asked for a volunteer to pray and a junior linebacker did so.

The outline of my talk follows.

1.   What does excellence look like in a football uniform? Look around the room and you will see several of your teammates we would say are excellent in what they do. Excellence is best defined as a mindset that leads directly to excellent performance. During the 1993-1995 seasons, the University of Nebraska had an excellent running back. Listen to these statistics. In those three seasons, he had 506 carries, 3,102 yards rushing, that’s 6.18 yards per carry, and he scored 33 touchdowns. A friend of mine was on the Cornhuskers’ coaching staff during that era and I asked him what made that back so special. He said, “Every day at practice when we would run full team plays, he would carry the ball all the way to the end zone. No matter how close or far that was, he always took it to the end zone. When we said we were losing time by his doing that, he replied, ‘Coach, I intend to score every time I touch the ball.’ We decided we could adjust to that.” That is an excellent mindset that led directly to excellent performance.

2.   In a similar way, the Apostle Paul wrote to his friends in Philippi from prison. In Philippians chapter 4, verse 8 we read, Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

3.   The Apostle wrote to his friends about their mindset. He called them to dwell on a particular set of ideas.
·        Whatever is true – fill your mind with truth, not error. Look for what is true, rather than constantly searching for error.
·        Whatever is honorable – dwell on things worthy of honor.
·        Whatever is right – rather than all that is wrong, contemplate what is right to do.
·        Whatever is pure – corruption fills the minds of some. Our minds must seek purity.
·        Whatever is lovely – much of society is obsessed with the ugliest parts of human nature. Dwell on all things lovely.
·        Whatever is of good repute – think about the most respectable things in life.
·        Things worthy of praise – the matters of life that lead to praising God and others.
·        Dwell on these things to develop an excellence mindset.

4.   I challenged our coaches and players to fill their minds with these things.
·        Whatever is true – fill your mind with the things that are true about football and your teammates.
·        Whatever is honorable – dwell on the things in college football that are worthy of honor.
·        Whatever is right – rather than all that is wrong with the sport or our team, focus on what is right about them.
·        Whatever is pure – rather than contemplating perceived corruption in the sport, think about all that is pure in it.
·        Whatever is lovely – fill your minds with all that is lovely in your college football experience.
·        Whatever is of good repute – think about the most respectable things you experience in this sport.
·        Things worthy of praise – consider the things that would make you say, “Attaboy” to your teammates.

5.   Gentlemen, dwell on these things to develop an excellence mindset that will naturally lead to excellent performance.

6.   I wrapped up the chapel by having everyone to stand, taking the hands of those around their tables, and we prayed the Lord’s Prayer together.

This simple, brief, and direct chapel talk is emblematic of how I approach this grand privilege. I aim to inspire and to motivate, both. I want our coaches and players to love God with their whole hearts, and to play great football, both. My commitment to Christ demands that I speak from scripture. My commitment to the team demands that I speak directly and clearly. My commitment to the head coach demands that I speak briefly. For twenty-five years, now I have sought to fulfill all the demands and to both inspire and motivate.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

35 Videos on our YouTube Channel

We have loaded 35 videos onto our YouTube channel and will add many more in the coming weeks and months.

They are brief and direct with simple keys to effective service as a Character Coach or Sports Chaplain. Stop by and take a look. I hope they encourage and equip you.

Friday, September 6, 2019

2nd Global Congress on Sport and Christianity - register now!

Very seldom is there an event that fits both the academic community of ministry in sport and the practitioners of ministry in sport. One such event is the Second Global Congress on Sport and Christianity.

Below is some information on the event. Please register right away. It will be well worth your time, effort, and dollars. I am thrilled to have the privilege of making three presentations during the congress.

Set a course for Grand Rapids, Michigan and the 2nd Global Congress on Sport and Christianity, to be held October 23–27, 2019 on the campus of Calvin University.

This ecumenical gathering of sport administrators, coaches, athletes, pastors, theologians and anyone else who seeks to explore the mutual impact of belief and sport, and also wants to affect a cultural shift in modern sport and the role it plays in a life of faith.

We will hear from Tim Tebow, professional athlete, ESPN analyst and author; Loretta Claiborne, recipient of the 1996 Arthur Ashe Award for Courage; Miroslav Volf, renowned theologian; and other noted names in the world of sport and faith.

Join us as we create space for meaningful dialogue regarding what it means to live faithfully in all areas of work and play.

In 2016, the Inaugural Congress on Sport and Christianity took place in York, England, hosted by York St. John University. The event drew nearly 200 participants from 24 different nations. Best-selling author, activist, and scholar Tony Campolo delivered the opening address, setting the tone for posing questions and seeking answers in sport through the lens of authentic Christian faith. Other keynotes lectures and more than 80 additional presentations were given by scholars and practitioners, each providing new insights and reflections on the culture of sport as it relates Christian thought and life.

In 2019, we’ll continue the energetic conversation. The 2nd Global Congress, hosted by Calvin University and Hope College, will take place at the Prince Conference Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Co-Directors Brian Bolt (Calvin University) and Chad Carlson (Hope College) invite you to join the conversation.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Volleyball Character Coach and Sports Chaplain Podcast

This excellent podcast featuring three outstanding FCA Character Coaches who serve Volleyball teams is posted at -

Here's a link to the #NoFilter study referenced in the recording -

Video of Scripture for Bible Study

We have started a new academic year at the university and with it a new year of Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings for collegiate student-athletes. As our group said they would like to do a verse by verse study of the Gospel of John, I decided to try using video of the scriptures again. Below is a note originally posted here in 2012. Many of my observations are the same, but the access to quality videos for presentation is much greater. Here’s a link to the one we’re using on Monday evenings -

I download the video onto my laptop, connect it to my large screen television, and simply play the video when I would normally read a section of scripture aloud.

Last night was session four in a series of discussions with student-athletes here at Southern Illinois University related to Jesus’ relationships as described in the Gospel of Mark. I have been experimenting with a couple of things in these discussions and I’m now ready to share some of my observations.

1 – I’ve been using an on-line video of the Gospel of Mark, shown on my living room’s large screen television in place of a person reading it. Here’s the link to that video - The video has been remarkably effective and I believe it is so for a few reasons. First, this generation has grown up with video and they gather much of their information via video on-line. Second, this form shows the text on the screen, it is read aloud and it has images and music behind it which enhance the reading.

2 – The intentionally relational focus of this study helps these sportspeople to connect personally with the narrative and to see the human elements in each story. They don’t see these as “Bible stories” as much as examples of how Jesus interacted with people as a model for how they can wisely and redemptively relate to those around them.

3 – I have printed out my outline (as seen below and as attached), handed them out at the beginning of the session and included questions for contemplation and application at the end for them to use throughout the week. I had no idea if this would work, but not a single page is left behind when they go home. It seems they’re willing to do the contemplation and application after our meeting is over. I’m very happy with that.

Here is last night’s simple outline. Please note the focus on relationships and the simplicity of the questions. Please feel free to use the study if you like and to experiment with videos of Scripture, printed outlines to carry home and other means to help your sportspeople to engage the truth of Scripture and each other toward the goal of life transformation.

Session 4

1. Read Mark chapter 6 aloud (or use the video: and pray together.

2. In verses 1-6, Jesus and His disciples return to His hometown.

a. How do the home folk respond to Jesus’ message?

b. Why would they act this way?

c. How does Jesus respond to their unbelief?

3. In verses 7-13 and 30-52 Jesus teaches and then tests His disciples.

a. What seems to be the big idea in His teaching in verses 7-13?

b. What did the disciples do after receiving the instructions?

c. How did Jesus test the disciples in verses 35-52 and how well did they do on the test?

d. How much did they learn from the process?

4. In verses 14-29 we hear about King Herod’s response to Jesus’ growing popularity.

a. How would you characterize Herod’s actions?

b. Why would he act this way?

5. Jesus deals wisely with a hungry crowd in a remote location in verses 35-44.

a. How did He demonstrate wisdom, authority and power?

6. In verses 45-52 Jesus again deals with the forces of nature.

a. How is this occasion different from the one in chapter 5 and how similar?

b. What preceded His stroll on the sea?

c. How are the two connected?

7. How did the crowds in Genessaret respond to Jesus’ presence in their area?

a. What happened to them?

8. Thoughts for contemplation and application: How would you benefit from a similar approach to relationships as Jesus demonstrates in chapter 6 in your relationships with;

a. Your teammates?

b. People from your hometown?

c. A jealous authority figure?

d. Mother Nature?

e. Desperately hungry people?

Friday, August 2, 2019

FCA Character Coach Podcast - College Football

Please click the link below to access this excellent recording.

Freedom in Christ

My friend and colleague, Stuart Weir of Verité Sport, recently posted this insightful reflection. Please take a moment to review Stuart’s thoughts and the linked blog post. Thanks.

I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.. Psalm 119:45

The Psalmist’s statement seems to be a paradox. Many people see freedom as getting rid of rules, laws and precepts. The Psalmist finds freedom in seeking and living by God’s laws!

Jesus made this statement about freedom: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”. John 8:36

As athletes it is hard not to get caught up in a performance-driven value system and identity. I heard of a British footballer who admitted that his demeanour for the weekend was deeply affected by how many marks out of 10 the newspapers had given him in the Saturday match reports.

In track and field it is even more black and white. Was your time under 10/11 seconds or not? You are judged by the time, height or distance.

Of course these things are important. You invest countless hours training and practising to be better. That is a good aspiration.

As Christians, however we have been set free from the need to prove our value by our performance. We are no more valued by God if we win than if we lose, if our time is good or we have jumped badly. By living by God’s standards and accepting God’s values, we are set free from having to prove our value by our achievements.

“In short, we experience true freedom in Christ by knowing Him, walking in His ways, and engaging with the changes He makes in and through our lives as we focus on service to Him and to others. This freedom transcends the human freedoms desired in this world, providing peace in this life and freedom with Christ forevermore”.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Character Coach / Sports Chaplain Podcast - Serving Collegiate and High School Soccer Teams

Follow this link to the Character Coach / Sports Chaplain podcast on service of Collegiate and High School Soccer teams -

Five Lies of a Sports Chaplain’s or Character Coach’s Identity

I recently saw a tweet that quoted Henri Nouwen’s Five lies of identity. I seems that this idea was delivered in a lecture by Henri Nouwen titled, “Who are We?: Exploring our Christian Identity.”  I had heard some of these articulated by others, but was glad to find the original source for these ideas.

Henri Nouwen’s Five Lies of Identity:
1) I am what I have.
2) I am what I do.
3) I am what other people say or think of me.
4) I  am nothing more than my worst moment.
5) I am nothing less than my best moment.

Five Lies of a Sports Chaplain’s or Character Coach’s Identity:

1) I am what I have. It’s a trap to find one’s identity in the privilege he’s given, in the prestige she receives by being connected with a team, in the team gear one is given to wear, in the championship rings some are blessed to receive, in the public platform we sometimes perilously ascend, or in the access we are afforded to changing rooms, to sidelines, to the coaches offices and more. Sports Chaplain, what you have does not define you. Most of it can easily be taken away or foolishly forfeited.

2) I am what I do. Serving as a sports chaplain or character coach is what I do, not who I am. To be the confidante to celebrity sportspeople is a responsibility, not a defining characteristic of one’s life. To be chaplain to champions in sport is a privilege, not a personal identity. Any or all these descriptions may be true of what we do, but they are neither primary nor permanent statements of our identity.

3) I am what other people say or think of me. I am not what others may see as a glamourized image, strolling the sidelines of a sports arena. I am not how others' flattery portrays me. I am not defined by my public reputation, good or bad. I am essentially as I am perceived in the poorly informed esteem of my colleagues and friends. Others’ opinions, their flattery or criticism, nor any other external assessment of me defines my life.

4) I  am nothing more than my worst moment. My lack of poise in a critical moment is not a life defining situation. My absence when I was critically needed does not establish my identity. When I have spoken foolishly, when morally compromised, when exposed by ethical failure, when fired from my role, when publically accused of wrongdoing, or when nothing I do seems to bear fruit, none of these moments of failure or neglect ultimately define who I am as a person.

5) I am nothing less than my best moment. I am not defined 100% by my highest achievement, by my association with a championship team, by the times when everyone responds well, or when it seems everything we touch flourishes. Our identity cannot be hung on the fleeting memories of our best days. To be defined by our personal highlight videos is simultaneously pitiful and delusional.

This simple chart displays many scriptural statements re: our identity in Christ. This identity is genuine, secure, and timeless. It’s quite natural for us to be lured into believing the lies of identity, as Nouwen lists them. It is critical that we eschew the lies and hold tightly to our identity in Christ Jesus. Lean into these scriptures and rest in your immutable identity in Christ.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Three Reflections from I Thessalonians 5

My friend and colleague, Stuart Weir of Verite’ Sport, has recently distributed a series of three reflections from chapter 5 of I Thessalonians. I found them to be quite good and have placed them below this paragraph. Please consider following Stuart on Twitter, @stuartweir and check out his excellent website, It’s full of great information, book reviews, free downloads for ministry in sport, and more.

Rejoice always.
Rejoice always 1 Thessalonians 5:16
This is the first of a short series from the end of 1 Thessalonians. Just two words this week but enough to challenge you all week! We live in a world of so much sadness and disappointment. Society gives us such high expectations. We want it all and we want it now. One of the first credit cards in the UK used the slogan “Take the waiting out of wanting”.
Into all that, Paul writes “Rejoice always”. He does not write “Rejoice when you win” or “Rejoice when you sign a lucrative contract” or “Rejoice when you get what you want”. Paul writes, “Rejoice always”.
An athlete I know talks about never letting your highs get too high or your lows too low. It is easier to rejoice with that attitude. At the 2019 World Relays I spoke to an athlete whose team ran brilliantly but messed up a baton change. The athlete expressed a brief frustration at the error but then said: “but we are all healthy, we finished the race and I am thankful for that”. An athlete once told me he had trained himself to smile at the end of a race, in victory or defeat, and in that moment to appreciate the privilege of being a professional athlete.
Rejoicing is an attitude of mind. Ask God to give you a greater capacity to rejoice.
Remember the words of Jesus to the disciples in Luke 10:20 “rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Now that is something to rejoice about.

Pray continually!
Pray continually! 1 Thessalonians 5:17
Just two words again this week, but it will take you a life-time to get it right! Paul is not asking you to give up normal life and live in a monastery. He is asking you to live normal life but to do so in an attitude of prayer. Our relationship with God is not based on an hour on Sunday morning but a 24/7 relationship, of which many would see that hour on Sunday morning as the culmination of the week.
Brother Lawrence in the 17th century wrote a book The practice of the presence of God in which he referred to the need: “to form a habit of conversing with God continually, and referring all we do to Him”. That is what Paul means. It is cultivating a habit of involving God in our daily life continually. Vaughan Roberts suggests that saying that one is going to church to worship is about as silly as saying, that one is off to bed to breathe for a while. Paul would say that same about prayer. Of course, it is good to pray in church and essential to set aside a time each day for prayer but on top of that it is good to have the habit of praying all the time everywhere.
A pro golfer told me he used some of the time walking between shots to pray, an athlete talked to me about repeating Bible verses on the blocks as a reminder that God was there. Think how you can make prayer more part of your daily life.

Give thanks.
Give thanks in all circumstances. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
One often hears athletes or coaches thanking God for victories. What about thanking God for defeats? Paul writes: “Give thanks in all circumstances” that must include when you lose. Sometimes defeat is hard to take; other times you can take positives from performance in spite of the result.
Just as Paul challenges us to pray without ceasing, he challenges us to give thanks in all circumstances. It starts with an attitude. If we approach life with a thankful heart, determined to look for things to be thankful for, it helps keep disappointments in perspective.
I am writing this immediately after playing walking football. We lost by one goal – my mistake in the last minute. I was so disappointed but in the grand scheme of things there were so many things to be thankful for: the joy of playing, the sun was shining, the camaraderie. Overall, I played OK. I have a choice to pout and moan or to be thankful for all the blessings.
Can you think of five things that happened today that you can be thankful for?