Friday, April 18, 2014

Holy, Holy, Holy

It’s Good Friday, yesterday was Holy Thursday, and Sunday is Easter. The term, “Holy Thursday,” led me to contemplate the other things we call holy and to wonder what we consider to be holy in the world of sport. Further, what is it for something to be holy?
A thing is holy when it is set apart for special use. Holy Thursday is holy because of the Lord Jesus’ use of it in preparing His disciples for His departure and their leadership, His Gethsemane prayers, betrayal, trial, and beatings. It is holy because of Jesus’ purposeful use of it.
My love for the music of Terry Scott Taylor and The Swirling Eddies has also fed my thought process. In the Swirling Eddies’ 1994 album, “Zoom Daddy,” the song, “Holy, Holy, Holy” provokes thought and contemplation about the mystery of holiness in common things.


i was feeling kind of haggard,
low, and shadowy
like a ghost involved in assault
and battery
just a figment of my own dark
hangin' around backstage for
an invitation to

walk the streets of light in new
see what in my dreams at night
she had always been
in a wedding dress of white,
and crowned with seraphim
now she's putting the magic
bite on me once again

it's holy and still a book
I believe it's holy, and still the
sky it's
holy, and still tap water
holy, holy, holy

i caught a glimpse of
something in someone else's eyes
there in the least likely face of
someone i despised
a trace of new beginnings,
when tears are cried no more
and the moment that i knew it,
i walked out my prison door
and into

golden streets of light in new
see what in my dreams at night
she had always been
in her wedding dress of
white, and crowned with
now she's putting the magic
bite on me once again

it's holy, and still a kiss
i believe it's holy, and still the
it's holy, and still the wine and
holy, holy, holy

holy in a baby's breath
in an unexpected guest
in a friend or an enemy
in a poor man's misery

holy, and still the rain it's
holy, and still a strangers face
holy, and still a song it's
holy, and still a prayer it's
holy, and still a sunset it's
holy, and still a starry night
holy, and still laughter it's



  • We’re comfortable with a book being a “Holy Bible.” Can we see holiness in a baseball bat?
  • We’re accustomed to receiving “Holy Communion.” Can we see a football (soccer ball) as a holy thing?
  • We’re okay with “Holy Water” being used for baptism. Can we embrace the idea of Gatorade being holy if it’s given to Christ-loving competitors?
  • We’re happy to confer holiness onto books, water, bread and wine, a family,  a sepulcher, a city, a place in the Temple, a See, and a Father.
  • May we also see the holiness in sticks, gloves, balls, helmets, boxing gloves, benches, courts, cricket grounds, race tracks, swimming pools, rugby pitches, wrestling mats, coaches, and competitors as they are set apart for the Savior’s purposeful use.
That would be my Good Friday prayer. Let’s allow the Lord Jesus to sanctify even the most base and common things of our life in sport, as they are committed, consecrated, and set apart for His special purposes. Let’s use everything at our hands to honor Him as we declare His glories among the nations.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Process for writing a Life Purpose Statement

A couple of years ago I read Leaders Who Last by Dave Kraft and found it to be very good with a long lens view of leadership in the Lord’s Kingdom. Among the most helpful and immediately applicable ideas in the book was his recommended process for writing one’s life purpose statement. The ability to simply, briefly, and effectively express what you do and why you do it is very helpful in recruiting people to your team, in keeping your calendar in line with your life’s purpose, and even in communicating with investors and colleagues.
I would heartily recommend taking the time to work through this process and then sharing your first draft of a statement with those who know you best. They will help you refine it, as mine did.


Process for writing a Life Purpose Statement

  1. Record Bible verses God has applied to your life.
  2. Reflect on how God has used you in the past.
  3. Determine what you are passionate about.
  4. List your known gifts and strengths.
  5. Delineate at what you have excelled in your work experience.
  6. Define what action words best describe what you like to do.
  7. Write down what you like to do in your free time.
  8. Reread all your answers.
  9. Take note of common themes.
  10. Write down key words or ideas that repeat.
  11. Summarize those key words in a short, energizing statement about yourself.
Here’s my example: “I lead, encourage and inspire sportspeople as they pursue the fulfillment of God's purposes for their lives.”

Monday, April 7, 2014

Sports Cliches to Avoid Using

As we serve the men and women of sport, the words we use should be purposeful, grace-filled, loving, and helpful. There are a myriad of sports clichés which don’t fit the previous description and that we should avoid using. Some of them follow.


“It’s just a game.” This cliché simply diminishes the value of every hour of training, every year of achievement, and every deep longing in the heart of a competitive sportsperson. Please don’t insult them by using this cliché.


“If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” This would seem obvious, but many who participate in sport think it’s not wrong if one doesn’t get caught. They equate breaking the rules with maximum effort to compete and to win. Let’s not use this language and let’s not encourage its accompanying attitude.


“Second place is the first loser.” This is the crass, foolish, younger brother to “win at all costs.” It is more blunt and adds the label “loser” to anyone who doesn’t finish first. Let’s not fall prey to this foolish attitude which diminishes the value of everyone who competes, but doesn’t finish in first place.


“The officials stole that one from us.” If we would confess, most of us have harbored this sentiment, even if it’s not been expressed openly. Too often we ascribe ignoble motives to officials, think they’re fools, or worse. If one really understands sport, he certainly knows that there are far more mistakes and errors committed by the players and coaches than are ever committed by the officiating crew. Most games are won or lost by the players, not the umpire, linesman, referee, or judge.


“You deserve this __________ (fill in the blank).” This thought has taken the USA captive over the last five years. It has polluted our sports culture with entitlement and foolishness. Parents, sportswriters, broadcasters, pastors, and even chaplains can be heard uttering this ridiculous phrase related to wins, starting positions, awards, contracts, playing time, leadership roles, coaching jobs, and more ad nauseum. Sport is the ultimate meritocracy, we win because we earn it, not because we deserve it. At each higher level of competition, it becomes more so. I am stunned at the players who arrive on our university campus and in our sports teams who seem to think that showing up is good enough. They have grown up so entitled that they assume that having arrived here is equivalent to achievement. They think they deserve to win and to be awarded just for being present. We must not feed this monster.


“God gave us this win.” Please don’t say this unless you’re also willing to say, “God gave us this loss.” Why would God give you this win? Does He hate your opponent? Does God think your team is holier than the others? Does He like your uniform colors or logo? Let’s give this matter more prayerful consideration than comes with the flippant use of this cliché.


“With the Lord on our side, how could we lose?” This is similar to the previous thought, but just as foolish. I have heard this more times than I’d like to recall. Usually uttered by well-meaning Christian sportspeople, it is a clumsy attempt to give glory to God for a victory. It would be much better to simply express one’s joy and thankfulness for experiencing God’s presence during competition and to thank Him for the opportunity to compete with an honorable and excellent opponent. We are foolish when we ask the Lord Jesus to take sides in a sporting contest.


There are surely many other clichés which are unsuitable for our use and unworthy of the Lord Jesus’ representatives. Let’s contemplate the power of our words and work diligently to find language to serve the men and women of sport with our tongues. We can have a profound impact upon their experiences in sport when we wisely speak, “the very words of God,” as described in I Peter 4.

Friday, March 28, 2014

As working for the Lord

Our friend and colleague, Stuart Weir of Verité Sport in the United Kingdom, does a tremendous job of integrating scripture with sport in his writing. One example is below. I highly recommend Stuart’s web site, the various publications he has done and made available as free downloads, and his weekly devotional thoughts to which you may subscribe.
As working for the Lord

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. Colossians 3:23

Some people describe this as having “an audience of one”, the idea that our focus as we compete is to be on God. We are not running (playing) for ourselves as much as for Jesus.

If you take your sport seriously, inevitably a great deal of your identity as a person is in your sport – why else would you put so many hours into training?

But don’t misunderstand Paul here. He is not saying that sport (or whatever you do) is unimportant – and only “religious” things matter. Quite the contrary!

Paul is saying that whatever you do (and for you that probably involves training and competition), you are to do it for the Lord. Did you get that, because you are a Christian, sport – competition and training – are more important, not less.

Did you think you just had to train enough to satisfy the coach? Wrong! You are training not just for yourself or for the coach but for Jesus!

I find the way the South African swimmer Penny Heyns puts it very helpful: 'I love the sense of satisfaction that I get when I've done a swimming workout or race, and know that I gave my whole being and heart to God in every moment of the swim. It's the best worship I can offer him.'

So get out there and “work at it with all your heart” for Jesus.

Stuart Weir

Verité Sport

Friday, March 21, 2014

Environments and Instruments for Worship

Which of these is a proper environment for worship of the Lord Jesus?

  • A 25 meter competitive swimming pool or an ornate church sanctuary?
  • A gothic cathedral or a modern 45,000 seat baseball stadium?
  • A passion-filled football stadium or a fresco-covered basilica?
  • An eight lane athletics track or a simple altar in a country church?
  • A wonderfully appointed and equipped weight training room or a quaint outdoor shrine?
  • A football pitch with a brand new goal and net or a home’s front room with a small Bible study group?


Which of these is a proper instrument for worship of the Lord Jesus?

  • A large pipe organ or a football helmet?
  • A black leather baseball glove or a beautiful 6 string guitar?
  • A set of drums or the long jump path and pit?
  • A fiberglass backboard with an orange rim and net or a perfectly tuned grand piano?
  • A pair of maracas for percussion or a white leather volleyball for digging, passing, setting, and hitting?
  • A set of lacrosse equipment or a set of percussion instruments?

How did you answer? Did you get stuck in the “Either this or that?” Did you prefer to answer, “Both this and that?” Chances are if you are over forty years of age, you struggled with the dichotomy. If you’re under forty, you probably find the “both and” answer easier to manage. If you love sport and you love Jesus, I really hope you land solidly on, “Both!”


The arenas and the equipment of sport are equally worthy places and instruments of worship as are the more accepted environments and machinery of more traditional worship forms. Equally worthy, less easily accepted and understood.


I would challenge you to free people to experience the Lord Jesus’ presence and His intimate pleasure as much in the world of sport as we encourage them to in church services, prayer meetings, worship events, and devotional reading. Let’s fully integrate our Christian faith into every facet of the lives of sportspeople and we’ll see their worlds transformed by Christ’s presence and power, in us.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Forgotten People in Sport

All through this weekend I’ve been at a state high school basketball tournament. On this weekend the four remaining teams from across the state’s elimination (one off) tournament meet in a flurry of games between both boys and girls teams. My son is officiating four games during the weekend. It is his first assignment to this most prestigious tournament and is likely the apex of this officiating career. Seeing him serve so well in this role makes me more aware than ever that sports officials are the most forgotten or overlooked people in sports ministry.
In my earlier days, I was a wrestling official for thirteen years. Those years coincided with the development of my view that faith and sport should be integrated, rather than compartmentalized. I approached my role as an official with prayer, intense preparation, and careful scrutiny. That approach led to my rapid ascent in the ranks of high school officials in my state and I was in line to work the state finals, as my son just has, but I chose to prioritize watching him play basketball each winter to watching everyone else’s children wrestle, make good money, and enjoy the satisfaction of excellence in sport officiating. That was a hard decision.
I’d like to challenge us all to pay a bit more attention to the referees, the umpires, the linesmen, and other sports officials. Let’s not chime in with the loud rants of complaining about their judgments (though I must confess to doing this) and let’s rather keep in mind that they are people with immortal souls who need to know the Lord Jesus. Let’s also be mindful that some of them are already believers in Christ and may be, as I was, seeking to honor Him by how they arbitrate their sport. Let’s pray that they do their craft well, that they respect the coaches, competitors, and other officials, and that they do all they can to honor the sport and its loving Creator.

Friday, March 7, 2014

FCA Sport Chaplain / Character Coach Conference

The fifth Fellowship of Christian Athletes Sport Chaplain / Character Coach Conference wrapped up yesterday in Kansas City, Missouri at the FCA National Support Center. About 50 sport chaplains and character coaches from all across the USA were in attendance. A large number of our group were FCA staff people and Athletes in Action staffers, but a great portion of the group were volunteers serving teams in universities or high schools. We also had the largest number of women in attendance of any of our conferences. Our conferees ranged from Minnesota to Florida and Oregon to Maryland.



Jon Randles, a long-term team chaplain, church pastor, conference speaker, and consultant was the chaplain to our chaplains. I made a presentation of the basics of sport chaplaincy based on the FCA Sport Chaplains training manual. Marla Williams, a sport chaplain from Georgia Tech, presented a tremendous talk about sexual brokenness among sportspeople. I hope to share her outline with you in future days as it was outstanding. I facilitated a panel discussion with veteran sport chaplains about how to form chapel talks. We also had a panel discussion wherein we fielded questions from conferees and answered them directly.

FCA’s three-part strategy for the development of sport chaplains and character coaches includes: Training, Networking, and Mentoring. We structured the event with lots of open space for not only training to occur, but for the networking and mentoring. Each of these seemed to be done very well. Jeff Martin and Dan Bishop, both vice presidents of FCA’s ministry, participated as facilitators during the conference and Jordan Barnes lent outstanding logistical support. FCA’s CEO and President, Les Steckel, spoke to the group as well.
We will be watching to see where sport chaplaincy is booming in the USA as we plan next year’s conference. We will plan to host that conference in that region of the country so as to encourage it, to nurture its growth and to simply honor what we see the Lord Jesus doing in that area. I hope it’s in your home town.