Saturday, December 31, 2011

Prayers for 2012

It’s New Year’s Eve in the USA. I don’t do resolutions, but I would like to offer some items for prayer for the coming year related to our roles of service with the men and women of sport.

• I pray that you are enfolded by God’s grace to love the unlovely and the ones who simply ignore you.

• I pray that you have a daily infusion of the Lord’s thoughts in your mind and heart through prayer and study.

• I pray that you experience remarkable favor with everyone in your sporting world and that once closed doors open to you.

• I pray that you are fully equipped with God’s wisdom for every moment of crisis, doubt, fear, illness and injury that occurs this year.

• I pray that you can sense the Lord’s presence as you ride on buses, sit on airplanes, stand in changing rooms and lie in hotel beds.

• I pray that you can hear the Lord Jesus’ affirming voice as you stroll along the sideline at practice, walk through the locker room, kneel in prayer with a player, sit with a coach whose marriage is crumbling, hold the hand of a dying colleague or simply stand while basking in the Lord’s gracious pleasure as you fulfill your role of ministry with the people of sport.

• I pray that your relationship with the Lord Jesus and relationships with everyone you encounter flourishes and thrives in 2012.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Jesus = Messiah. Joseph and Mary = parents. Shepherds = fans. Angels = sports media.

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,

and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. Luke 2:13-20

Every year we hear this scripture read and I imagine that most of us don’t really see it work in the context of our everyday world. This morning while reading this again, I suddenly saw it in the sporting world.

Jesus is the Messiah and his arrival is heralded by a great company of the heavenly host. We see players come to our teams like they were messiah’s arriving to deliver the team, the program and the community into a new era. These messianic players are usually welcomed by the heralding of a great company of sportswriters and electronic media members.

Joseph and Mary wisely and dutifully care for the baby Jesus and were amazed at what the shepherds were saying. Mary, in particular, is thoughtful about all this, pondering all these things and keeping them as treasure in her heart. We see scores of parents each year who wisely and dutifully care for their young players and they’re often amazed at what the shepherds and angels (sports fans and sports media) are saying about them. The wisest among them both treasure these comments and ponder them in their hearts. They’re wise enough to not buy all the writers are selling, but hopeful enough to think some of it could be true.

The shepherds were informed by angels and personally witnessed Jesus’ first days. They spread the word about both the angels’ words and their first hand experiences with the Lord. They even went home glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. The angels had not overstated the case at all. We are all surrounded by sports fans who read the blogs, the message boards, the scouting services, sport periodicals and some even see the games of the blue chip prospects they hope will play for their teams. They repeat the reports from scouts and the media and when they see the player first-hand, their lips flow with praise for the player, his coaches, parents and everyone else associated with him or her. Sometimes the media has not overhyped the player and he is exactly as reported. Sometimes….

Joseph, Mary, the shepherds, the angels and certainly Jesus lived in a real world. We live in the sporting world. It’s a real world with real people, real parents, real media, real angels, real fans and a real Messiah. Let’s see the media, fans, players, parents, coaches and our colleagues in ministry as significantly as we do the characters in the Christmas story. Let’s help each other to see the significance of each life, each one’s role in the story and how each one relates to the Messiah. Ponder your own role in this story and treasure the wonder of Jesus’ presence in your life.

Friday, December 16, 2011

My Response as an Olympic Athlete and now Sports Chaplain: The Worship Factor

I think about the days when the Romans felt they ruled the earth. They were big on sports and viewed sportsmen as gods. The gymnasiums and baths were for men only who seemingly developed the ability to become a god through sport. They competed against others to show prowess and domination in the sports arena. Today, we see athletes expressing the same type of attitude, using their athletic gifts to demonstrate their superiority over others, and desiring to be praised for their demonstration of athletic domination and showmanship. The problem begins when the athlete desires idol worship. Paul addressed the Christian Romans in his day by saying something so profound that it relates directly to our situation in today's sports. "...Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you." Romans 10:3b

The problem and danger with 'the worship factor' happens when an athlete allows him/herself to be idolized, they stand in the place of the true and living God who deserves all glory and praise. God's command is clear on the god-ship thing, "You shall have no other gods before Me." Exodus 20:3 The field of competition is an awesome opportunity to honor and glorify God through the gift of sport on and off the field. When recognition, accolades, acknowledgement of your athletic gift is received, instead of getting puffed up and prideful over that which God has gifted you, it is an appropriate time to give praise and adoration to our God who truly deserves all our praise.

I personally praise God for Tim Tebow, and all the other athletes in sport, who are not ashamed to turn the arena of idol worship to an altar of public praise. When done out of a heart of love and thankfulness, God accepts it as a pleasing spiritual act of worship. Romans 12:3b The spectator who does not know God, or care to know Him, can witness our true devotion through our lifestyle of praise. What an opportunity athletes have to lift Jesus higher, and allow Him to draw all men to Himself.

To God be the Glory,
Madeline Manning Mims
4 Time Olympian, Gold & Silver Medalist in Track
Olympic and WNBA Sports Chaplain

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Biblical View of Participation in Sport

Sport has been alternately lionized and vilified by leaders in the Christian Church for hundreds of years. Most of those who comment on sport and its value are approaching it from a spectator’s viewpoint. I would like to approach it from a participant’s point of view and seek to understand biblical values which can shape one’s life in sport. Rather than to simply draw conclusions from the Bible’s references to sport (mainly used to illustrate spiritual truth), I would propose using a more analytical process to gather the values which can be applied directly to the lives of sportspeople.

While I will concede that the Bible does not speak directly about sport, but simply references it, I will strongly assert that it powerfully addresses matters of which sport is comprised. I would like to have you consider that sport is:

• A rich environment for engaging the Gospel of Christ.

• A lifestyle of noble work.

• An expression of worship.

• An experience of community.

Let’s now consider each of these ideas more deeply.

Sport is a rich environment for engaging the Gospel of Christ.

In the experience of sport one is deeply engaged in all the elements of the Gospel. On the field, pitch, court or track the sportsperson is surrounded by the beauty of Creation and often feels a genuine connection with the Creator through it. Through the inevitable pain, frustration, loss and grief which accompany a life in sport the competitor is confronted the brokenness brought on by sin, strained relationships and a tainted Creation. Those who engage in a sporting life experience grace for the restoration of broken relationships with teammates and hope for recovering the brokenness they feel through loss and failure. In a life of sport the participants encounter a level of community and fraternal love that is seldom known by people outside the Church of Christ and frankly, by many in the Church. The camaraderie shared by a sports team is a powerful and dynamic force in the lives of everyone associated with the team.

Even those who have yet to commit their lives to Jesus can experience these elements of the Gospel and can have their hearts stirred by them. Those of us who are followers of Christ and live in this environment are constantly reminded of the power of the Gospel and its implications for every facet of our lives. Sport, like any other human endeavor, if left to its own will naturally become utterly debased. It is horribly broken by sin, but it can be transformed by the presence of Christ Jesus in the lives of Christian sportspeople. Sport is a rich environment for engaging the Gospel of Christ.

Sport is a lifestyle of noble work.

Those who are engaged in a life of sport are intimately familiar with the work which is required for any level of success. There are countless hours of training, evaluation, skill development, strategizing, collaboration with teammates and coaches and ultimately the competition itself. Sport requires intensity of will and depth of commitment to endure the work that results in victories. The Bible is full of commentary on the nobility and the God-honoring value of such work. Among the simplest and most direct expressions of this ethic is in Colossians 3:22-25.

22 Slaves, obey your human masters in everything; don't work only while being watched, in order to please men, but [work] wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.

23 Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord—you serve the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for whatever wrong he has done, and there is no favoritism.

The scripture makes no excuses for the slave, but challenges him to do his work, whatever it is, as if he was serving Christ Jesus and not his earthly master. Sportspeople are similarly serving both earthly masters (coaches, club managers, team owners, and such) as well as the Lord Christ. The Christ-following sportsperson is challenged to serve wholeheartedly, respectfully and enthusiastically, knowing that he is ultimately serving the Lord in his work.

Sport, like other avenues of work, is noble in itself and a worthy lifestyle for the follower of Christ. The Christian sportsperson is informed by the Scripture and energized by the Holy Spirit. He will experience the frustration, pain and loss which are inevitable consequences of the Fall, but he will also experience the transformation which comes from the power of Christ as demonstrated in his relationships with teammates, opponents, coaches and the sport itself. Sport is a lifestyle of noble work.

Sport is an expression of worship.

Throughout the Holy Scriptures there is a wide variety of expressions of worship. Men and women throughout the ages have employed a myriad of methods to declare their love for, their devotion to and the greatness of their God. Musicians play, sculptors sculpt, preachers speak, painters paint, writers compose, dancers perform and athletes compete. In each of the aforementioned expressions of worship there are physical, intellectual, social and spiritual dimensions.

The Bible contains countless such expressions and a broad list of methods. Witness Psalm 150 and its listing of numerous instruments as well as dance as expressions of worship.

1 Hallelujah!

Praise God in His sanctuary.

Praise Him in His mighty heavens.

2 Praise Him for His powerful acts;

praise Him for His abundant greatness.

3 Praise Him with trumpet blast;

praise Him with harp and lyre.

4 Praise Him with tambourine and dance;

praise Him with flute and strings.

5 Praise Him with resounding cymbals;

praise Him with clashing cymbals.

6 Let everything that breathes praise the LORD.


Once again, the Bible does not directly reference sport as an expression of worship, however Romans 12:1-2 does seem to broaden the definition of what the Lord sees as God-honoring worship.

1 Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

No human enterprise more requires the presentation of one’s body as a living sacrifice as does sport. The daily process of training, practice and competition is certainly sacrificial and I would submit, holy and pleasing to God. Thus it is our spiritual worship. It is such because it is empowered by the sportsperson’s desire to declare his love for, devotion to and the greatness of his God; just like the musician, painter, dancer, preacher, writer or sculptor.

Sport, like other expressions of worship, is powerful and dynamic in the life of the follower of Christ. The Christian sportsperson is informed by the Scripture and energized by the Holy Spirit. Sport is an expression of worship.

Sport is an experience of community.

The people of sport live in a complex network of relationships and experience community in ways that are both wonderfully rich and uplifting as well as corrupt and demeaning. Sportspeople relate daily with their teammates, with opponents, with coaches, with officials, trainers, office staff, equipment managers and even with the elements of the sport itself.

Like any community, the sport world is either enriched or impoverished by the people who populate it. The media seem obsessed with reporting the stories of those in sport that have corrupted it by means of cheating, lying, abusing drugs or engaging in foolish sexual behavior. This is what the spectators see of the sport community. What those outside the sport world fail to see is the rich depth of relationships which are forged in the fires of intense competition, long hours spent together, in the exultation of winning and the grief of losing.

The Holy Scriptures eloquently describe the nature of true Christian community in both narrative passages like Acts chapter 2 and in didactic passages like Ephesians chapter 4. If one is actively engaged in sport, he or she can see the faces and hear the voices of teammates when reading the verses below from Ephesians 4:1-6.

I, therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, 3 diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds [us]. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope at your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

This dynamic exhortation from the Apostle Paul applies both to the Church as well as to any sport team. If a team were to exercise love, would diligently maintain unity with humility and gentleness, it would surely experience a profound sense of community. This would be true for those who have yet to commit themselves to Christ, but it would certainly be more likely to occur and more powerfully energized if they were filled with the Holy Spirit as believers are.

Sport, like other experiences of community, includes relationships with saints and sinners. It exists in a complicated web of relationships with teammates, opponents, officials, coaches and even the competitor’s relationship with the sport itself. Such community is a powerful experience in the life of the follower of Christ. The Christian sportsperson is informed by the Scripture and energized by the Holy Spirit. Sport is an experience of community.


Sportspeople are richly blessed to daily experience the Lord’s grace and mercy. They live in an environment which allows them to engage the Gospel of Christ, even if they’re unaware of it. They actively pursue a lifestyle of noble work which can truly honor the Lord Jesus. They have opportunities to present their bodies as living sacrifices as powerful expressions of worship. Sportspeople experience community daily in ways uncommon to most and even those yet to believe in the Lord get a foretaste of true communion.

When one is in a committed relationship with the Lord of Creation, has engaged the Gospel, finds fulfillment in his work in sport, expresses his love for and devotion to Christ through sport and experiences loving community with teammates and even opponents, he experiences sport at its best.

Sport is a rich environment for engaging the Gospel of Christ. Sport is a lifestyle of noble work. Sport is an expression of worship. Sport is an experience of community. Let’s compete in a Christ-honoring way and thereby experience the Lord’s presence and His pleasure in every moment.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Notes on Coaching Staff Transitions

At this time of year in college football, there are dozens of changes among head coaching positions, multiplied by their staff’s transitions. This displaces hundreds of coaches and their families each year. We can serve them by understanding the situation and positioning ourselves for effective ministry.

Related to the outgoing staff:

• If the staff was fired, understand that this feels like failure and a lot like death to them.

• Help the coaches to see this situation within the sovereignty of God. The Lord is not surprised by this.

• Understand that the transition is probably harder on the coach’s family than on the coach.

• Be available to them. They may not want much company, but if they welcome your presence, be there.

• Be prepared for the termination of some relationships. Some relationships will live beyond their tenure with your team, but others will cut off all ties to this place and you could be cut off as well.

• Communicate respect and thankfulness for their time with your team as well as hope for their future.

• Assure them of your prayers and availability to serve.

• Written communication is very good and can be an enduring encouragement to them. Send a card, an email and/or periodic text messages to stay in touch with them.

Related to the incoming staff:

• Pray for favor with the athletic administration and the new head coach.

• When a new head coach is announced, send a letter of congratulations immediately (keep it to one page).

• When the coach is settled into the office, get an appointment to welcome him/her and to offer your assistance.

• Bring a gift (a book) that is reflective of your desired relationship with the coaching staff and team.

• A wise attitude is reflected in offering to do, “as much or as little as the head coach believes appropriate.”

• When discussing a role with the team one can reference his/her role with past coaching staffs, but don’t lock into those methods or activities exclusively.

• Let the coach paint the parameters for your role and work to build trust and credibility from there.

• It is always wise to offer to serve with no strings attached. Guard your attitude from presumption.

• Come prepared to discern the coach’s perception of his/her, the staff and the team’s needs.