Friday, October 25, 2013

When, where are you most or least effective?

Over the next few weeks I’d like to ask you a series of questions, compile your responses, and then I’ll report on what you and your colleagues from around the world have said. Please take a moment to contemplate on these questions and to send a thoughtful response. I believe that such idea sharing enhances each of us. Thanks.
1)   When, where and in what settings do you feel like you are being most effective in your service of the men and women of sport?
2)   When, where and in what settings do you feel like you are being least effective in your service of the men and women of sport?
Think in terms like: on the court/pitch/field, at practice, in the stadium, in the locker (changing) room, in a chapel service, in a Bible study, on the sideline, in the dugout, on game day, in private preparation, in conversation with a competitor, etc… Thanks.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Rewarding Moments

Our university’s football program (American Football) recently celebrated its 100 year anniversary of competing in that sport. As a part of the celebration they chose an “All-Century Team” of players and coaches from across that span of time. They chose a number of players from each position and three coaches, totaling eighty-three in all. Quite a few of them were able to attend the events which included a dinner with a program, a tailgate prior to the game and introductions of each of the chosen players during half-time of the game. It was a great weekend and a tremendous opportunity to see many of the players whom I’ve known over my twenty seasons of serving the team.
That weekend and several occasions since then have led me to reflect on the rewarding moments that we often experience in our roles of service. I  am listing many of these below and I hope they raise your awareness as to such opportunities. There are enough painful moments, days of doubt and frustration, periods of worry and misunderstanding, don’t you dare miss the moments of reward. A couple of these per year can keep me in the harness through months of criticism and barrenness.
·        Phone calls – an occasional call from a player who asks for prayer prior to a job interview or announces the birth of his new baby is warmly received and touches the soul.

·        Text messages – the brief, direct communication I receive from players and coaches goes straight to my heart when they share news or ask for prayer.

·        Returning players – at homecoming games, during special events like mentioned above or on any occasion, the smiles, hugs, back slaps, and the stories told between the team chaplain and the players who have gone on in their lives and careers, are priceless.

·        Weddings – I have been privileged to lead several couples, made up of collegiate athletes or coaches, through the preparations for marriage and their wedding ceremonies. The opportunity to serve them in this way and to help shape their relationships is richly rewarding and a little intimidating in its importance.

·        Births – for some of the couples whose weddings I have been privileged to officiate, I have also been present on the days their babies were born. To visit the family, to hold their newborn and to be asked to pray for their child is among my life’s greatest privileges. I feel like Simeon from the book of Luke blessing the Christ child.

·        Facebook messages – a few times across the years of my having a presence on Facebook I have been stunned to receive a message from a player from many years past describing the impact of our ministry upon his or her life. The fact that all of that person’s friends and all of my friends can also read the message is humbling and touches my heart deeply.

·        Funerals – this one may not be so obviously rewarding, but to be present when people’s hearts are laid open by grief provides us with opportunities to love them deeply and without resistance. Such moments also prompt some vulnerable expressions of gratitude and reflection by those we serve. To walk with them through the pain is worth it when we connect this deeply.

I am sure I could find some more, but I trust this short list of rewarding moments will be sufficient to fuel your imagination for the discovery of similar instances in your experience and even in your future. Let’s love extravagantly and serve selflessly.

Friday, October 11, 2013

A note from the U. K.

Below is a brief article written by one of our colleagues from the United Kingdom. This article by Rev. Jon Bergen was published in the Brechin Advertiser. Rev. Bergen is one of the growing number of sport chaplains affiliated with Sport Chaplaincy U. K. Please give his thoughts a read. He does a great job of keeping sports results in the proper perspective.

 Thought for the Week

Published on the 07 October, 2013 06:34

Well, as much as it feels like it might just want to be summer for a wee while longer it is becoming obvious that fall is here.

The leaves are changing, last week of school before the Tattie Holidays and I was away for my Sports Chaplaincy UK conference.

It was, as usual, a longish sort of journey down to North Hampton to meet up with 100 plus sport chaplains to discuss and learn about a wide variety of issues dealing with sport and how chaplaincy plays a part in many different parts of the lives of those who love, play or both in the sports world.

I have had some suggest that Christianity is not part of the sporting world and I suspect that it isn’t on the day-to-day conscience of many that play or watch.

But I am also reminded that the Apostle Paul loved sport and used several images of sport in his letters to the various churches.

I am reminded in a book by Peter Lupson, ‘Thank God For Football’, that much of the early days of football was founded by churches/priests/ministers as a way to keep young lads out of trouble. Sadly that connection has been a bit lost in these more recent years.

A mate of mine that was at the conference is also a minister in the Heathrow area and heads up a group call Christians in football.

We had the annual draw for the churches’ cup and trophy tournament schedule and we talked about the various views of the guys playing for the over 100 teams involved and the impact of chaplaincy and the Christian ethos in their lives.

It was also good to just sit and chat at meals and breaks with other guys that love sport and Jesus at the same time, and realise I am not a lone nutter out here in Angus.

So, ok, back to Paul as he writes about sport in the Epistles. He makes a case for doing things with a goal of greatness of effort.

I am reminded often that God never called us to success but rather faithfulness and so to me that involves doing our best and Paul says in Philippians 3:12-14: “Not that I have already attained (achieved), or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended (arrived); but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

This speaks of effort and endeavour not about result as such.

A win is wonderful in sport. But I have since learning about proper football learned that a draw can also be a great joy or disappointment.

In Ayr, BCFC got a 2-2 draw that was almost as good as an outright win.

But last Saturday’s 1-1 draw was a disappointment as there were chances missed and effort not as good as the week before.

In order for the team to come back in the coming weeks they will have to put the past into the past and make the effort needed.

So it is with our lives as well. We have to think beyond where we are and ‘press toward the prize’.

Praying that I’m pressing toward the right prize,

Rev. Jon Bergen

Brechin Baptist


Friday, October 4, 2013

Opponent ≠ Enemy

In a couple of hours I’ll board an airplane for a flight to Sioux Falls, South Dakota (USA) for a college football game (American Football) on Saturday. We’re playing a team whose coaching staff and sport chaplain are remarkably honorable men. To have opponents of such quality and integrity makes the game better and everything about the sport is enhanced. This is totally opposite of the approach taken by most people in sport. They believe that opponent equals enemy.
Below is an article I wrote a few years ago which is also included in the new book, Free to Compete – Reflections on Sport from a Christian Perspective. ( ISBN: 978-1-938254-15-4 paperback 176 pages) I hope it both challenges and encourages you as you serve the men and women of sport.
Opponent ≠ Enemy

From my earliest days in sport I can recall the attitude, held by many, that opponent = enemy.  When competitors are stating the score, I have heard and said, “Good guys up 10-7.”  I remember a long-time college and professional football coach saying in very explicit language and without any pang of conscience, “They are the enemy!!”  Many of us would join him in such statements.  Most of us would have to confess to a less than charitable attitude toward our opponents.  Let’s investigate this a little further.

Practically speaking, a competition without a worthy opponent is just a practice.  Without an opponent one cannot fully compete.  In a very profound sense, we need our opponents just to have real competition.  The opponent is a necessary component to the whole process.  An opponent is needed and should therefore be respected, whereas an enemy is hated and life is better without them.

An opponent makes a competitor better and the more competent the opponent, the greater the improvement for all concerned.  Enemies aim to destroy each other and that only results in harm to both. 

A worthy, respectful opponent helps bring out the best in sport for those who play their hearts out.  A contentious, ruthless, enemy-oriented attitude only serves to bring out the worst in everyone involved.

Play your heart out with a wise attitude that displays respect for your opponent and you will find such character reflected toward you.  Compete foolishly as if opponent = enemy and you will devalue the beauty of sport for yourself, your teammates, your opponents, the officials and the spectators.