Friday, January 24, 2014

The Power of Sport

I just returned from a brief trip to Kingston, Jamaica to work with our friend and colleague, Andre’ Virtue of Whole Life Sports. We had a remarkable four days of meetings with leaders of a seminary, schools, sports clubs, social agencies, sports federations, and even the Minister of Education.


David Pearson of Jamaica Theological Seminary quoted one statistic that speaks to the power of sports in their society and probably in the world at large. He said that there have been just two days in recent Jamaican history on which there were zero murders. One was the day the “Reggae Boyz” qualified for the World Cup of Football in 1997 and the other was the day Usain Bolt won his first Olympic gold medal. It seems that these two victories by their national heroes so captured everyone’s imaginations that it even dispelled the ever-present force of violent crime.


This simply reinforces my commitment to be among those who make a difference in the lives of sportspeople with the Gospel of Christ Jesus. Sport is a tremendous force in society; that can either be good or bad. The nature of those who wield such influence will be the determining factor. Let’s be agents of God’s transforming power and watch what happens.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Below is a reflection from January of 2012 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) and now in Kindle version at ( I hope it both challenges and encourages you as you serve the men and women of sport.

While preparing for a pre-game meal and chapel talk one day, an assistant women’s basketball coach commented to me, “You’re not like most of the religious people I’ve known.”  I smiled and replied, “Good.  I don’t intend to be religious.  I would prefer to be highly committed to Christ, but rather irreligious.”  She said, “That’s interesting.”  My reflexive comment to my friend was true and heart-felt and I’m still happy with it.

I’d like to explore the difference between being “religious” and being “highly committed to Christ.”  Religious people carry the external trappings of Christianity as their defining marks.  Highly committed Christians carry their commitment to Jesus internally as their defining characteristic and allow that commitment to find external expression in numerous, often less religious ways.  Some examples of each may help us see the difference.

Religious people speak with each other in clichés and the King James language they learn at church.  Highly committed believers in Jesus are free to speak in the language of the subculture in which they are serving Him; in our case, that is the language of sport.  Religious people would rather sit in judgment over people whose lifestyles don’t fit their standards.  Highly committed Christian men and women demonstrate love and commitment to those they serve without respect to their lifestyles, wise or foolish.  Their grasp of their own wickedness of heart and the weakness of their own flesh keeps judgmental attitudes at bay.

I don’t shun the sinful or cluck my tongue at foolish speech.  I don’t Tebow because it’s trendy nor do I repeat or retweet every syllable uttered by John Piper (insert the name of any other celebrity preacher) as if it were holy writ.  I don’t pretend that attending my local church is the answer to everyone’s social ills and that if they simply walk through the door all their problems will be solved.  I don’t counsel new believers in Jesus to shun their former circle of friends and teammates in order to adopt a more suitable set of friends who won’t pollute their lives with wickedness.  I don’t wear WWJD bracelets and I haven’t burned my secular music recordings (Gasp!).  I don’t go to trendy “Christian films” which are simply gospel tracts on celluloid.  I’m bored with the passionless music poured out by contemporary Christian music stations and I’m repulsed by Southern Gospel music.  I prefer reading Seth Godin and Malcom Gladwell to Max Lucado and Joel Osteen.

This distaste for “religious” things and preference for “heartfelt commitment” often leads to my being misunderstood by others in the Church.  I’m fine with that.  I rather enjoy the questions asked of me about such things; the question asked by the assistant basketball coach being emblematic of such questions and the conversations which normally follow.  Please take the risk of being misunderstood and questioned about your lack of religiousness in favor of a genuine, passionate expression of your love for the Lord Jesus.  It’s worth it and we’re much less boring people with whom to interact.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Coaches Conventions

Tomorrow I’ll make a four hour drive to Indianapolis, Indiana to attend the American Football Coaches Association’s (AFCA) annual convention. This is a gathering of thousands of high school and college coaches from all across the USA and even some from abroad. The event is full of training sessions, discussions, dinners, lunches and our ministry hosts a worship service on Sunday morning, a fellowship time on Sunday night, and a breakfast on Monday morning (free of charge) for the coaches. There will be lots of awards presented through the sweep of Saturday through Wednesday and we will have a booth in the exhibition hall where we greet coaches who are either curious about our ministry or are being drawn by the Lord to Himself. Our being there is the key.
In the USA, much of the Church’s way of doing ministry is “come and see.” We hold our special events, our worship services, our dinners, or whatever else we think will be attractive to people looking for a church. In almost twenty years of ministry in sport, I much prefer “go and tell” ministry methods. I would much rather attend a coaching convention or clinic where I know coaches of all sorts will be than host one which will only draw coaches who are already committed to our Lord and/or our mission.
By simply standing at our booth, greeting coaches who wander by in the expansive exhibition hall, offering information or directions, chatting informally, and offering the simple resources we distribute, we open doors to relationship for ourselves and for our colleagues in the communities where the coaches live. We regularly network these coaches to our ministry partners and many times open new doors for ministry that may not have opened had we not been there.
This will be the ninth such AFCA convention for me and it’s always worthwhile, even if I have to drive hours or fly across the country to Texas, Florida, or California. This is where the coaches are and it’s where they are most who they want to be. To be sure, many are posing, many are simply hunting a job, many are secure and puffed up, many are hunting for free beers and available women, but some are actually spiritually hungry, but not sure for what. If we are there, engaged, and alert, we can be the ones who speak real life to their hearts and can awaken their need for a life transforming relationship with Christ Jesus.
For many others, they’ve just been fired, their head coach has been fired and they also are dispatched, while still others are in transitions of other sorts. Our presence in that culture is a point of constancy and emblematic of the Lord Jesus’ faithfulness; simply by showing up.
May I challenge you to do similarly in your sporting environment? Whether it’s a national, regional, state or even local coaches event; be there. Engage. Love the coaches. Watch for hungry hearts and attentive ears. Be the Lord’s presence in this place like you are in the life of your own team. You may find that your reach into coaches’ lives extends far beyond your local team, club, or community. You may find your phone’s contact list becomes populated by hundreds of coaches’ names and numbers as mine has. Your face to face interaction at the convention keeps the relationship warm and enables your text messages and phone calls throughout the year to have their intended results. You can speak to their hearts in any circumstance, anytime, and from anywhere.

Friday, January 3, 2014

FCA Sport Chaplain Conference - March 4-6, 2014

Please mark your calendars for the 2014 FCA Sport Chaplains Conference in Kansas City, MO – March 4-6.

I’ll soon be sending more details re: costs, times, etc, but please be sure to set this time aside. We always work to mix encouragement, training, fellowship, and networking into a powerful conference for sports chaplains and character coaches at every level of sport: volunteers and professionals, men and women. One need not be affiliated with FCA to participate and we are thrilled to host people from other ministries as well as those not connected to any particular sports ministry.

Past conferences have included attendees from all over the USA as well as India, Brazil, and Mexico.

The conference will be held at FCA’s National Support Center which has excellent meeting rooms and is easy to access from most anywhere in the country via air or highway. We build in lots of loose time in our agenda so as to enable the networking which happens very naturally with this set of dynamic leaders. This includes one evening away from the conference center for dinner and fellowship.

Please check this website for more details and to register in the coming days - Thanks, I’ll be looking for you in Kansas City in March.