On 4 May of this year I emailed several of our colleagues around the world who were to join me in Hong Kong for some sport chaplaincy training and conversation about setting a global standard for training sport chaplains. The first paragraph of my email was as follows, “We stand on the threshold of a monumental shift in the sport chaplaincy movement around the world. We are some of the most privileged men on the planet as we get to shape the next years and probably decades of this movement. If that language seems a little grandiose, you probably just don’t understand the gravity of our work together in the Lord’s vineyard of global sport.”
I was aware that the statement could be perceived as very broad and maybe a little over the top, but I was convinced that it was true. As I was contemplating the results of our meetings in Hong Kong yesterday, I was reminded of a process I learned from my mentor, Fred Bishop, many years ago. As we worked together in No Greater Love Ministries, Fred would speak of the process seen in Acts chapters 1-6 which he calls “Men, Ministry, Movement, Murmuring, Administration, and Multiplication.” A simple explanation and application of this process follows.
Men – Acts 1:12-13
12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called the Mount of Olives, which is near Jerusalem—a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 When they arrived, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying:
James the son of Alphaeus,
Simon the Zealot,
and Judas the son of James.
James the son of Alphaeus,
Simon the Zealot,
and Judas the son of James.
After Jesus’ resurrection, these men remained in Jerusalem and were gathered together.
Ministry – Acts 1:14-15
14 All these were continually united in prayer, along with the women, including Mary[d] the mother of Jesus, and His brothers.
15 During these days Peter stood up among the brothers—the number of people who were together was about 120—
These men, and Mary, were continually united in prayer and continued in ministry in Jerusalem. Their number had grown to 120 and they were at the threshold of movement.
Movement – Acts 2:37-41
37 When they heard this, they came under deep conviction[m] and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what must we do?”
38 “Repent,” Peter said to them, “and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off,[n] as many as the Lord our God will call.” 40 And with many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, “Be saved from this corrupt[o]generation!”
41 So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers.
On the day of Pentecost, these 120 were praying in an upper room when the Holy Spirit fell upon them and radically transformed their ministry into a movement. The 120 became about 3,120 in one day. Their devotion to teaching, to fellowship, to sharing their resources, and to prayer were continuing evidences of the movement which was afoot.
Murmuring – Acts 6:1
In those days, as the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint by the Hellenistic Jews[a] against the Hebraic Jews[b] that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution.
The movement which began in Acts chapter 2 continues throughout chapters 3, 4, and 5 with remarkable power and even some bumps in the road, such as are common to movements. One of the unintended consequences of exponential growth is the potential for dissension, for conflict, and for murmuring. This occurred in the Acts movement at chapter 6 and verse 1 as the Greek speaking widows had feelings of alienation in the Church.
Administration – Acts 6:2-6
Then the Twelve summoned the whole company of the disciples and said, “It would not be right for us to give up preaching about God to handle financial matters. 3 Therefore, brothers, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom, whom we can appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the preaching ministry.” 5 The proposal pleased the whole company. So they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte from Antioch. 6 They had them stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
The continuation of the movement was in jeopardy as the murmuring exposed a tear in the fabric of the Church. The wisdom given to the Twelve by the Holy Spirit is revealed by their decision to administrate a way to serve all those in the Church well. Rather than to neglect their primary callings, they chose seven men who were predisposed to serve the Hellenistic widows well. Their wise administration and their conferring the apostles’ authority upon them set the Church up to continue its movement. A pleasant surprise awaited them.
Multiplication – Acts 6:7
So the preaching about God flourished, the number of the disciples in Jerusalem multiplied greatly, and a large group of priests became obedient to the faith.
Because the apostles remained true to their calling, rather than serving tables, the preaching about God flourished. The result of their wise administration was that the number of disciples multiplied greatly. Back at chapter 2 and verses 41 and 47, it was said that the number of disciples were added to daily. At chapter 6 and verse 1 it says the number of disciples was being multiplied, but now their number is multiplying greatly. Exponential growth was enabled because of the wise administration of the apostles, as the Holy Spirit supplied His power to their lives.
In the early 1970s, I was a witness to and an active participant in the Jesus Movement in the United States. It was birthed along the west coast and made its way across the nation. Explo 72, a very large event in Dallas, Texas that summer was probably the signature moment in the movement and furthered its growth. As a 16 year old wrestler, I was enthralled by the energy, passion, and culture of the movement. Like many movement, it followed the Men, Ministry, Movement, and Murmuring segments of the process, but this movement seemed to stall prior to wise Administration.
There was much murmuring in the Church as most of the established churches were either not able or not willing to receive the tremendous number of young people whose lives were being transformed. Born again hippies with long hair, bell bottom jeans, and no sense of church culture were not well received on the whole. Some churched administrated wisely and welcomed these new believers, while other groups simply formed new churches which specialized and formed new cultures in the Lord’s Kingdom. Most notably in the USA were Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard.
We who live in the Sport Chaplaincy movement are quite similar to the movements in the book of Acts and the Jesus Movement in the USA. We have had Men in ministry for decades, mostly serving in an isolated manner with a few faithful colleagues. We have seen many of them gather for ministry and have witnessed remarkable results. In recent years, there has been a sense of movement to our work together around the world. Organizations like Sports Chaplaincy Australia, Sports Chaplaincy United Kingdom, Sports Chaplaincy New Zealand, Athletes in Action, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and others have experienced growth in this expression of ministry, most without even trying. This has the feel of a movement.
We have also experienced murmuring as at various times people see the movement from widely different perspectives. Some academics view the vast majority of sports chaplaincy practitioners as terribly unqualified. Many practitioners view the academics as irrelevant as they perceive them to not be actively engaged in the process. Some sports ministry leaders view sports chaplaincy to be of little import, while others want to control it. Movements generally resist control, but respond well to wise administration.
I believe that our work together in Hong Kong, our wide association with sport chaplaincy practitioners, sports ministry leaders, academics, and other experts puts our movement in the process of wise administration. We are doing the stuff of Acts chapter 6 at this very moment. If we are used of the Holy Spirit to wisely shape our movement with a global standard for training and development of sport chaplaincy, we should expect to see the Lord Jesus greatly multiply the number of disciples in sport around the world.
Please join me in praying for the development and wise administration of our service together. Let’s ride the wave of this movement as long as the Lord will carry us.