Friday, September 25, 2015

Sports Ministry Training in Cuba

During the days of 21 and 22 September, my FCA colleague, Jim Roquemore and I delivered sports ministry and sports chaplaincy training to our friends in Havana, Cuba. Like many in Latin America, they had primarily experienced sports evangelism as the predominant form of ministry in sport. Having visited Cuba in 2009 and 2010, I had some background on their approach and thought they were in a position to see sports ministry from a broader perspective and with an approach beyond evangelism.

We began by discussing the McCown Sports in Ministry Map, followed by the 360 Sports Matrix. I was very encouraged by how quickly they grasped the concepts and made immediate application to their service of sportspeople in their nation. It was most helpful that the room of around thirty sports ministry leaders was populated by people from most every category on the map’s horizontal scale – spectators, novices, recreational participants, players, elite players, and one high profile sportsperson. In their large and small group discussions, they processed the material quickly and were greatly encouraged.

On day two, we delivered the Introduction and the Relationships of a Sports Chaplain, from the material at These materials had been converted into Spanish and were very well received. They and I believe that sports chaplaincy can be of tremendous value to the sporting community in Cuba, not only in Havana, but across the island of 11 million people.

These loving, passionate, and disciplined leaders feel cut off from the world of sports ministry due to the US embargo and their nation’s lack of infrastructure. In many ways, it’s like Cuba is stuck in the 1960s in terms of infrastructure and technology. We delivered some simple tools for them to use, including copies of Corazon de un Campeon (Heart of a Champion in Spanish), and the FCA INVICTO Bible (in Spanish) from this summer’s camps.

We finished the trip with a visit to a Havana based mission organization to meet with their leadership to discuss options for the shipping of ministry materials and sports equipment to further our Cuban teammates’ ministries in Baseball, Football (soccer), Volleyball, and other sports.

While travel to and from Cuba is rather clumsy from the USA, it is better than it was five years ago. I believe it will be increasingly easy and more frequent for Jim and his colleagues in the coming years.

I told our Cuban friends that their nation is better positioned for the rapid growth of ministry in sport than any other on the planet. That is largely due to the centrality of sport to Cuban culture. A huge mural is painted on the wall of Havana’s best and largest sports arena. It says, “El Deporte Derecho del Pueblo.” “Sport is the right of the People.” This statement in indicative of how important sport is to this nation and it points to the tremendous opportunity the Church and the sports ministry community has in this nation. May we be faithful to serve our Cuban brothers and sisters as they effectively serve Christ Jesus in the world of sport.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Identity and Sportspeople

The issue of identity, its misplacement in one’s performance, its loss due to injury, retirement, or firing, and several other dimensions of this matter related to people in sport were recently addressed in an article about a college football (American Footbal) player. This article was written by one of this former teammates and it is rather insightful. It offers no solutions, but accurately reflects the gravity of the issue. I hope you will take a moment to read and to think deeply about those whom you serve. Thanks.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Challenge to newly trained Ukrainian Sports Chaplains

Check out this video from our FCA Sports Chaplaincy School in Kyiv, Ukraine earlier this summer. It will test your language skills, but you’ll catch the drift from the video and the passion communicated by the Ukrainians.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Wise or Foolish?

This season marks my twenty-second in serving a college football (American Football) team, here in Southern Illinois. It has been my privilege to be the team chaplain to Saluki Football through some rather lean years, like 1 win and 10 losses, and some very successful seasons, like a national semifinal appearance. In those years I have experienced a great variety of things, some exhilarating, some painful, some laughter, and plenty of tears.

I have also observed the ways of some of my colleagues. There are a number of men who serve as sports chaplains to football teams and most of us develop our own particular style and have different guiding principles. I’d like to share some observations of some less than wise approaches to ministry in sport.

1)   Some of us use the scripture in ways that is not worthy of the Lord’s Word. To spiritualize scripture to accommodate your motivational talk is not wise, even if you believe it leads to your team’s winning. To rip scripture from its context to fit your devotion is foolish. e.g. Philippians 4:13
2)   Some of us act presumptuously regarding team gear, sideline privileges, and other matters related to the life of the team. To seek privilege or to foolishly stomp on boundaries is a great way to find one’s favor with the coaching staff rapidly evaporating.
3)   Some of us act more like fans than chaplains. To act as if the team you serve is somehow God’s chosen one is ridiculous and the province of lunatic sports fans. Show love and loyalty to those whom you serve, but don’t act as if they never err, never underperform, never cheat, and can never fail. Be their chaplain, not their fan.
4)   I saw one chaplain, who was allowed sideline privileges, during an important moment late in a game, abandon his spot on the sideline and went to the end zone to video a scoring play on his phone. This is the height of abdication of responsibility to become over privileged fan boy. Stop it!
5)   When speaking with a colleague on the field of play prior to the game’s start, don’t stand there and compare how many came to chapel, how many are in your team Bible study, give a spiritual assessment of the players or coaching staff, or other measurement of spiritual comparison. Spend a few minutes encouraging the other person. Pray together and wish your colleague well. This competitively supercharged environment need not overrule your spiritual self-control.

I think that is enough for this rant. Some of these things really annoy me and I see them too often. Let’s love extravagantly and let’s serve selflessly. Should we achieve this, we will have pleased the Lord greatly, regardless of how many are at chapel or Bible study this week.