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.