Monday, October 31, 2016

How "Spiritual" or "Religious" should my service be?

It is amazing to observe the wide variety of styles that we employ in our service of the people of sport. Some of us approach our service like a member of the coaching staff. Others seem more like a pastor who roams the dugouts, sidelines, and locker rooms. Still others are evangelists, without apology, seeking opportunities to share Jesus in any moment. There is certainly room for one to develop his or her personal style of service, but just how “spiritual” or “religious” should our service be?

While speaking with our university’s play by play radio announcer earlier this year, he remarked, “I have never heard your work described as religious.” I replied that I was glad, rather than being religious I would prefer to be faithful to my calling from God. I think what he meant was that I don’t communicate in religious clichés, nor do I imply that going to church services with me is the height of Christian devotion. My way of serving people in sport is to speak in the language of their cultures, rather than importing church culture into their worlds. It is not heard as religious, but it communicates clearly and respectfully.

Some of our colleagues employ the super-spiritual language that fits their church environment as they are on the practice field. While that makes the chaplain stand out as distinctively different, it also creates some distance that many will not even try to cross to connect with him or her.

We may do better to think about our service of sportspeople by focusing on the core of our message, rather than the language in which it is wrapped. Rather than simply spouting the clichés, buzzwords, and illustrations we hear on the latest preacher’s podcast, let’s find ways to communicate that truly transform the hearts of those we serve. More than religious, such communication is truly spiritual and speaks life into the lives of sportspeople.

How “spiritual” should our service be? Very. How “religious” should it be? That’s up to you.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Wise, Thoughtful, and Biblical Devotional Reflection

Our friend and colleague, Stuart Weir of Verité Sport, shared this devotional thought earlier today. It is emblematic of what I believe to be a wise, thoughtful, and Biblical view of sport and faith. Please take a moment to read Stuart’s thoughtful reflection from I Timothy 4:8.

Important but not All-Important

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:8.

Sport is legitimate. It is part of God’s creation and it brings pleasure to many. It is as worthwhile a part of human activity as any other. Through sport people can glorify God and it can provide opportunities to talk about Jesus. However, at the end of the day, sport is transient. It, like all other human activity, is going to pass away. In the light of eternity it is of limited value.

While there is a danger of sport becoming an idol if it is put ahead of Christ, sport is important because it is the arena in which we serve Christ.

Helmfried Riecker expresses it thus in his book Warm Up: “The New Testament writers are unanimous, not only about the hope of eternal life after death, but also that the goal of that eternal life is to be with Christ in the presence of God the Father… It is great to set sports goals and to gain a real part of your meaning in life through the fulfilment of these goals. However, the short-term goals will appear in a different perspective when you see again the real goal of your life. If winning a final is an exciting thing, how much greater will be the celebration of the ultimate goal of your life?”

South African, cricketer, Peter Pollock would agree with that: ‘As Christian sportsmen our task is to throw ourselves wholeheartedly into applying the gifts God has given us in the arena he has prepared for us, realizing always that the final victory isn’t the World Cup’ (‘The myth of success’).

Wanting to compete at the Olympics and wanting to win a gold medal are totally appropriate aspirations for an athlete. At the same time we need to remember God’s big picture. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Loving Unlovely Sportspeople

In our service of the men and women in sport, not everyone will be lovely and kind. Not everyone will be amiable and honorable. Not everyone will be wise and reasonable. We will certainly be surrounded by some unlovely, crude, mean, selfish, and nasty people. Our sphere of service and influence extends to the nasty as well as the nice. We must care for the obnoxious unlovely as well as the absolutely lovable. How shall we accomplish this? I have some simple thoughts listed below.

1.   Purpose to appropriate Christ’s love you have received toward others. When dealing with difficult people or with those with whom I cannot connect well, I will pray for the person and set my will to transfer the love I have received from the Lord Jesus to this person. This may seem overly simple, but it is very effective in shaping one’s attitude toward the less than lovable in our lives.
2.   Make a list of the person’s admirable traits and affirm them when you interact with him or her. This may certainly be difficult, but it is worth it. To find a characteristic of the person, to name it in conversation with him, to write a complimentary text message or card, to speak well of that person’s character in public, can turn an annoyance into an alliance.
3.   Seek an opportunity to serve or to give the person a gift. It’s really hard to maintain a grudge or to keep a conflict alive when we are serving or giving gifts to them. The Proverbs are full of wisdom for how one’s gift can pacify contentions and Jesus’ way is to love even our enemies.
4.   Remind yourself that this person is one whom the Lord Jesus loves. Through decades of leading in summer sports camps, I would challenge our staff about half way through the camp to love the campers (and other staff members), who had grown into annoyances. I would challenge them with this thought. “When you see that terribly annoying person, the one who gets on your last nerve, say to yourself, ‘Here comes the one whom the Lord loves.’ That may be enough to help you control your attitude, to reshape your tone of voice, and to find a way to communicate the same love the Lord has for him or her.”
5.   Give the person some space. Sadly, not everyone wants to hang out with us. You may be gracious, kind, loving, and wise, but some people will still resist you and may even be antagonistic toward you. Relax. Some people make assumptions about you due to poor relationships with others in your role, with others from your organization, with others in the Church, with Christian family or friends, or they simply don’t like how you wear your hair. Give them some space. An opportunity to serve may come along that can crash through those barriers and you may be the one person on the planet well prepared to care for the person and to extend the love to Christ Jesus in the most appropriate and timely way.

In summary, may I challenge you to love extravagantly and to serve selflessly, the lovable and the unlovely, the wise and the foolish, the amiable and the surly, the gregarious and the grouchy. In doing so, we emulate and honor the Lord Jesus.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Eight Ways to Worship On the Field of Competition

For the last several years I have been speaking, writing, and challenging others to consider sport as a form of worship for the Christian sportsperson. I believe that kicking a ball, swinging a bat, running a race, diving from a board, or any other sporting activity can be an equally valid a form of worship as singing a song, playing a guitar, performing a ceremony, or other, more religious activities.

For a few months I incubated some thought and selected some Bible texts that could help us embrace these ideas and reshape our thinking to view ways that we may worship on the field of competition. A week ago, I wrote a series of discussions that attempt to do just that. One example of the studies is below and the entire series is available to you. Simply email me at for a copy. You are free to use it, to criticize it, or to trash it. I simply want to push the dialogue along and to broaden our thoughts and experiences re: sport and worship. Thanks.

Eight Ways to Worship On the Field of Competition
Roger D. Lipe (

Worship by Competing Sacrificially
·        Tell us about some of the things you sacrifice for your life in sport.
·        For what or for whom do you make these sacrifices?
·        What do you think you learn or gain from the process of competing sacrificially?
Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice--the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly they way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
·        To what and to who do you give your bodies in training and in competition?
·        Is that similar to or different from giving them to God as mentioned here? Why?
·        What about training and competition is sacrificial? How so?
·        When does that sacrifice feel like it is the very stuff of life, a living sacrifice?
·        When do you get a sense that your sacrificial lifestyle sets you apart from most other people around you?
·        Why would God find such sacrifice to be acceptable and an act of true worship?
·        What are some of the world’s behaviors and customs that are out of step with God’s way?
·        By contrast, how would a new and transformed person compete and thereby worship on the field of competition?
·        How would worshiping in our sporting lives help us learn God’s will?
·        What would be good, pleasing, and perfect about knowing God’s will for you?
·        Let’s list some direct results from competing sacrificially, thus worshiping God in the activity of sport:
o   God accepts our ________________, which is living and holy.
o   We truly ______________ God as we compete.
o   God transforms us into _______ ________.
o   God changes the way we ______________.
o   We learn God’s _______, which is _________ and _________ and  ________.

·        Summary - Worship by competing sacrificially and you can expect that you will be transformed in your thinking and will discover God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will.