One of the constant battles many of us face is the conflict in ourselves between results and processes. How can we measure results? What would we measure? How do we account for timing? How long should it take for results to be evident? How hard should we push for measurable results vs. how patient should we be in allowing processes of evangelism and discipleship to accomplish their work?
I will not presume to answer these questions for you, but I will take the risk of sharing my approach to such thorny issues. After almost twenty-three years of serving in this ministry, mostly in a university sports environment, but also serving among high school coaches, and minor league professional baseball, I have found that the most satisfying, lasting results take several years to develop. It may be due to my relational approach, which values long-term relationship over short-term programmatic strategies, or it may be due to my more Calvinistic than Armenian approach to spiritual development, but for whatever the reason, I see most results over five to seven years.
The usual reaction to that statement is, “I don’t have that many years to be engaged with these people.” My reply is always, “Neither do I.” I am usually afforded a four to five year window with a player, occasionally longer with a coach. I have found that it is reasonable to observe real, significant, growth in a person toward a relationship with Christ and development of his or her life in Christ in those years.
Even better, if we build our relationships deeply enough, our influence with these athletes and coaches lasts beyond their days in our sporting programs. Many times, the result of our ministry with sportspeople becomes evident years after they have moved on to another program or are out of the sport. Two such occasions, both being Facebook Messenger messages received in January of this year, are detailed below.
· Hey Roger , It's DJ . How ya been ? Also was wondering how I could get my hands on one of your daily devotional books?
· Roger, I wanted to reach out to you to thank for giving me your prayer devotional, Heart Of A Champion. I won't lie and said that I've even looked at it since you gave it to me. I have recently, over the last year, started my relationship with God, and through his will he has allowed me to keep your book at a close distance until the time was right. I started the devotional yesterday. I thank you for reaching out to me in a time I didn't trust God and providing a tool to strengthen my relationship with him. I hope all is well with you and your family!!
The first message was from a former college football player. He has been gone from our program for over two years. During his years with us I had no thought that he was paying any attention at all. I was stunned to receive the message, and was thrilled to send him the book he requested and another one to boot.
The second message was from a shortstop who played for the professional baseball team I serve. He played one season for us, six years ago. I have had limited contact with him since he left the club and is out of baseball. I saw him briefly last year at a celebration of that team’s league championship. I was thrilled to hear of the seeds sown in his life through conversations around the batting cage, candid conversations about relationships, Baseball Chapels on Sundays, and occasional attendance at Bible studies, have come to full fruition in a new, growing relationship with Christ Jesus.
May I encourage you with a simple thought? The Lord is not in a hurry. He calls people and he carries them into relationship with Himself. We have a part to play in that process, but we cannot make things grow. Let’s commit ourselves to serving the Lord’s purposes in the lives of those we serve. Let’s trust the Lord Jesus to produce the results. Let’s trust Him to produce fruit that remains, regardless of the timing.