Friday, November 24, 2017

Supply Side Ministries

During the recent PowerUp Sports Ministry conference in Indianapolis, Indiana (USA), we heard twice from San Francisco Giants chaplain, Mark Mitchell. Mark is also a pastor and he delivered a couple of talks that day. The second of those talks is outlined below from the notes I took. I hope his challenge is of value to your soul.

Supply-Side Ministries

As Jesus and His disciples journeyed toward Jerusalem, they arrived in Bethany just as their physical and emotional tanks were approaching empty. They stopped in to stay at the home of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, siblings to each other and among the dearest friends of the Lord Jesus. The first moments of this occasion are chronicled in Luke 10:38-42.

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

Mark’s commentary on the text was outlined in these observations: “Martha’s spirit spoiled her service.”
·        Martha’s spirit spoiled it for Martha. v. 40a
·        Martha’s spirit spoiled it for Mary. v. 40c
·        Martha’s spirit spoiled it for Jesus. v. 40b

Mark also commented that, “Mary put herself in a position where the Lord could serve her.”

In applying this text and his observations to our service as sports chaplains, Mark asked us to analyze the people, activities, and places surrounding our service. Which are on the “supply side” and which are on the “demand side?” His challenge was that we must manage both sides well. We will have plenty of demands, that is for sure. Do we have plenty of supply side people, activities, and places in our lives? To neglect the supply side is to fall into Martha’s way of serving, all demands with no joy.

Mark concluded with the admonition from the Apostle Paul to the leaders of the church at Ephesus in Acts 20:28, to “be on guard for yourselves and the flock of God.”

“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”

We would do well to learn from Mark’s admonition, from the Apostle’s challenge, and the Lord Jesus’ example. Be sure you have some “supply side” people in your circle of friends. Make time to be with the people who encourage, strengthen, and nurture your soul. Make time to go to some “supply side” places. For some of that will mean a wildnerness, a lake, or a river. For others that will mean hours, days, or weeks of solitude. For others it may mean museums, art galleries, and cathedrals. In any case, get there regularly. Lastly, be sure to make room in your calendar for “supply side” activities. For me that is a game of racquetball, an afternoon watching baseball, or a walk with my granddaughter. Make time to restore your soul with activities that build you up instead of tearing you down. Build some supply side ministries into your life’s rhythms and thereby avoid Martha’s spoiled service.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Strategies and Challenges of Accountability in Sports Ministry

During the most recent PowerUP Sports Ministry conference in Indianapolis, Indiana we heard several excellent presentations. Among them was “Strategies and Challenges of Accountability in Sports Ministry” by David Gittings. David serves with FCA at the Campus Director at Virginia Tech University. He serves as the chaplain to Hokies Football. Below are the notes I took from his presentation.

Galatians 6:1-3 – “You’re not that important.”
Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.

For what are you accountable?
·        Your relationship with God.
·        Your relationships with family.
·        Your ministry
·        Your self (your soul)

Challenges to being accountable
·        Ignorance (you just don’t know how)
·        Busyness (failure to make time)
·        Pride (you won’t be vulnerable)
·        Those last two are the biggest monsters.

Strategies for being accountable
·        Confession (James 5:16, Galatians 6:1-3)
·        The Word (Hebrews 4:12, Jeremiah 23:29, II Timothy 3:16-17)
·        A Partner – Someone you will give an “All Access Pass” to your life. (I Thessalonians 5:11, Luke 17:3)
·        Boundaries (I Corinthians 15:33)
·        Follow Through

I hope these notes are of value to you as you develop strategies for and experience the challenges of living in accountability.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Miracles are Wrapped in Mundanity

Miraculous moments are wrapped in daily mundanity. We must embrace the latter to experience the former.

When we read the Bible, we are amazed at the miraculous works of God through people like Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Samson, the apostles, and certainly by Jesus. What we often overlook is the daily mundanity that envelopes all of those miraculous moments. Not featured in those stories are the daily tasks of gathering firewood, building fires, removing ashes, preparing food, cleaning utensils and dishes, taking out the garbage, and all the other mundane, ordinary, and essential elements of daily life. They are there, but are harder to see.

If we measure ourselves by the miraculous moments and wonder where they are in our lives and ministries, we can get pretty depressed. However, if we can embrace the mundanity of our daily existence and grasp the certainty that our heroes of the faith had to wade through similar daily tasks, we can find courage and affirmation.

I would challenge you to embrace the ordinary, mundane, and even boring parts of your life because it is in the midst of such days that the power of God appears to transform lives. Your life and the lives of those you serve can be marvelously changed by the unexpected appearance of Christ’s lovingkindness. Expect Him to meet you in the most unexpected places. He lives there.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Who cares for your soul?

A couple of months ago I was brainstorming ideas to fill this space week to week, and I had several good ideas. I have sent those items along over the last seven weeks. As I was writing those ideas on a piece of paper, I had the thought, “Who cares for your soul?” I thought about so many of our colleagues who serve in isolation, with few colleagues nearby, and whose service is seldom met with the degree of success that most would judge to be worthy of their time and energy. That could easily lead them to loneliness and despair.

That thought brought to mind this verse from Psalm 142 -
“For there is no one who regards me;
There is no escape for me;
No one cares for my soul.”

I am sure some of our coaching friends experience that sort of emotion, and surely some of the sports chaplains and character coaches in our networks do as well. Again, I ask, “Who cares for your soul?” The more I thought about that, I remembered that I had written a note in a similar vein back in January. It is below. I hope is of value to you.

One of the items of great interest to me in the book, Replenish – Leading from a Healthy Soul, by Lance Witt, is the terrible fact that far too many pastors and other ministry workers are terribly isolated. Too few of us have strong relationships with trusted friends or mentors.

This leads me to ask, “Who is your chaplain?” Who is there in your life to provide the same sort of service that you regularly dispense to others? If you didn’t immediately have an answer, this is a problem to be addressed. Who cares for your soul? Who knows you well enough to ask you hard questions about your use of time, energy, and relationship? Who understands your life’s pressures, your weak spots, your character flaws, and loves you through them?

Are you close enough to your pastor for this sort of relationship? Have you given him or her permission to enter your life beyond your “public persona?” Is there a friend or colleague with whom you meet often enough to be vulnerable about your life?

Although I am an off the chart extrovert with thousands of acquaintances, there are few people I trust with my life’s pains and struggles. My introverted friends may find this even more difficult, but with a smaller circle of relationships.

Again, “Who is your chaplain?”

I meet with two men every Tuesday at 6:30 am at a local coffee shop. One of those gentlemen and I have been meeting together for over twenty-two years now. We three have walked together through family health issues (cancer and epilepsy), a divorce, a suicide attempt, a remarriage, multiple family issues, financial growth and challenge, joy, grief, and pain. Such is life. We know and trust each other. They are my chaplains.

Once more, I will ask, “Who is your chaplain?” I challenge you to find an answer to that question, to commit to an enduring and vulnerable relationship with someone who knows you well enough to care for your soul’s health. The long-term success or failure of your ministry as a sport chaplain or character coach may be determined by this relationship or the lack thereof.