Friday, February 14, 2020

Sports Chaplaincy Training in Philippines.

During the days of 30 January through 6 February I was in the Philippine Islands for sports chaplaincy training with our FCA Philippines colleagues and friends. FCA National Director, Pastor Gary Visitacion and I have been trying to plan this trip for over two years and it finally came together. We had great sessions of training in both Imus, and in Manila.

In Imus, we delivered the training in one day across six hours with about 16 trainees. In Manila we had the luxury of two days and that allowed us to go at a more leisurely pace, and to include lots of small group discussions for processing and application to local settings. The Manila training included men and women from all across the nation, several having flown in.

During the training we also had an opportunity to talk with our FCA Philippines colleagues about the ongoing process of training, placing, and mentoring sports chaplains in their nation. We believe we left them with a good plan. Chaplains Hans Pe is taking the lead for developing sports chaplaincy as an important part of FCA Philippines growth.

As the week wrapped up, we were excited to see the transition underway for Pastor Gary Visitacion in his move to leading the South Pacific region for FCA, and Coach Jojo Villa becoming the FCA National Director for the Philippines.

In addition to the training, I was given the opportunity to accompany Coach Jojo to the University of Makati and to speak with a few of their sports teams. The next day, I accompanied Chaplain Hans Pe to observe his ministry with professional basketball clubs in Manila. I was privileged to do a brief post-game talk with one club. These opportunities were enormously valuable to me.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Global Sports Chaplaincy Association YouTube Channel

My colleagues and I of the Global Sports Chaplaincy Association have launched a new YouTube channel specifically for the sports chaplaincy community around the world. This channel is subscribed to the YouTube channels of several sports chaplaincy entities from across the globe. We have included links to many and we will also upload original content.

Please stop by and take a look. You’ll find some great wisdom, insight, and a wide variety of accents. Thanks.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Ministry at Coaches Conventions

Partners in Ministry,

Earlier this week I attended the annual American Football Coaches Association convention in Nashville, TN (USA). Over the years I have attended many of these events in various locations across the nation, and will varying degrees of ministry effectiveness. I believe this one was of significant impact.

A summary of our ministry activities follows with some encouragement for you to find similar ways to connect with the coaches of your sport in your nation. There were roughly 6,000 coaches of American football at this event, mostly from college football, but many who coach high school football as well.

On Saturday, my wife and I drove to Nashville to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center. We offloaded the booth FCA reserved in the exhibition hall, and then set it up. We checked into our hotel room and later met some friends at a great steakhouse for dinner.

Sunday morning began with my going to our booth and with others leading a worship service in the convention center. We had seats for 300, but had people standing at the rear of the room. Our FCA colleague, Bryan McKenzie, led the worship service which included music by local musicians, an introduction of the featured speaker by our FCA colleague, Lee Brown. Coach Sherman Smith spoke with great effect and the service concluded within our 75 minute limit.

While the worship service was going on I was in our booth with thousands of coaches being funneled down the aisle in front of our booth for registration. We had many great conversations with coaches. At the booth we distributed cards with info on the FCA ministry events during the convention and distributed free copies of, Coaching: Our Family Business, a Devotional for Coaches and Spouses.

Also while the service continued, my wife was in our FCA Hospitality room in the hotel. We invited coaches and FCA staff colleagues to join us there for refreshments and snacks, as well as to get off their feet for a while. It proved to be a great environment for fellowship and relaxed conversation. NFL football games played on the large screen television and my bride exercised her excellent hospitality gift. We had the hospitality room open from 10 – 4 on Sunday and Monday.

After the booth closed at 5:00, my wife and I went to dinner with a couple of our former players who are now coaching. We enjoyed every moment of that evening. I then returned to the hotel and met our colleagues and well over 100 coaches and spouses at the FCA Coaches and Spouses Huddle at 9:00 pm. Our colleague from Western Kentucky University, Wayne Dickens and his wife, facilitated this discussion based 75 minute meeting. The Christian coaches and spouses who attend this convention desire fellowship above all things. This format gives them that in rich measure through guiding them to talk with each other about significant matters.

After a brief night of sleep, I was up at 5:15 Monday to prepare for the FCA Breakfast. It was held in a large ballroom, set for 520 people. We had excellent sound, lights, video, and staging. Our emcee for the program was FCA Chaplain at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, Mitch Mason. He rang the bell! As our delicious breakfast was wrapping up, we played a 2 minute 42 second video about FCA’s ministry with coaches and then Mitch interviewed Coach Matt Jeter of Simpson College in Iowa (USA). Coach Jeter’s answers to Mitch’s questions were inspirational and informative. We transitioned to a video about the FCA Grant Teaff Coach of the Year Award. Mitch then introduced this year’s winner of the award, Coach Blake Anderson of Arkansas State University. Coach Anderson then delivered a brief, but inspirational talk about how his faith in Christ has carried him through his wife’s cancer battle, and ultimate death just prior to the start of this season. Mitch wrapped up the program with a clear presentation of the Gospel of Christ and prayer. As we finished several minutes ahead of our time limit, the coaches had time to linger in the room for more fellowship. This was an unexpected blessing.

After a return to the room, I went to the booth to continue our connections with coaches. That continued throughout the day in the booth and the hospitality room. The hospitality room had less traffic on Monday, but it was still worthwhile staffing it with local FCA staff people and other FCA staff who had traveled in from Wisconsin, Maine, North Carolina, Arizona, Kentucky, and Illinois. After being in the convention center with thousands of people all day for two days, my wife and I elected to get away from the crowd for dinner and found a place not far away. We enjoyed that time and returned to the hotel in time to watch the college football Division I national championship game. I fell asleep before halftime. Party animal.

Tuesday at the convention is always much slower and less crowded than Sunday and Monday. Many of the coaches leave on Monday and many more early on Tuesday. Thus the booth has much less traffic and we didn’t even have a hospitality room for Tuesday. The exhibition hall closed at noon, but many of the exhibitors were already gone by 9:00, and many more by 11:00. We dismantled the booth, packed it into its boxes, and loaded out shortly after noon. We returned to our room to relax for the afternoon, dinner and rest concluded the evening. We checked out of the hotel and drove home on Wednesday.

In summary – ministry at coaching events is fruitful, if you value relationships above immediate results. Having attended this event for around fifteen years, it serves as a way to reconnect face to face with dozens of coaches to whom I send text messages throughout the football season. They allow me to connect with their hearts with scripture and prayer via SMS and this events allows me to see them in person. This process nurtures our relationships and their lives of faith in Christ Jesus. Where else are this many coaches gathered in one place at one time? This event and others like it provide us unique opportunities. This is where the coaches are, find a way to get there. Our presence with them has incalculable impact.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

"Thumbnail Sketch" of Sports Chaplaincy (Character Coaching)

While in St. Petersburg, Russia recently, serving with FCA Eurasia teammates, I was asked to prepare a brief “thumbnail sketch” of what Sports Chaplains (Character Coaches) do and how they serve. I scratched out a simple five point outline for sharing with those entirely unacquainted with this form of ministry. That outline is below. I like it and I hope you do also.

  1. Sports Chaplains (Character Coaches) are ambassadors for Christ Jesus and His Church in the sporting community.
  2. Sports Chaplains (Character Coaches) love extravagantly. We love God. We love the people of sport, at their best and at their worst.
  3. Sports Chaplains (Character Coaches) serve selflessly. We serve God. We serve the people of sport, at their best and at their worst.
  4. Sports Chaplains (Character Coaches) are invited guests of the sports clubs, the teams, the federations, coaches, competitors, and support staffs they serve.
  5. A Sports Chaplain’s (Character Coach’s) service is built upon these three pillars:
    1. Relationships
    2. Attitudes
    3. Presence
    4. It helps to think about these three in this sequence: Be seen, Be known, and Be heard.
    5. Relationships, Attitudes, and Presence all inform and empower this process.

There it is. Simple, but descriptive of the essence of our ministry in sport.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Sports Chaplain / Character Coach Training

Over the last 19 years my approach to development as a sports chaplain (character coach) has grown and developed, changing emphases and forms many times.

My first attempt at developing training materials is compiled in Transforming Lives in Sport (Cross Training Publishing, 2006). It was the result of several years of trial and error, experimentation, analysis, and conversations with colleagues from around the world.

In 2011, Jeff Martin of FCA, and I collaborated to abbreviate the training in Transforming Lives in Sport and to incorporate language and processes more fitting for Fellowship of Christian Athletes ministry leaders in the USA.

In 2014, I met with colleagues from several nations, first in Hong Kong, China and later in Indianapolis, Indiana (USA) to outline, then write, and then to build

Most recently, FCA leaders from around the USA have begun to treat sports chaplaincy, character coaching in FCA language, more seriously. In their approach, they have used the outline: Be Seen, Be Known, Be Heard. I was happy to adapt to that outline and to supplement it with some greater depth in introduction and some addenda of helpful information.

The result is a two pronged approach to the identification, training, engagement, and supervision of volunteer FCA Character Coaches.
·        Step one – Orientation – a one hour introduction to FCA character coaching. The idea is to give prospective character coaches a clear view of what it is and what it is not.
·        Step two – Training – a three hour process of receiving and processing information, consideration of opportunities, and preparation for service as an FCA Character Coach.

Earlier this week I was in Omaha, Nebraska (USA) to train trainers of this material. The aim was to equip and empower my FCA colleagues from Nebraska in such a way that they are prepared to identify, train, empower, assign, and supervise FCA character coaches in their area. It seemed to go very well and I’m excited to see how they develop this form of ministry in a uniquely Nebraskan way.

Over these years, our approach has constantly adapted to fit the cultures, the preferences, the constraints, and the capacity of those we have sought to engage, equip, and empower for this form of life transforming ministry. I would imagine that more changes are just ahead. Please let me know if I can serve you and those around you in similar ways.

Friday, November 29, 2019

66 Videos now on YouTube Channel

Over the last several months I have been shooting, editing, and collecting a series of videos for Character Coaches and Sports Chaplains. There are sixty-six videos on this YouTube channel - . They are brief and very practical in nature.

I hope they are of some value to you.

Friday, November 22, 2019

“I love college football!”

Later tonight I will deliver a talk to the football teams of Greenville University and Olivet Nazarene University at the banquet for the NCCAA Victory Bowl. The game will be played tomorrow, November 23 in Greenville, Illinois.

An outline of my talk is below. I hope the ideas therein challenge your thoughts about sport and its value to Christians in sport.

“I love college football!”

Introduction: Think about what you love about college football... 

· For 26 seasons now I have been our team’s chaplain and get-back coach. 

· Untold hundreds of man-hours of preparation by dozens of people, across six days of each week’s practice, training, video review, teaching, and scheming; all compressed into 150-180 six second explosions of fury and orchestrated chaos. 

· Each step, each glance, each hesitation, each moment of insight, each explosive movement has immense weight and importance for the success or failure of any given play. 

· The teamwork, comradery, selflessness, attention to detail, concentration of will, and tolerance of discomfort needed to excel in this sport are uncommon traits in our society. 

· And, it’s fun! 

· I love college football for another, far superior reason as well. It is an environment and an endeavor in which we may experience the presence and pleasure of the Lord Jesus as an act of worship. 

Text – Romans 12:1-2 (4 big ideas) 

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” 

1. I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God… 

a. This is not a suggestion, 

b. Not a wish, 

c. Not a hope, 

d. He urges, he exhorts, he beseeches his brothers… 

e. By the mercies of God. The ground upon which we consider his next thoughts are the mercies of God. 

f. By the mercies of God, he urges his brothers… 

2. Present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 

a. The presentation of your bodies is a: 

i. A living sacrifice, not a dead one. It is a daily, hourly, play by play, practice by practice sacrifice. 

ii. A holy sacrifice, set apart for God. Football is not played behind God’s back. It’s set apart for Him. 

iii. An acceptable sacrifice, not something tolerated by God, rather it’s an acceptable, well-pleasing sacrifice. You can expect to experience God’s pleasure as you present your body as a sacrifice through sport. 

iv. This is your spiritual service of worship. Beyond an activity that God would tolerate until you can get to worship at church on Sunday; football itself is an environment for and an activity in which we worship the Lord Jesus. 

b. When you step onto the field to train, to practice, or to compete in football, you have the privilege of presenting your body as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 

3. Do not be conformed to this world. 

a. The world would have you separate who you are as a Christ-following man from who you are as a football player. 

b. You the excellent student, the loving son, the loyal brother, the faithful friend, vs. you the raging, almost out of control, barbaric, maniacal football player. Which is the real you? 

c. Greek thinking, prevailing cultural dualism would have you experience life as two separate people. 

d. Hebrew thinking, God-honoring integrity would have you be the same man, all the time, regardless of environment or circumstance. 

e. Do not be conformed to this world. Rather… 

4. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. 

a. Transform the way you think about football, about competition. 

b. To compete is to strive together. Together, not against. 

c. If we have no opponent for competition, we only have practice. If we don’t turn on the score board, we just have another practice. 

d. To compete is to test each other as we both strive to be our best, to grow, to develop, and ultimately to become all God has purposed for us to be. 

e. As we compete we prove or test what the will of God is and we find it to be: 

i. Good – we find the will of God to be good for us. 

ii. Acceptable – we find the will of God to be well-pleasing to us. 

iii. Perfect – we find the will of God to be perfect or complete. 

5. Football players, Coaches, Support Staff, may I challenge you with the Apostle Paul’s words? 

a. I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God… 

b. Present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 

c. Do not be conformed to this world, but… 

d. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. 

I love college football because it is an environment and an endeavor in which we may experience the presence and the pleasure of the Lord Jesus as an act of worship. 

I pray you also experience our Lord’s presence and His pleasure tomorrow and each time you prepare, train, practice, and compete.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Sports Ministry Conference in St. Petersburg, Russia

During the days of 31 October through 2 November, I was privileged to participate in a sports ministry conference in St. Petersburg, Russia. Men and women from the sporting world and a number of churches from a wide radius joined us for these days of inspiration, conversation, and envisioning a future of ministry in sport for that part of the world.

We were very well hosted by our friends of FCA in St. Petersburg, by the Russian language TBN Network, and area church leaders. The event featured speakers including local bishops and similar leaders of the area church community, a highly ranked boxer, three of my FCA colleagues, and me. I was privileged to share an orientation about sports chaplaincy with a strongly engaged set of leaders and can’t wait to see what develops.

Mark Hull of the 360 Coaching Institute made several presentations and Dan Britton of FCA delivered strong and passionate messages re: the potential of ministry in sport.

In addition to the formal presentations and inspirational talks from a wide variety of speakers, there were many discussions during coffee breaks, over lunches and dinners, all in consideration of what the Lord may be doing related to ministry in sport in their region. Along the way we learned some significant lessons about how to approach ministry, in partnership with the local church, now thirty years since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Things have changed in very important ways and those changes necessitate a shift in the ministry approach of ministries from the west.

We were thrilled to also have time with our hosts to tour the Hermitage museum, to visit the Savior on the Spilled Blood Cathedral, and other sites in St. Petersburg. The history, the art, and the grandeur of the city is remarkable. Those wonders are greatly overshadowed by the hunger, passion, and vision exhibited by the men and women we met from all across northern Russia and Finland.

Please pray for our friends and colleagues in St. Petersburg, Russia and beyond. The Lord is up to something big here. I hope we can be a small part of His plans and purposes.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Recap of The 2nd Global Congress on Sport and Christianity

The 2nd Global Congress on Sport and Christianity was held October 23-27 in Grand Rapids, Michigan on the campus of Calvin University.

This ecumenical gathering of sport administrators, coaches, athletes, pastors, theologians and anyone else who seeks to explore the mutual impact of belief and sport, and also wants to affect a cultural shift in modern sport and the role it plays in a life of faith. We heard from Tim Tebow, professional athlete, ESPN analyst and author; Loretta Claiborne, recipient of the 1996 Arthur Ashe Award for Courage; Miroslav Volf, renowned theologian; and other noted names in the world of sport and faith.

BACKGROUND: In 2016, the Inaugural Congress on Sport and Christianity took place in York, England, hosted by York St. John University. The event drew nearly 200 participants from 24 different nations. Best-selling author, activist, and scholar Tony Campolo delivered the opening address, setting the tone for posing questions and seeking answers in sport through the lens of authentic Christian faith. Other keynotes lectures and more than 80 additional presentations were given by scholars and practitioners, each providing new insights and reflections on the culture of sport as it relates Christian thought and life.

In 2019, the energetic conversation continued. The 2nd Global Congress, hosted by Calvin University and Hope College, took place at the Prince Conference. Co-Directors Brian Bolt (Calvin University) and Chad Carlson (Hope College) did a great job of putting it all together. The congress welcomed participants from every populated continent around the globe.

The keynote speakers were from widely varied backgrounds and experiences in sport. The breakout sessions were well presented, thoughtful, and well received by the hundreds in attendance. The campus of Calvin University served the conference well. It was a privilege and an honor to make three presentations and to moderate a block of breakout sessions during the congress.

As per usual, I enjoyed the time between sessions, conversations over coffee or lunch, networking with friends, new and old, and discussions of the ideas presented during keynotes and breakout sessions. I value these moments even more highly than the presentations. This event is unique in that it welcomes both academics and practitioners of both sport and ministry in sport to the table as equals. People from both perspectives are treated with respect and are given a receptive ear.

I have been watching, but have not seen any information about a 3rd Global Congress. I imagine it would be scheduled for 2022.

Dr. Brian Bolt and Dr. Chad Carlson co-chaired the 2nd Global Congress on Sport and Christianity. The pair is podcasting to encourage the conversation on sport and faith. You can listen at or by subscribing to "Dig Deep: Sport, Faith, Life" via iTunes to catch the latest podcast episode. I have subscribed to this podcast and find the discussions to be thoughtful and perceptive. Have a topic or idea you'd like to hear Dr. Bolt and Dr. Carlson discuss? Please send them a line at

Friday, October 25, 2019

Presentation for 2nd Global Congress on Sport and Christianity - #3

Over the last couple of Fridays I have been posting the text of the three presentations I am making a the Second Global Congress on Sport and Christianity (now underway) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Below is the third. 

The Christian Sportsperson’s Identity 

In recent years more and more Christian competitors, coaches, and sports chaplains have become uneasy about the degree to which they have become identified by their most recent performances. They find their emotions, relationships, and even their sense of personal worth to be tracking with their win/loss records, their most recent times, distances, heights, and other measurements of personal performance. While knowing this can’t be right, most have no other way to grasp their worth, their value, and their identity as a person. 

The culture in general and the sports industry in particular are happy to give an identity to sportspeople. This is usually in an effort to market, to lionize, or to degrade a person for their own purposes. If that’s not enough, those in sports media are more than happy to reduce a sportsperson’s life to a cliché, a meme, or a sound bite on their evening broadcast, blog, or talk radio show. 

We who work in Christian sports ministry will often tritely say, “Your identity should be in Christ,” and walk away as if that instantly solves the whole issue. I wish it were that easy. I’ve been wrestling for years with how to express a better way for the Christian sportsperson to understand and to embrace his or her identity in Christ Jesus. Please consider the following seven points and I pray the scriptures, each directly addressing identity, inform your heart, your mind, and penetrate to the depths of your soul. 

1. I am not identified by slavery to my flesh. I do not need to obey its every urge or bow to its appetites. Galatians 2:20 speaks to this matter – “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and delivered Himself up for me.” I am crucified with Christ, my flesh is as good as dead. I need not heed its screams of desire. I still live, by faith in Christ, but I am still alive. My life in Christ is energized by the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. That’s power. That’s infinitely more powerful than any urge or appetite resident in my body. I am crucified with Christ and I now live by faith in Him. 

2. I am not defined by my performance, good or bad, personal record or disqualification, league championship or relegation. Ephesians 2:10 holds a transforming truth for our lives in sport – “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works. Even more, He prepared works before my appearance that I may walk in them. My identity and my performance on the court, the track, the pitch, the ice, the field, in the pool, or the gym now spring from who I am, not what I do. I am God’s workmanship. He has done the work, now I just stroll in the works He has prepared for me. 

3. I am defined by neither my brand nor my tribe, not by the logo on my gear or the club for which I compete, not by the club’s ownership nor even my nationality. My true identity is stated clearly in I Corinthians 4:1-2 – “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.” Due to my relationship with Jesus, this text says that I am now Christ’s servant, thus He determines my value. I am His. Further it says I am a steward of the mysteries of God. This is a privileged position given through relationship, not merit. The Creator of the universe has called me to serve Him and to be a trustworthy caretaker of the mysteries of His kingdom. That’s who I am. 

4. I am not an outcast, a loner, a free agent, out on waivers, or between teams. I have been chosen for an elite team. We read about our place on this team at I Corinthians 3:9 – “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” I am now God’s fellow worker, a part of God’s field, a part of God’s building. I do not stand alone or isolated. I am not disconnected or cast off, I am part of God’s team, His field, His building. I am in community with all those who love Christ Jesus. I am an integral part of what God is establishing in this world. 

5. I am not an asset, a liability, a tool, an acquisition, or any other inanimate, dead thing. Romans 12:1 dispels these pernicious notions – “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is our spiritual service of worship.” I am not a dead sacrifice, lacking will and animation. Rather, I am a living sacrifice with full capacity to make choices, to love freely, and to worship God. I am free to present my body as a living, holy, and acceptable sacrifice. This is my true and reasonable act of worship. I am one who worships the living God through the presentation of my body as a living sacrifice in sport. 

6. I am not an isolated, forlorn, outcast from society. I Corinthians 12:27 reveals our present standing in the world – “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” I am a member of Christ’s body. I have a distinct role and a unique function. I am indispensable in value. I am absolutely integral to the function of Christ Jesus’ body in this world. I am a member of Christ Jesus’ body. 

7. I am not defined by my past. Weak or strong, austere or privileged, rich or poor, wise or foolish, stellar or mundane, my identity is not in my past. Colossians 1:27 frees us from the past and its bondage – “to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The marvelous, mysterious truth is that Christ in me is the hope of glory. The powerful hope that makes life worth living, gives us significance, and marks our true identity is the daily presence of Christ Jesus’ Spirit in our mortal souls. Christ in me is the hope of glory. That is who I am. 

I hope that these powerful statements of identity, directly from the Holy Scripture, are used by the Spirit to transform your life, to free you from performance based identity, and to liberate your athletic soul to compete freely. Rest in the assurance that you are complete in Christ, without regard to today’s performance, your team’s place in the standings, or any other temporal standard of measure.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Presentation for 2nd Global Congress on Sport and Christianity - #2

Over the next couple of Fridays I will be posting the text of the three presentations I will be making a the Second Global Congress on Sport and Christianity in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Below is the second. 

The Significance of Sport Chaplains and Character Coaches in the 21st Century 

Ministry in Sport has changed greatly in the last sixty years. It began with iconic figures and very few details about their lives. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) was founded on this dynamic. FCA’s founder, Don McLanen, selected high profile, Christian athletes to proclaim their faith in public, just as they were being used by companies to promote their products. Ministry in Sport grew through the influence of two-dimensional, heroic Christian athletes who were used by various ministries to achieve growth and financial development. FCA grew through this dynamic. The last twenty years have revealed a huge tear in the fabric of many sports ministries. Our intentions have been questioned, our integrity has been examined and our methods have been scrutinized. FCA is part and parcel of this dynamic. 

The present world of sport and much of sports ministry is characterized by three primary weaknesses: 

1) The prevalence of compartmentalized lives; that is a lack of integrity. This is easily seen in situations like the fall of coaches, players, and even prominent Christian athletes. 

2) The horrible lie of performance based identity. A player’s sense of personal worth may rise or fall based upon his most recent performance on the field of competition. A coach’s sense of God’s pleasure with her may ride on her team’s win/loss record. Even worse, a sport chaplain’s sense of his or her being in God’s will can be shaped by the relative success or failure of the teams being served. Each and all of these scenarios are emblematic of the terrible lie that assaults the hearts of sports people. 

3) The collapse of the American family structure. Most of the young men and women whom we serve are now from single parent families. They start their lives relationally and spiritually handcuffed. Worse still, if they are so blessed as to be athletically gifted, they may find that their coaches, teammates, agents, peers, lovers, even their parents and sport chaplains use the player for their own personal gain. 

Sport Chaplains and Character Coaches in the 21st century are uniquely qualified to address these issues. If we will lovingly lead and serve with integrity of heart and not simply follow the culture’s flow of compartmentalization, we can make a real difference. We can lead players, coaches and our colleagues in ministry toward lives of real integrity and don’t treat it as a mere buzzword to impress our donors. The issue of performance based identity is most poignant for these days and will only increase in importance in the future. The self-perpetuating cycle of broken people growing up in broken homes can be overcome by the life transforming power of the Gospel of Christ in the lives of sportspeople. Not for the sake of the masses who follow them, but for their own lives and families. They are worth it, regardless if anyone else is watching. 

My challenge to you and to sports ministries globally is: 

1) To conduct your ministry with a whole heart. To fully integrate the presence and power of Christ in all of life; sport, ministry, family, all of it. 

2) Guard your hearts and those you serve from the insidious lie of performance based identity. Help them to see that their lives are inextricably tied to the infinite value of Christ Jesus as they are in Him. 

3) Dynamically impact the lives of the people of sport with the Gospel and thereby extend Christ’s influence in their families, teams, communities and the world.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Presentation for 2nd Global Congress on Sport and Christianity - #1

Over the next three Fridays I will be posting the text of the three presentations I will be making a the Second Global Congress on Sport and Christianity in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Below is the first.

What's the problem with Misapplication of Scripture in Sports Ministry?
After having delivered hundreds of pre-game chapel talks, having lived through over twenty-five sports seasons as a sports chaplain, having heard and read many years of post-game remarks by ecstatic players and more recently, a few years of tweets and Facebook posts, I have endured the misapplication of many verses of scripture to sporting situations. More often than not a player or coach is claiming a promise he or she sees in the Bible and hears it as God’s absolute guarantee of victory. More often than not, that scripture has nothing to do with such matters. A few of the more egregious examples follow.

Jeremiah 29:11
“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”

The Lord certainly has plans for us, plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give us a future and a hope, but to infer that to mean that we will surely win today (welfare is more than winning), that we will not lose (a loss is not calamity), and that our future is surely the championship to which we aspire is pure folly. Let’s take inspiration from the scripture and trust the Lord with the application of His plans and our future. Let’s not force our ambitions into His kind intentions.

Ephesians 3:20-21
“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”

This usually begins with the player or coach imagining his or her highest ambition or most lofty achievement and then appropriating Christ Jesus’ infinite power to its fulfillment. Surely the Lord wants us to achieve “far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think…” right? His power is at work within us, right? It’s only for His “glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” right? Actually this verse is in the context of the marvelous power Jesus exerts in the Church to blend Jews and Gentiles into one Church which demonstrates His grace and wisdom. Let’s not try to foolishly appropriate the Lord’s dynamic and holy grace toward our fleshly ambitions.

Isaiah 54:17
“No weapon that is formed against you will prosper;
And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
And their vindication is from Me,” declares the Lord.”
Many of us will recognize the first line of this scripture from its prominent, raspy and passionate use during the games leading up to the Super Bowl of American Football earlier in 2013. Simply reading the remainder of this verse informs the reader that this is much bigger than sport. While the one who spoke these verses may find all of this to be intensely personal, he was accused and was eventually vindicated by the court, he is not wise in his use of this verse related to his team’s victories. 

Much of sport rhetoric borrows from the vernacular of war and battle. It’s often effective as a motivational tool, but is more often the catalyst for belligerent and foolish behavior. The implication is that our opponent’s strategy is a weapon and surely the Lord won’t allow their “weapon formed against you to prosper.” This thought fails on several fronts, the most glaring being the presumption that the Lord Jesus would take sides in a sporting competition. Why would God favor your team in this day’s game over your opponent? Does your team love God more? How do you know? Do they have more Christians, more holy Christians, more devoted readers of the Bible or did they spend more time in prayer today? How exactly is the Lord supposed to take sides? The whole, presumptuous thought is folly and is the fruit of poorly trained study method and self-centered application of the holy writ.

Philippians 4:13
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

This may be the king of them all. One can see “Philippians 4:13” scribbled on shoes, wrist bands, eye black or elsewhere on sports gear on any given game day most anywhere in the world. Players will infer that this scripture means that they and their team can take on the best team in the nation and prevail. Our team which enters the game at zero and twenty-two will surely overcome our rivals who come in at twenty-two and zero. Of course we can, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” This winless team may in fact beat their previously undefeated rival, but it will not be because this verse is true. 

The scripture is true, but it is set in the context of Paul’s assurance to his friends in Philippi that he could handle any situation, having plenty, being in want, in comfort or in painful trials. A more appropriate application of this to sport would be to encourage our teammates that we can trust Christ’s power to carry us along through losing streaks as well as through winning streaks. He strengthens us to handle pain and injury as well as to handle success and adulation. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Pleasant things or painful things, sorrow or laughter, ease or difficulty; Christ’s strength enables us for all situations.

It is not my aim to simply rant about the misapplication of the Bible in sports chapel talks. Our purpose here is to challenge each of us to wisely interpret and apply the scripture to the lives of those we serve so that they see its relevance to their lives, hear the voice of God in their hearts and respond to Him in faith. If we fail to do this in a way that is faithful to the Author’s intent, they hear a voice that is not the Lord Jesus and they respond in presumption, superstition or selfish ambition, none of which are even remotely related to genuine faith. Let’s be wise in our use of the Bible and allow Psalm 119:130 to be accomplished in our ministries – “The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.”

Friday, October 4, 2019

Sports Ministry Conference in St. Petersburg, Russia

Please join me in praying for an upcoming conference in St. Petersburg, Russia. It will be 31 October through 2 November and we believe it will greatly advance ministry in sport for that part of the world. A network of churches and a television network are joining to host the event which will include presenters from their region as well as the USA. Please pray that we further the Lord’s purposes in that region and that we enhance the ministries of our local colleagues.

I will be presenting six hours on sports chaplaincy within this outline of thought:
1.   A profile of the Sports Chaplain
a.   Definitions
b.   Character qualities
c.   Values
2.   Global Sports Chaplaincy
a.   History of development
                                         i.    United Kingdom
                                        ii.    Australia and New Zealand
                                       iii.    United States and Latin America
                                      iv.    Ukraine and Eurasia
                                       v.    Major sports events chaplaincy
b.   Global Sports Chaplaincy Association and the future
3.   Sports Chaplaincy in Russian Culture
a.   General culture influences
b.   Sporting cultures are distinct from each other.
c.   Don’t simply import church culture into the sporting world.
d.   Communicate Biblical truth in the sporting culture and thereby transform it.
e.   Culture is the canvas onto which we paint Biblical truth.
4.   Tools for Success in Sports Chaplaincy
a.   Personal skills and giftedness.
b.   Training
                                         i.    Relationships
                                        ii.    Attitudes
                                       iii.    Presence
                                      iv.    Strategies and resources
c.   Books, blogs, websites, and networks.