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.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Serving Those Near the End of Their Careers

In the lives of every competitor and coach we serve there is one inevitable event, the end of his or her career. At some point, he or she has played the final game, run the final race, swam the last lap, hit the final shot, had the final at bat, inning, quarter, or period of his or her competitive career. While some who compete in sport may go on to be a coach, even that career will run its course and suddenly the weight of that moment is felt again.

Many of those we serve make this transition very well and rather easily. They are usually the ones who derive very little of their personal identity from their sporting life. The ones who are at most risk in this moment are those whose lives in sport fully consume all that they are. Some see the final day coming from a long way off and begin to prepare for it. Others find themselves overwhelmed by the gravity of the moment as they change clothes in the locker room immediately after the final competition.

Across twenty-three seasons of collegiate and professional sport I have witnessed a broad range of emotions in these moments. Some finish with a sigh (as Moses describes in Psalm 90), they are simply spent and are relieved at the finality of their careers. Some finish in a flood of tears as this era of their lives is over and they feel it as grief, though a part of them has died. Others become bitter and look back on their investment of time, energy, emotion, relationships, injury, and pain as a net loss rather than a gain. Still others seem to glide through the day without apparent difficulty, but a couple of weeks later they are stunned at the sudden appearance of free time and leisure.

One of our men’s swimmers from a few years ago shared his thoughts with our FCA group one evening. Although we had been talking about the end of career issues for a couple of years, he said it still hammered his heart and mind after he touched the wall for the final time at the end of his unsuccessful attempt to qualify for the USA Swimming Team for the 2012 Olympic Games. “It’s like I had been writing right handed for my whole life and then suddenly I had to start writing left handed.” That is how he described the depth of the change in lifestyle he experienced.

A coaching friend of mine recently retired due to health concerns. It was the most difficult thing he had ever done as the passion for the game and the daily process was still there, but it appeared it could also kill him. “I’ve never done anything else.” He was looking straight down the barrel of a crippling loss of identity, and wondered who he would be if he didn’t wear the title, “Coach.”

Given the power of this epoch in one’s sporting life and the fact that it will come to everyone at some point, I would like to offer some strategies to help those you serve navigate these turbulent waters safely and successfully.
  • ·        Help them see the end of career issues before they arrive. Ask questions about their plans for post-career life. Talk about family, calling, life purpose, short and long term plans.
  • ·        Encourage them to journal during the last season of their careers and to thereby capture each day’s memories, moments of significance, joy, and sorrow.
  • ·        Ask them to share their stories of career highlights, funny moments, times of joy and fulfillment. Ask about the most significant people and situations in their sporting lives.
  • ·        Discuss how their lives in sport uniquely qualify them to serve, to lead, and to make significant contributions beyond sport.
  • ·        Help them see that they are of infinite value to you, to others, and ultimately to God, in or out of sport.
  • ·        Help them to find their identity in a vibrant, living relationship with Christ Jesus. They are infinitely loved and identified with Christ, even more than as a competitor or coach.

Your presence in walking with them, your wisdom in guiding their approach, and your kindness in understanding their hearts will go a long way in assisting your sporting friends to make the painful transition from sporting life to that of “former coach or competitor.” 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Questions for Contemplation

Coach Joe Ehrmann’s influence in the coaching community of the United States cannot be overstated. Season of Life, by Jeffrey Marx is a book about Joe and his pilgrimage from an abusive past to a transformational present and future of coaching at Gilman School in Baltimore, MD. Joe’s book, InSideOut Coaching, is among the best books on coaching that I’ve ever read. I constantly share its principles and practices with coaches in my sphere of influence.

I’d like to adapt and apply some of the questions Joe uses in training coaches with us today. Joe’s questions are: “Why do you coach? Why do you coach the way that you coach? What does it feel like to be coached by you? How do you define success?” Excellent and probing questions, all.
I would like to have us consider these questions:
1.   Why do you serve as a sports chaplain or character coach?
2.   Why do you serve the way that you do?
3.   What does it feel like to be served by you?
4.   How do you define success?

Take some time to contemplate these questions and to even write down your answers. They can become defining characteristics of your further service.

I would like to make some direct and challenging comments about each question.
1.   Why do you serve as a sports chaplain or character coach? If you are serving as a way of obtaining access to the team, to gain privilege, or to enhance your public profile, you are doing it badly.
2.   Why do you serve the way that you do? If you are serving thoughtlessly, without considering the needs and the preferences of those being served, you can do much better.
3.   What does it feel like to be served by you? If those you serve are feeling manipulated, condemned, or simply annoyed, you should consider changing your approach.
4.   How do you define success? If your measurement for success is attendance at meetings, you may be terribly disappointed. If your measurement is conversions or baptisms, you may become quite manipulative. If your definition of success is more about long term faithfulness than immediate results, you are on the right track.

Please join Coach Ehrmann and me in asking some difficult, probing questions of yourself. Contemplate these ideas to analyze and adjust your service of the men and women of sport toward life transformation and faithful service of Christ Jesus.

Friday, September 9, 2016


Earlier this summer I turned sixty years of age. The summer also marked fifty years of my being a disciple of Christ Jesus. On August 1, I began my twenty-third year of serving sportspeople with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Milestones like these make old guys nostalgic, but they also make us reflect upon the changes we have experienced and the development of our lives, in particular, our lives of faith.

One facet of my discipleship that has undergone lots of change is how I pray. From my earliest days of seeing the Lord like a mail carrier picking up requests, to later days of massive prayer lists, to years of emphasis on form or passion, to the more recent days of listening and asking questions, my prayer life has undergone constant change.

Most recently, my prayer life is full of questions like these: What are you saying today? To whom shall I speak today? Where are You leading me? Who are You calling to Yourself? Where are new opportunities to serve? What would please You most? What scripture is most appropriate for this moment?

Whether on the field, court, track, mat, pitch, or the pool deck, pray. At practice, training, on the sideline, in the cheap seats, in the changing room, in the training (physio) room, on the bus, on the plane, in the car, or watching via television or computer, pray. Strongly or weakly, wisely or foolishly, profoundly or mundanely, pray. Get your heart engaged with the Lord Jesus’ heart for the men and women of sport and your capacity to care for them will grow, your understanding of them will be enhanced, and your ability to speak the very words of God to them will be magnified. Pray. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Report from the Inaugural Global Congress on Sport and Christianity

From 24 through 28 August, I participated in the Inaugural Global Congress on Sport and Christianity at York St. John University of York, England. It was an outstanding four days of presentations, discussions, and fellowship among academic professionals, sports ministry practitioners, and others.

Sports Chaplaincy was one of twelve thematic strands in the congress. The sports chaplaincy strand was comprised of four sessions that included: Sports Chaplaincy Trends, Issues, and Debates led by Dr. Andrew Parker. I then made a presentation titled, Global Sports Chaplaincy: A review of the online training program created for basic, yet comprehensive chaplaincy training. Dr. Steven Waller of the University of Tennessee made a presentation titled, Globalization and the credentialing of sports chaplains: Divergent perspectives. Lastly, Anthony Maranise of Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee presented, 6 Degrees of Commonality Uniting Sports Chaplains of all Christian Traditions. Each of the presentations were well delivered and received by the large group of men and women in attendance.

There were sports chaplains from the worlds of horse racing, motor racing, rugby, football (soccer), American football, baseball, athletics, basketball, Paralympic sports, and probably a number of others with which I am unfamiliar.

Our sports chaplaincy colleagues were Protestant, Roman Catholic, Mormon, liberal, and conservative, with backgrounds in sport, coaching, psychology, sociology, recreation, theology, and probably other ologies I cannot even spell.

We were among sports ministry colleagues from Athletes in Action, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Christians in Sport, the Vatican, Sports Chaplaincy UK, Sports Ambassadors, and others.

Friday evening’s highlight was a sport themed service in York Minster, a medieval cathedral built across the years of 1220 to 1472. It is a remarkably beautiful structure and the service was very inspirational for all attendees.

My primary interest in this congress was to further the connections between academics who research and write about matters of faith and sport, and practitioners of sports chaplaincy, like us. I believe that we each stand to enhance the others’ work if we simply, regularly, and respectfully work together. I hope to contribute to the work of many of my new colleagues in the world of academia, and I hope to continue to learn from their insightful work, analysis, and contemplative writing. I expect that the implications from this congress will ripple across the years, and its impact with be felt around the globe.

Save the date for the next Global Congress, to be held at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan October 23-27, 2019.