I was recently asked, why sports ministry? Actually, I am often asked this question.
There are many different ways I could go to answer this question: I could talk about statistics or cite famous quotes from people in sports or political leaders; I could talk about the popularity of playing or watching sports here in the US and around the world; I could talk about the financial impact of sports or the viewership, the crazy fandom, the beauty of the games, or even the ugliness and corruption that has developed in the industry; I could talk about how athletes and coaches can have their identity completely wrapped up in sports; I could talk about the way sport breaks down barriers like race, sex, religion, language, social status, culture, and nationality differences. But today, I think I will just answer this from my perspective, and you will see how most of those things have become a part of my story over the years.
It began before I was born. My dad was a basketball coach at a small elementary school when I came into the picture. He gave me a basketball and talked with me about the sport from my very first days. In fact, my earliest memories in life are of sitting on a medicine chest next to my dad on the bench while he was coaching. It was there, in those gymnasiums, that I learned a love for the game and for the people involved. It’s true to say that I have wanted to play or coach the game all of my life.
The game of basketball has taken me to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in my life. It has consumed my time, my resources, and my life. It has been my identity and my purpose, both good and bad.
I have been fortunate enough to play and coach the game for many years now. I played on teams that were very successful, even winning a National Championship. I have also coached teams that have been very successful in both the US and around the world even though I was just a normal boy from a small town in Kentucky.
Basketball was a love, a gift, and a passion that God gave me from the very beginning. The good news for me is that I was also blessed with a dad and mom that taught me about Jesus from birth as well. I went to church every time the doors were open. Literally, I had to; my mom was the church secretary, and she took me with her to everything that happened at church. This also gave me a love and passion for following and serving the Lord.
It did, however, take several years for me to figure out that I could combine my two passions and love for kingdom work. After several years of friendly, yet persistent asking, I decided to go on a basketball mission trip with Robby and Sports Reach. I knew I loved Jesus and basketball but did not know how the Lord could use that or me for the kingdom work.
That first trip was eye opening to say the least. We took a team of basketball players from all over the US to Istanbul, Turkey, to play in a World University Games. There were athletes from many different sports and countries all there together. Because our team was pretty good and from the USA, it gave us the opportunity to meet and talk with athletes and coaches from all over the world in a short period of time. These people wanted to hear all about our lives, even our spiritual lives.
For the first time, I saw how God used a small town, small college basketball coach and his team to go halfway around the world and gave us the opportunity to share about Jesus because of basketball. I saw firsthand how sports brought people together; how it broke down barriers like race, sex, religion, nationality, social, culture, and language.
This changed my thinking about faith, sports and life. It opened me up to the Lord placing a calling on my life to use the gifts, talents, and passions He had given me to serve Him as well as athletes and coaches around the world. At first, I thought it was going to be just taking the Gospel all over the world through basketball. But as I got into it more, I began to see the impact we could and were having on the athletes and coaches that traveled with us on these mission trips. It became evident that these trips were having a similar impact on them as they did for me. I have always loved coaching because of the development of my athletes but I was now seeing that it could also have a huge impact on their spiritual growth and development as well. This lit a new fire and passion in me.
Then of course, there is always the ugliness in sports. Just like in life, there are always things people will do to distort and mess up beautiful and wonderful things. These things are not hidden in sports because of the popularity and microscope of the media in today’s world. This ugliness broke my heart and also gave me a passion for trying to help these people and others that may be tempted to fall into those same traps. I had once been consumed by sports, and I also had been tempted to do things that I shouldn’t to get ahead.
So, why sports ministry? Because it is a tool or a way that I can use the gifts, talents, and passions that God has given me to meet people where they are, to go places I might not or could not go otherwise, to develop young men in a holistic way, and to have an eternal impact on the lives of athletes and coaches from all walks of life. But, the main reason is that I believe that God has called me to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). Even athletes and coaches.Back to blog