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Ministry Development, Personal Growth

Via Michael Hyatt:

  1. The temptation of priorities. Weak leaders put themselves last. They mistakenly think this is more spiritual. As I wrote in another post, it is a dangerous temptation that has left many leaders cynical and burned out.But successful leaders face the opposite temptation. They put themselves first. In fact, some are outright narcissists, putting themselves at the center of their own universe. The correct position, I think, is second. Strong leaders put God first and themselves second. They know that they can’t meet the needs of others unless they attend to themselves.
  2. The temptation of entitlement. Weak leaders become convinced that they deserve something different. They lose any sense of delight or gratitude. They come to believe what others tell them: they are special and thus deserve preferential treatment.Successful leaders are alert to this temptation and war against it. It can sneak up when they least expect it. So they work hard to thank the people closest to them, knowing that their position is a privilege and likely temporary.
  3. The temptation of resentment. Weak leaders take offense at every slight. They are hyper-sensitive, reading into every situation more than is warranted. In the “movie” about them, there has to be drama.The reality is that offenses are inevitable. Jesus Himself said, “offenses must come” (Matthew 18:7). In fact, I would go so far as to say that God often sends offenses—for our good and for our sanctification. Strong leaders thus overlook offenses, knowing that this is the true mark of maturity and character (see Proverbs 19:11).
  4. The temptation of popularity. We live in a world that places a high value on fame and “personal branding.” We seem to have a list for everything, including the top 100 largest churches and the 100 fastest growing churches. It is difficult for me to imagine the early church—the church of the martyrs—compiling these kinds of lists.In reality, Jesus was a publicists’ nightmare. He eschewed fame. He miraculously healed people and then ordered them to keep it to themselves, telling no one about their experience (see, for example, Luke 5:12–14). Strong leaders are quick to give others the credit and avoid the limelight. They would rather be effective, even if they labor in obscurity.

Ministry Development, Personal Growth

By Jason Miller

Having a plan is good. Organization is good. Being prepared is good. But…is it possible to “plan God out”? There are some who will read this and answer no, that there is no way to have anything that God is not a part of. Okay…before we get into being so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good, let me say that I am not claiming to be able to do anything apart from God. What I am saying is that in ministry we can get so focused on the plan that we rob ourselves of doing ministry.

This may not be a frustration of yours, but it is for me. We spend so much time “planning” to do ministry that we often miss the opportunity for ministry. Is it because we’re too scared? Is it because we don’t believe in ourselves? Is it because we don’t believe God will do what He says? The thing that frustrates me the most is when I have meeting after meeting after meeting about how to do ministry, instead of just getting out there and doing ministry! I understand that my mindset of “while you’re planning how to do ministry I’ll be out doing ministry…you can tell me how your plan went later” frustrates some. I also understand that there is a balance and one needs the other to be excellent, but I fear that we spend most of our time constructing this great plan for how to do ministry while the people just need to be ministered to.  When Jesus told the disciples to follow Him, did they go back and consult their co-workers? Did they schedule meetings to decide whether this was the best thing to do? Did they come up with a plan for how it would be most effective? I know all of this sounds silly, yet this is what we do!

Jesus Christ tells us to reach people for Him. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength, and we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Those are the two greatest commandments. Ministry is not hard, yet we complicate it. Here’s the catch…God’s will for our lives is for us to simply obey Him. If we are walking with Him, He will direct whatever we set out to do because we will be doing what He wants us to.

So how does this apply to sports ministry?

All the same things apply. Sports Ministry is not complicated. The reason I say that is because if sports are not complicated and ministry is not complicated then sports ministry can’t be complicated. Sports is a universal language that could be the only thing that we know that can overcome the obstacles that are race, sex, religion, and social status. We complicate sports by creating all these rules that attempt to accommodate everyone because, after all, it is ministry right? We don’t want things to be too hard or to cause anyone to feel bad (God forbid we say the “w” word…win), so we work ourselves tired so that we can “minister” to families. That will never work. We all know that you can’t please everyone. What happens is that in our attempt to “minister” we are actually impacting families negatively. Sports are simple. People already know sports. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

We complicate ministry by doing exactly what was mentioned above. By recreating the sport, we inevitably create a “christians only” league, where there’s no fighting, cursing, anger, hatred, etc., etc. It bugs me to no end to hear people call our leagues, a “church league”. I know most of the people are not referring to what I just mentioned, but that is sort of the mindset of many Christians as we do ministry. Ministry is simple. Ministry is using whatever to love on people in order to usher them into the Kingdom of God.  Jesus gave us a darn good model. Again, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

So, can we “plan God out”? The answer has to be yes. If we focus so much of our time on planning to do ministry that we miss out on the opportunity to minister, then aren’t we telling God that He has to wait on us? I challenge all of us who are doing ministry to pay close attention to Proverbs 16:9 – In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps (NIV). The Message states it this way – We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it.




Gospel Centricity, Ministry Development

“If you were to die tonight, do you know for certain you would go to heaven?”


While this question may be helpful in the course of a spiritual dialogue, it is a rather awkward way to begin such a dialogue.  Tim Chester & Steve Timmis talk about this reality in their book Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission.

Many of us know how to answer the question, “What must I do to be saved?” But we do not know how to begin a conversation about Jesus. Our only hope is a crass, awkward change of direction, like crunching the gears in your car.

If you are someone who has felt this awkwardness, you may wonder, “Does it have to be so awkward?  Is there a way to go about starting a spiritual conversation in a more natural way?”

Spiritual conversations are like conversations in general. There is a natural progression of depth and intimacy. When we meet someone, we might ask questions like “What do you do?” or “Where do you live?”  This feels natural. It would be awkward to start that meeting off with questions like “How do you feel about the situation in Iraq?”  or “Why did you marry the person you married?” It seems awkward because the conversation moved into a deeper level of intimacy and vulnerability too fast.

This natural progression can be outlined in the following list of areas of discussion and questions for those areas:

Impersonal Facts – “How did the Panthers do this past week?” or “What happened yesterday in Iraq?”

Personal Facts – “Where do you live?” or “What do you do for a vocation or in your free time?”

Opinions – “Why do you think the Rams cut Michael Sams?” or  “How do you think we should handle the situation in Iraq?”

Feelings – “How did you feel when you heard another American had been beheaded?”

Identity – “How do you view yourself at the core of your being?”

As you move down the list, the level of vulnerability and intimacy increases – from little or none to deep and complete. This progression normally takes time – lots of it – before the trust is built in the relationship and this depth seems natural.

Now think about that list and where the gospel speaks to people. It tells them they were made in the image of God, yet that image has been marred to the point that they are now sinners. Because of their sin, they are separated from God and there is nothing they can do about it. However, God, wanting to restore that broken and marred image, sent Jesus Christ, His Son, to die and redeem us so that restoration could take place.

These are deeply personal and intimate issues. Issues dealing with personal and deep feelings and that person’s identity. No wonder it seems so awkward if we abruptly bring up the gospel. We are jumping down many levels of vulnerability and intimacy.

So what do you do instead?

  1. I have found that you just go through the progression. Start with asking more HOW and WHY questions in your conversations.  They will flow naturally after you start with the WHAT and the WHERE questions. For example, imagine you have just met someone and you ask, “Where do you work?”  They tell you and you follow up with the question, “How did you get into that field?”  Or if you talk about how long someone has lived in your town, you could ask, “Why did you move here?”  The HOW and the WHY questions gives the person a chance to tell you something of their story.
  2. Drop a level first and then invite the person you are talking with to join you.  For instance, you may be talking about the Iraq situation.  You have asked them, “How do you think the USA should handle this situation?”  They have given their answer.  You could say something like, “I find myself really afraid or feeling insecure with all the conflict in the world today.  How do you find yourself impacted by all this?”
  3. Talk about how you deal with your feelings, struggles, and problems.  As you discuss these feelings, it is natural to say something like, “When I am afraid like I am about the world situation, I find great comfort in God’s overarching authority over all of life.”  Tell them vulnerably where Christ and the gospel speak to you at the feelings and identity levels.  As you share your individual stories and deeper vulnerability, you will find you have natural opportunities to talk about your relationship with Christ.  You could also ask your friend, “How do you handle that insecurity or fear?”

While using the word natural to describe these conversations,  I don’t mean to imply there isn’t some angst even when it happens like this. Any conversation at this level with the possibility of speaking about eternal things is very serious. There is a soberness about these kinds of conversations that reflects the significance of the truths being discussed no matter how long you have known the person and how much trust and vulnerability exist.

Also, while using the word natural,  I don’t mean to imply that conversations like these aren’t supernatural.  Only God can open the heart of a person to the truths of the gospel. It also takes God’s works  to open the heart of someone to us.

Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” With this hope in mind, pray for open hearts and start the progression.


Gospel Centricity, Personal Growth

Batman. Superman. William Wallace. Indiana Jones.

All great heroes brought to life in the movies! (When you think of a hero, who comes to your mind?)

I longed to be one of those heroes as a child. In fourth grade, one of my recurrent daydreams was that I would rescue my class from a dangerous criminal. As he entered the classroom, I would swoop down from the top of the lockers in the room and knock him down and out. Then, as I stood triumphant over him, I would bask in the cheers for their “hero”.

I gave up on that dream as I ran face to face with my inadequacies and brokenness. No longer would I be the hero, could I step in and do what heroes do, but, none the less, I longed for a hero to step in – SAVE  THE DAY! Many times as I felt needy, helpless, and even hopeless, when I looked beneath those emotions, there I found this longing for a hero.

I don’t think I am alone. Neither does Hollywood. That is why every great popular movie has, as one of its core elements, a hero or heroes to come and save the day!

I bring this up to do two things.

First of all, I bring it up for you to acknowledge this longing in your heart. It is there, maybe buried deep below the disappointments, false hopes, and broken dreams, but it there.

I also bring it up to point that longing to the Greatest Hero of all time – Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is many things – Savior, Son of God, Son of Man, Messiah, Prince of Peace. He is also The Great Hero.

He stepped into The Great Story – the Gospel – and saved the day. Creation was corrupt. We were broken and disconnected – from each other and God. Into this dire situation he came.

–       As King – to restore (fix the brokenness around us)

–       As the New Israel – to empower (fix the brokenness within us)

–       As the Word become Flesh – to connect (with the God we left so long ago but need so much for today)

As such, he did what all heroes do – SAVED the DAY.  To hear more about these ideas, check out Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge for a fresh look at this hero.

In the meantime, when you think of Jesus, will you start to think of him as the Hero you have always longed for, we have always longed for?  He saved the day and has been saving it since.


Gospel Centricity

As Christians, we tend to compartmentalize aspects of our lives. Going to church, reading the Bible, and praying are all “spiritual” things while the day-to-day activities we engage in like work, sports, meals, etc. are “secular.” No matter how long you’ve been a Christian, I suspect you struggle with compartmentalization. God wants us to have a more holistic view though. We know this from 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 

This is a significant part of Cede Sports’ ministry–helping churches embrace sports as a way to glorify God and not compartmentalize them.


This is why I love quotes like this from Jared Wilson’s book, Gospel Wakefulness:

One of the attendant aims of missional evangelicalism is to challenge the compartmentalizing of the Christian faith that we see within the Western church. We are fantastic at itemizing our schedules, and even if we don’t assign God a very large bracket, we are constantly remorseful that we “haven’t made much time for him.” While such compartmentalizing — as if “time with God” can or should be hermetically sealed off from everything else — is a natural symptom of our culture and environment, it also reflects a bad theology.

The truth is, the day does not belong to us. It is not our day to do with as we please. We serve a sovereign God. He created the end from the beginning, knows our future exhaustively, and is firmly in control. He made our days and they belong to him. As such, isn’t it a bit arrogant to begin with the idea that each day is ours and then worry about fitting God in? Instead, we should work at the humble awe of knowing all of our moments, every millisecond, waking or sleeping, are perfectly accounted for within the economy of heaven.

Let us stake the flag of Christ’s kingdom into the soil of our first waking moment. Drink your coffee when you get up, of course, but drink it to the glory of God. Then carry on in this way all day, no matter the task, be it menial or notable, so that each day may be a living prayer that God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. This is what it means to live a gospel-saturated life: it means being so conscious of the greatness of the gospel that changing diapers or cutting the grass is as much an act of worship as singing a praise chorus in a church service….

Now let’s apply that to sports. To paraphrase Wilson – “This is what it means to live gospel-saturated sports– it means being so conscious of the greatness of the gospel that playing sports are as much an act of worship as singing a praise chorus in a church service.” Think for a moment. “Is that the way you view your sports? Do you really believe and live out this idea that your sports are for God and an act of worship or do you slip back into the mindset, that I often do, that your sports are just for you?”

Back to Wilson –

Jesus Christ is Lord over my heart, and he is Lord over my hands, and he is Lord over what I do with these hands, and he is Lord over what I say in my heart while I’m doing it. In submitting to the lordship of Christ, then, I do not treat washing dishes (or playing sports – my addition) as wasting time I could be spending doing something “meaningful,” but rather as a service to those who eat in my home (or those I play with – my addition) … and as an offering of thanksgiving to God that I have food to eat, dishes to eat it on, and running water inside my home to clean with (as well as places to play, a body to play with, teammates and opponents to play with – my addition).

Do you get the picture? This is gospel-saturated, gospel-centered sports. Nothing short of this vision is what is needed for the redemption of the broken sports so prevalent today.


Ministry Development

I recently ran across this quote from Paul David Tripp in a Resurgence blog that is an excerpt from Tripp’s book, questionsDangerous Calling.

Because of what I do, I have heard church leaders, in moments of pastoral crisis, say to me many times, “We didn’t know the man we hired.”

As I read this I was struck by the application of this idea to a broader context than just pastors.

First of all, ourselves. I so often see in myself and in talking with others that we really don’t know the person we are.

This is also true of the volunteers we recruit and the other people we hire.

To avoid this tendency, Tripp contends

But what does knowing the man mean? It means knowing the true condition of his heart (as far as that is possible).

To aid us in that journey, Tripp gives some great questions to ask ourselves and others. Here are the first 10:

 others. Here are the first 10:
  1. What does he really love?
  2. What does he despise?
  3. What are his hopes, dreams, and fears?
  4. What are the deep desires that fuel and shape the way he does ministry?
  5. What are the anxieties that have the potential to derail or paralyze him?
  6. How accurate is his view of himself?
  7. Is he open to the confrontation, critique, and encouragement of others?
  8. Is he committed to his own sanctification?
  9. Is he open about his own temptations, weaknesses, and failures?
  10. Is he ready to listen to and defer to the wisdom of others?
    (For the rest of the list, click here.)

To apply them to ourselves, they simply become:

  1. What do I really love?
  2. What do I despise?
  3. What are my hopes, dreams, and fears?
  4. What are the deep desires that fuel and shape the way I do ministry?
  5. What are the anxieties that have the potential to derail or paralyze me?
  6. How accurate is my view of himself?
  7. Am I open to the confrontation, critique, and encouragement of others?
  8. Am I committed to my own sanctification?
  9. Am I open about my own temptations, weaknesses, and failures?
  10. Am I ready to listen to and defer to the wisdom of others?

So let’s break this tendency and ask ourselves and others these questions.

As you do, remember the qualifier Tripp adds “as far as that is possible” and cry out for insight to the God “who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.” Psalm 33:14,15


Ministry Development

A great post here from Justin Buzzard.  Below is an excerpt:

At our church we talk about 4 root idols that we tend to attach our lives to.

CONTROL. You know you have a control idol if your greatest nightmare is uncertainty.

APPROVAL. You know you have an approval idol if your greatest nightmare is rejection.

COMFORT. You know you have a comfort idol if your greatest nightmare is stress/demands.

POWER. You know you have a power idol if your greatest nightmare is humiliation.

Here’s what you need to know about your idol: That idol that you love, it doesn’t love you back.

It’s interesting, sports could be any of those 4 root idols.  For me, it’s all about approval.  It’s a way to achieve affirmation and significance. How about you?


CEDE Sports, Ministry Development

We frequently tell those in and outside of the sports ministry world the following: The job of a sports minister is the most logistically demanding job in the church. It makes sense right? In order to do the “ministry” you need to do the “sports”…and sports take time. It is just a reality of the job. It’s a reality though that can become dangerous. Gordon MacDonald says this: 

“I am of the opinion that busyness is a deeper threat to the soul than pornography ever was.”

 deeper threat to the soul than pornography ever was.”

In light of this, I wanted to offer everyone here some thoughts and resources so that you may struggle well with your busyness. First, some practical advice:

“Prune” to get more work done

In a vineyard, the vine keeper knows that if a vine is not regularly pruned, new fruit will eventually begin to steal resources from the older, more mature, fruit-bearing parts of the vine. Over time, the unpruned vine will eventually succumb to systemic mediocrity because it simply can’t support that much fruit. There aren’t the resources available. The good fruit suffers in order to support the less mature fruit.

In the same way, it’s critical that we (both individuals and companies) get really good at “pruning” – learning to say “no” to opportunities and projects – that don’t align with the important work that we’re doing. This means passing on opportunities – even really good ones – in order to preserve the energy needed to bring our best effort to the work that we know we need to excel at.

Sit down once a month with your calendar and your projects list, and look for things that might be good ideas, but need to be pruned in order to give you more capacity to do your crucial work. This doesn’t mean that you’re saying no to them forever, it just means that you’re recognizing that you don’t have the bandwidth to do everything all the time. It’s not failure, it’s the first step toward success.

Here’s some more advice on your schedule from Bill Hybels

Bill, faced with more challenges than he could manage, began to search for a way to shorten his list of “priorities.” At the same time, he decided to shorten his time horizon. Rather than saying, “What should I focus on for the next year?” He said, “What should I focus on for the next 6 weeks?” As he admitted, he somewhat randomly chose the number 6. Nothing magic about it, he said it just felt manageable. So, as he described it, an experiment was taking shape.

Bill made a list of all the things he could focus on and decided to rank order the list. He used the following question:

What are the top six contributions I could make in the next six weeks?


Evangelism/Discipleship, Gospel Centricity

The gospel produces in Christians both humility and boldness.  Read what Tim Keller says:

“When the gospel ‘comes home’-humbling and affirming you, it turns every believer into a natural evangelist…Evangelism happens because of a) the humility of the gospel. The gospel (unlike religious moralism) produces people who are not disdainful and contemptuous towards those who disagree with them. Also, it happens through b) the affirmation of the gospel. Because of the reality and joy of Christ’s love, we are not as concerned what others think. The gospel brings a gentle boldness.”

“The gospel makes us neither self-confident nor self-disdaining, but both bold and humble at once. To the degree I am still functionally earning my worth through performance (i.e. to the degree I am still functioning in works-righteousness), to that degree I will be either operating out of superiority or inferiority. Why! Because if I am saved by my works, then I can either be confident but not humble (if I am living up) or humble but not confident (if I am not living up). In other words, apart from the gospel, I will be forced to be superior or inferior or to swing back and forth or to be one way with some people and another way with others. I am continually caught between these two ways, because of the nature of my self image.

So the gospel humbles me before anyone, telling me I am a sinner saved only by grace. But it also emboldens me before anyone, telling me I am loved and honored by the only eyes in the universe that really count. So the gospel gives a boldness and a humility that do not “eat each other up” but can increase together.” Link


The “Minnesota Miracle.”  Alabama’s overtime victory over Georgia. Georgia’s overtime win over Oklahoma. New England’s late drive to defeat Jacksonville. The Eagles defense holding off the Falcons on their final drive.   

These are just a few of the recent games that illustrate this idea – “It could have gone either way.”

In each of those games, there were great plays that led to those victories. A great catch here. An acrobatic defensive play there. Without those, the results probably would have been completely different.  

“It could have gone either way.” It is one of the things I love about sports.  

In that reality, we tend to focus on those great plays. Understandably. Those plays draw our attention and admiration for all that it takes to make them a possibility – like hard work, discipline, and teamwork.  

However, I want to shift the focus of our attention. Rather than just those great plays, I want you to consider for a moment the number of little things that led to the necessity of such great plays.  

For instance, If the Saints make their third down conversion in the previous series and score a touchdown, how would that have impacted the Vikings on the final play calling and the Saints on their defense? Would there still have been a “Minnesota Miracle”? If Alabama true freshman Tua Tagovailoa doesn’t take the 16 yard sack on the previous play, would the same play that resulted in the 41-yard score been called? Would Alabama have still won their fifth National Championship under Nick Saban? If certain penalties in a number of these games hadn’t been missed, would the dramatic events have even been a possibility?

What I am hoping to point out is that it is not just the great plays that make a difference. It is also a lot of little things, some seemingly insignificant at the time, that push the games toward such a conclusion.  

I bring this up because, in several of these games, players who made those great plays brought God into the equation.  

Here is Vikings receiver Tyler Diggs on the ‘Minnesota Miracle,’ “I give everything to God,” Stefon Diggs told Fox Sports. He thanked his coaches and teammates for giving him the opportunity, then pointed to God, “God did the rest, He put me here. And I’m just thankful.” Afterwards, Case Keenum, the quarterback who threw the pass, said, “God is so good.”

Here is Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa on the overtime victory:

In this interview, Tua says, “You know, with God all things are possible! That’s what happened tonight.”

If you watched the Georgia/Oklahoma game, Georgia quarterback, Jake Fromm, said basically the same thing in his interview after the game. So did Eagles quarterback, Nick Foles, after their win over the Falcons.

Now consider these two ideas together: 

The game could have gone either way based on not just big plays but on many “little things,” God being credited for the victory – either implied or specifically stated.

When you listen to these players and consider the teeter-totter way that these games could have gone, how do you factor God’s involvement in the game? Do you see God orchestrating the events for the winners as some of these players imply or do you chalk it up to pure coincidence, just a random series of events?

I bring this up not so much to settle the question of “Does God care who wins?” but to ask you to consider the question more deeply. (The answer is more important than you think.)

As I have considered the question and asked others to do the same, I have found troubling implications to the “No” answer and to the “Yes” answer, ones that either trivialize sports or God.  

I also bring this up because I have found this to be a very personal issue, not just something theoretical to be argued about in bars or on sports talk shows. To illustrate this point, ask the question, “Does God care who wins?” at your next lunch or breakfast. If your experience is like mine, the conversation will quickly get very lively.  

If you are tracking with me and wrestle with this question, maybe even unsure of your answer to the question, “Does God care who wins?” or want to examine more carefully the troubling implications of either of the “No” or “Yes” answer, I would point you to a book I wrote last summer titled Does God Care Who Wins?

Here are a couple of reactions from readers:

“I received the book yesterday and read it cover to cover last night! Thank you so much, I loved it…Appreciated the blend of story-telling, scripture, deep theological truth, specific quotes and stories from athletes and practical implications. Really well done and a really helpful resource that I can see lots of uses for.”  

Collegiate Soccer Coach

“I finished “Does God Care Who Wins?” on the plane Sunday… could not put it down…..Seriously, you did an amazing job addressing a question asked by millions but not answered my many, and if so, not with the thought and care you did….Going to be passing this book along to family and friends for the rest of my life… so glad God had you write this.”

Businessman and Serious Golfer

“I have been an athlete and a NAIA collegiate volleyball coach who regularly and intentionally led a counter-cultural, positive, collegiate Christian sports team for 13 years. I have naively answered that question “Does God Care Who Wins?” with this answer: ‘God doesn’t care who wins. He cares about the athletes, coaches, referees and spectators at the game. He cares how we experience the game and the relationships we continue to build with those we play with, but he doesn’t impact the outcome of a game.’ 
I held that general view (with minor alterations over the years) until I read Bob’s book.  I must acknowledge that the insights Bob shared about our God, and how He cares about us, and he therefore cares about what we care about, dramatically changed my own answer to the question raised in his book title.  What a paradigm shift!”

College Professor – Health & Exercise Science

I ask you again to consider the questions, “If the game could have gone either way, what role does God play in the outcome?  Does he actually care who wins?” 

For more – Does God Care Who Wins? Is available on Amazon –


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