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Well Christmas is arriving and for most chaplains its an extremely busy time of the year. It occurred to me the other day that there is nowhere in the Bible that says that we should celebrate Jesus’ birth….or is there?

We see in the word there is a great tradition and ongoing theme to remember the works God has done. Deuteronomy 4:9 encourages us to remember what our eyes have seen, and never let it fade from our hearts, and to teach it to our children and their children.

It is then important to remember and celebrate Jesus’ birth, but also (and I think this is often forgotten) to remember and celebrate all Gods work.   To remember not only the accounts in the Holy Scriptures but also the stories in our lives. I’d like to encourage you over this Christmas break to take some time to remember and recall all the times in your ministry that God has blessed the work of your hands. Retell the stories to your friend’s and family – faith will rise. You will see His continuing hand in your chaplaincy and be inspired and encouraged to see more in 2018.


Kevin Naiqama, Captain of Fiji’s Rugby League gave an emotional thanks to God following his sides surprise victory against New Zealand in the Rugby League World Cup Quarter Final.

What do we make of this?  The issue is covered in some depth by my colleague Bob Schindler in his book ‘Does God care who wins?’ and in his recent blog ‘Should we pray to win?’
but what should the chaplains response be?  And should they discourage or encourage such public thanks to Jesus?

I was once watching an Africa Cup Semi-Final, as the two teams prepared for the penalty shoot out, opposing players were on their knees calling for God’s help….one of them was disappointed. It shows with simplicity that God’s answer to your prayer will sometimes be a yes and sometimes be a no.  In that perhaps an athletes response to His response gives an indication of whether their identity is wrapped up in victory or whether they appreciate as Arthur Ashe stated ‘Success is a journey, not a destination.’

On the one hand I love to see athletes giving thanks to God for their victory, their boast after all is in the Lord 1 Cor 1:31.  But if that is all we hear from athletes then we may start to receive an imbalanced view of God, that he only backs winners, and that the prayers of the losers counted for nothing.  In politically correct cultures we also need to ensure as chaplains that those making such public affirmations have the maturity to handle the scrutiny that comes with it.

In contrast, I was thrilled to see following Brazil suffering their heaviest defeat, 7-1 to Germany in 2014 World Cup, Brazil star players Neymar & Luiz on their knees giving thanks to God.  It is a rare sight in sporting battle, but showed a window to the spiritual maturity of the two players that they could give thanks even on one of the worst days of their careers.

As chaplains I do not believe it is our role to coerce players into public declarations of their faith, but nor should we deter them from doing so. Our primary focus is their pastoral and spiritual care and supporting them to recognise God with them through victory, defeat, injury and retirement. It is our job to ensure that they take care with such statements and ensure its done out of a genuine love and appreciation. It is our responsibility to help these athletes further onto maturity in their walk.

It was great to hear Fiji’s captain giving thanks to Jesus, I loved the heart in which he did it. And I pray he has the strength to do that throughout the ups and downs of his sporting career.

*Please note, the above video does not actually include the portion of Kevin Naiqama giving thanks to God, but if you are in the UK you can access a BBC version of the interview here


Two years ago one of our team members Ken Cross did a survey of existing sports chaplains, he asked them one simple question?  What is your biggest challenge?  The answers came back consistently time and time again – isolation and finance.  Chaplains reported to be often misunderstood in their churches, the congregation not having a clear comprehension of the demands of the role and assuming it was just a ministry jolly – the opportunity to rub shoulders with the sporting famous and get free tickets. If only they knew.

Chaplains also struggled with their identity within the club and sport where they operated.  That insider / outsider feeling we all know so well, where their role is not communicated effectively to the team.  A surprising finding from the research was many chaplains who were part of sports ministry organizations also experienced the same levels of remoteness.

Jesus’ model for going out into the world is pretty clear in Luke 10:1, they went two by two.  So should it be any different for sports chaplains?  Of course it is difficult if we go against a scriptural precedent!  It is though not as simple as that, sporting environments are fiercely protected – often fortresses particularly at an elite level, getting one chaplain in is a challenge, never mind two.  So what’s the solution?

Four ways for sports chaplains to guard against isolation:

1. Have you considered the option of trying to bring in another chaplain to your setting?  We believe chaplaincy operates best, where possible, in teams.  For example a number of clubs are taking in a chaplain for their academy team, or reserves, or to focus on the admin team, etc.

2.  Could you link up with a Christian at your sports setting that you could join with and pray for your local sport together?

3.   Are there a couple of friends at church who you could meet with openly and discuss the challenges you face and pray together?

4.  Are there other sports chaplains that you could connect with and be mutually accountable?

The 4th reason is why we have set up ‘CEDE Network – the worldwide sports chaplaincy registry’ to allow sports chaplains to connect with each other and encourage one another in their ministry.
To help us all feel connected and together as we seek to serve the world of professional and amateur sport.  If you are a Sports Chaplain please join us for free support and resource at the CEDE Network.

Please follow along as we look at chaplaincy in a politically correct culture in next month’s blog.


Rich Gamble

CEDE Network Director


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