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In my working with people on outreach, I have discovered one of the most difficult things for them to do is start “spiritual” conversations. I put the quotations on the word “spiritual” because that is how we typically refer to them.

 

When we talk about starting these “spiritual” conversations, we envision ourselves sitting at lunch with a co-worker talking about the weekend sports and then asking something like “If you were to die tonight, do you know where you would end up?” We know it doesn’t feel natural to go there, but we think we are supposed to steer the conversation there, so we ask what feel like awkward questions.

In most cases, we probably have this sense of awkwardness for a good reason. We may have missed the natural progression in our conversation. In our sense of pressure, we may have jumped several levels in that progression with the resulting awkwardness.    


But these people who are asking this question about starting such “spiritual” conversations have not given up on outreach even with this awkwardness. That is why they are in the audience of a training I am doing or on the other side of the table as we discuss outreach over lunch asking, “How do I start a “spiritual” conversation?”

To answer that question and illustrate that progression, I focus on the way conversations typically go by using what I call the Triangle of Vulnerability. Most of our conversations begin with little or no vulnerability. The topics are about Impersonal facts, like the scores from the previous weekend, (Some fans may argue this isn’t impersonal!!!) or the weather.

If those conversations increase in vulnerability, they move to personal facts. These include items like where we live, what we do, how long we have been married, or how many kids we have.

 

The next step in vulnerability is to move to opinions. “What do you think about Harvey Weinstein?” “How did sexual harassment get to be so widespread?” “Why do you think this is such a problem?” “Why do you think those victims didn’t come forward sooner?”

 

Progressing further, our conversations go to feelings – our fears, our joys, or our struggles. Think about how few of your conversations get here and you see the depth of vulnerability expressing feelings is.

 

Last, and most vulnerable, are conversations about our identity. Who are we? How do we see ourselves? Others? Valuable? Competent? Beautiful? Belonging? Alone?

 

Think for a moment about two things


At what level of vulnerability do you have most of your conversations?
At what level is a conversation about the Gospel?

 

Honestly, the Gospel speaks to this deepest level of vulnerability – our identity. The gospel says, apart from Christ, people are:

Disconnected from God
A child of wrath
An object of displeasure, disdain
Lost
Dead
Enslaved

As a result, people apart from Christ feel alone, confused, rejected, hurt, and ashamed.

 

This contrast between the vulnerability of most of our conversations and one about the gospel shows why we get so awkward when we think about starting a “spiritual” conversation.

 

However, we can overcome much of this awkwardness if we guide our conversations to greater and greater vulnerability utilizing the insights from the Vulnerability triangle. The way I apply this insight is as follows:


First, I ask questions using the Triangle. 


Then I ask questions about personal facts
. These are usually “WHAT” and “WHERE” questions – What do you do? Where do you live? Etc.


I try to follow those up with “HOW” and “WHY” questions.
“How did you get into real estate?” “Why did you pursue medicine as a career?” “Why did you move to that neighborhood or city?” These HOW and WHY questions accomplish several things.

First of all, I begin to hear someone’s story. I see the journey that got them to where they are as I interact with them.

Secondly, I begin to see what matters to them, what they value, their opinions and feelings. This takes the conversation into greater vulnerability.

I then lead in taking the conversation to an even deeper level by offering my opinion, feelings, and identity, “I really didn’t know what I was going to do. I was so confused about vocations.”

Then I invite the other person down to that level, “How about you? Were you clear from early on what you wanted to do?” If they say yes, I follow that up with a HOW question like, “How did you get that clarity?”

 

I ask, I listen, and I lead in vulnerability.

 

This eventually leads me to talking about my relationship with Christ. I might say something like, “I didn’t know what to do and in that place I pray. How about you what do you do when you don’t know what to do?” or I might share something of my spiritual journey and then ask them “Tell me about your spiritual journey?”

 

This understanding and practice leads me to deeper and deeper conversations that make it less awkward to talk about God and the Gospel. It flows best from a genuine desire to know people and to see them connect with the gospel.

 

Prayerfully use the vulnerability triangle concepts and you will find that “spiritual” conversations are the natural result of meaningful, deep conversations rather than from asking awkward questions.

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Top 10 Mistakes Sports Ministers Make


For 20 years plus CEDE Sports has been committed to come alongside Local Churches to catalyze a vigorous and effective pursuit of their mission to reach their communities through the tool of sports, recreation and fitness. One of the ways we accomplish this mission is mentoring Sports Ministers.


In the process of mentoring, we often discuss best practices from other churches as well as the corollary mistakes that well meaning Sports Ministers make. This discussion also usually includes surveying them about their mistakes in ministry.


The response has been tremendous; evidently this question touched a nerve. This blog is our third installment in the series Top 10 Mistakes Sports Ministers Make. (Please sure to read the first two installments here and here.)


Mistake #4
Evaluating success in numbers or in comparison to the ministry down the street.

Mark Twain once wrote, “Comparison is the death of joy.”


Chuck Swindoll said, “When the Lord makes it clear you’re to follow Him in this new direction, focus fully on Him and refuse to be distracted by comparisons with others.”


Ken Cross says, “Either comparison will puff up or tear you down, but it will never bring contentment.”



Mistake #3
Not developing infrastructure prior to pursuing growth, especially how you pursue the development of coaches and volunteers.

We tend to be so eager to start a league we neglect the hard work of strategic preparation. This could have been the #1 mistake, we see it so often.


My Mom worked many years in a large bank. She would always advocate for the tellers to have adequate training and even a stipend for their clothes because they are the face of the bank!


Those that God brings into your sphere of influence deserve to hear and see the gospel lived out using the tool of sports. Who is the face of the sports ministry? It is too late to develop them after the games begin. If this has happened to you, what will you do for the next season?


Mistake #2
Winning begins to eclipse everything. Sport becomes too big and ministry too small.

This mistake is especially true when your coaches are not developed by the Sports Minister. They simply play sports as they always have, WIN. They are not applying the gospel to what they are doing.


Mistake #1
Those in the sports ministry leadership do not know why you have a sports ministry. Neglecting clear communication of this mission/vision to the coaches, players and the church.


Have you seriously asked yourself the questions concerning your mission and how you are going to move toward it? Have you written it down in a clear way and communicated it with others in a way that they know what that mission is? If you are unsure, ask your most faithful volunteer to tell you what they have heard and see if it matches the vision God has given you.

Like the ESPN Top Ten Plays of the Day, you might not agree with the order in which these have been laid out. Curiously, I am interested in what you think the top three mistakes would be for you. Have we missed some? Email [email protected] and send me a list of your top three and I will report the results in a future blog.

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Top 10 Mistakes Sports Ministers Make



For 20 years plus CEDE Sports has been committed to come alongside Local Churches to catalyze a vigorous and effective pursuit of their mission to reach their communities through the tool of sports, recreation and fitness. One of the ways we accomplish this mission is mentoring Sports Ministers.


In the process of mentoring, we often discuss best practices from other churches as well as the corollary mistakes that well meaning Sports Ministers make. This discussion also usually includes surveying them about their mistakes in ministry.


The response has been tremendous; evidently this question touched a nerve. This blog is our second installment in the series Top 10 Mistakes Sports Ministers Make (Please sure to read the first installment by clicking here).


Mistake #8
Forget about creating a leadership team, it is far too difficult. If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.


No doubt you have heard the saying, “If you want to go fast – go alone, if you want to go far – go with others”. That applies to Sports Ministry too. Have you thought of what will happen when you are no longer on the scene and you have not equipped anyone to carry on with this vital ministry?


Mistake #7
Being so busy that you are not utilizing the relationships that are built naturally through sports for true discipleship off the field/court.


I read a book one time by Bill Hull about the discipleship making pastor. He bluntly says if the church is not making disciples, the leadership of the church is in sin! The sin is not obeying the Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20).


Mistake #6
Not communicating to the larger church body and staff how God is using the ministry and being surprised when they do not value it!


As a former large church pastor, former staff member, church planter, youth pastor, deacon and janitor – I got the most praise for being a church janitor because people noticed the clean floors, toilets etc. The story of sports ministry (usually the best evangelistic tool in the church if done well) must be told, especially to the entire staff. The Senior Pastor needs the stories of what God does to highlight God’s work! The Children’s Minister needs to know and notice that many unbelieving children are on the campus of the church other days besides Sunday. The value of relational ministry and the discipleship that happens must be communicated over and over. This requires that more than just you are noticing what God is doing!

 

Mistake #5
Using the same volunteers each season and burning them out. Then guilting/manipulating them into keep going, until they are bitter and angry and have to quit or leave the church to get a rest.  


This one need no comments except AMEN and from some of us we need to respond with “Oh Me!”


Can you guess the top four mistakes? Keep a look out for the last blog in this series.

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Top 10 Mistakes Sports Ministers Make


For 20 plus years CEDE Sports has been committed to coming alongside Local Churches to catalyze a vigorous and effective pursuit of their mission to use the tool of sports to reach their communities. One of the ways we accomplish this is by mentoring Sports Ministers.


In the process of mentoring, we often discuss best practices from other churches as well as the corollary mistakes that well meaning Sports Ministers make.  This discussion also usually includes surveying them about their mistakes in ministry.


The response has been tremendous; evidently this question touched a nerve.  In the following blogs, I will outline the Top Ten Mistakes we have found, arranged in ascending order from 11 to 1. I know the title of this series of blogs is “Top Ten,” but #11 was so good I had to include it! Plus I am following a Biblical pattern! In the Bible there are a number of places where God says, “six things I hate, seven are an abomination….”

Mistake #11 Avoiding conflicts and difficult people, because deep down you think they might disappear if you ignore them, rather than apply the Gospel to the situation and lovingly confront, giving the individual an opportunity to repent and grow.


This mistake includes with it the fear of looking into the mirror and confronting what might be something that you need to repent and grow from as well!


Mistake #10 Not enough prayer before rolling out the program, during the leagues, or after.


Can we all agree with this one? How easy it is to simply do what we think is best, and not ask God or seek His favor.


Mistake #9 Ministries getting too comfortable with regular attendees and not aggressively seeking to reach the unreached.

“We have our number, church should be happy … but are we keeping the vision for the ministry in front of us?”   We did not start this sports ministry to reach a limited number of lost people. (Also see mistake #10 again!)


The next Blog will cover Mistakes #8 – #5. Hope this has been helpful!

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I might say this to someone I think has too high an opinion of themselves or their abilities. “Get a grip” would be my reminder that they aren’t or can’t.  My exhortation would be a call to come back to reality.

Someone else might use it for someone who seems to be lost in fear or anxiety.  “Get a grip” would be an attempt to calm them down from their unrealistic emotions, to awaken them to look more carefully and truthfully at the situation.


“Get a grip!”  I would also use this phrase to paraphrase what I think the Apostle Paul says to his friends in Corinth as he closes out his first letter to them, what we call 1Corinthians.

“Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you,

which you received and on which you have taken your stand.

By this gospel you are saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you.

Otherwise, you have believed in vain.”

1Corinthians 15:1,2 NIV

Paul is writing to his fellow Christians in Corinth reminding them of the saving power of the gospel.  Here, Paul emphasizes the power of the gospel to save them not only from the penalty of sin past but also of the power of sin present.  He does so by using the present tense for the verb “saved” when he says “by this gospel you are saved.”  In the ESV, this phrase is translated “you are being saved.”

However, Paul wants these same Corinthians to understand this power for saving them from the power of sin is not automatically experienced. “By this gospel you are saved, if…”  This power is conditioned upon something from the Corinthians.  They must “hold fast” to the gospel to experience the power of the gospel to overcome the power of sin presently.

In other words, they have to keep a grip on the gospel.  The picture Paul is trying to draw here is that of having a grip on something and having someone trying to yank it out of that grasp.  The picture is of a tug of war.  In this case, what is being pulled back and forth is the gospel.

This is not some theoretical or inconsequential game.  What is at stake in this tugging is our ability to live in victory over the power of sin.  That victory depends on our keeping our grip on the gospel.

Paul understood this and exhorts his readers to “Get a grip!”  Be careful to not misunderstand what I am saying by using this exhortation.  I am not calling for greater human effort in our battle with sin.  Rather, this is a call to keep our grip on the gospel and the power of God found there, for “the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (again present tense) Romans 1:16.

Paul understood the need for the power of God through the gospel.  He also understood something about getting this grip.  He knew it involved regular reminders about the gospel.  This is why he says to the Corinthians, “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you.”

They tended to forget.  So do we.  Just like them, we need to remember the gospel.  In light of this reality, author Jerry Bridges says it this way – “Preach the gospel to yourself everyday.”  (For more ideas of how you might “get a grip,” listen to this audio from a Church at Charlotte Adult Fellowship Class I recently taught.)

Where are you struggling these days in your battle with sin?  The key to your battle, to my and all believers’ battle, is the gospel and the power of God found there.  Experiencing that power involves holding on to the great truths of this gospel.

This is why there is such an ongoing tug of war going on for the gospel in all our lives.  Having heard Paul’s words, can you recognize that battle in your heart for your grip of the gospel?  In the light of that reality, resist that tug.  Pull back.  Fight against the forces that would steal the gospel from you and “GET A GRIP!!”

 

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We are very excited about the future God has for us at CEDE Partners.

In the light of that excitement, we have designed a new website.  We have even changed our name to reflect more who we are and where we are going.


With all these changes, some very core components of what we do will stay the same.


We will continue to offer worthwhile content via our blog.


Since 2009, we averaged 3-5 blogs per week (previously in the CSO Blog) generating a total of 1194 posts in that time.  To be honest, when we started, we didn’t know how our “voice” would be received, but we stepped out in faith and started “speaking” through this blog.  The response has been tremendous.  We now average about 60,000 visitors a year a from over 160 countries, having started with 5,000 visitors per year from less than 30 countries.


This response, along with the urging of God, encourages us to press on.  Our goal is still to have 3 posts per week.  We plan to bring those posts along the following subjects:


1) Gospel Centricity – including discussions on

– What is the Gospel?
– What is Gospel Centered Living?  Gospel Centered Ministry?  Gospel Centered Leadership?


2) Evangelism/Discipleship – including

– The relationship between the two
– The scriptural foundation for both
– Proven methods and practices for both


3) Ministry Development – including

– Coach Recruiting and Development
– Volunteer Recruiting and Development
– Staff Development
– Parent and Player Development


4) Current Trends – particularly in the areas of Technology and Resources

5) Competition/Sports – including discussions about

– Broken sports
– Redeemed sports
– Performance sports – vision and information to help churches deal with travel and competitive sports


6) Fitness – general info but also specifics on how to bring gospel centricity to this area of growing interest in our society

7) Stories – from Local Churches, Leaders, and Ministries


8) Local Church – analysis and trends that impact the sports, rec and fitness ministry movement


9) CEDE Sports – who we are, what we do


10) Personal Growth – spiritually, as a leader, mentally, etc.


We are looking for guest authors and suggestions for posts.  If you have any suggestions for either, please email them to [email protected]


We will also continue to offer strategic resources.


God has impressed on us the importance of “holding fast to the Gospel” (1 Corinthians 15:1,2) and a vision of Gospel Centricity as it applies to life and ministry.  He has given us tools to share that vision with the sports, rec, and fitness ministry movement.  He has blessed these tools as He uses them in the development of effective, multiplying Gospel Centered Sports Ministries.  We continue to pray for further tools to help the movement and will add those to these resources as they become available.


With our new website, we are taking the availability of these tools to another level.  In the RESOURCES section for Churches – all resources from CEDE Partners are FREE for Church Directory Members.  (To join the free Directory, click here.)  We will work to the develop further resources to benefit the movement and offer them from this heart of CEDE Sports (Cede means to yield or submit.)


We are also offering churches and partner Sports Ministries to put their materials in these RESOURCES so that sports, rec, and fitness ministers can find the resources they are looking for in one place.  We do this in the hope of connecting more and more churches to the resources that will fuel their participation in this movement.


If you have some materials you would like to make available in these resources, please email them to [email protected]


The BLOG and these RESOURCES – two key components of what we will continue to do in the future.  To connect with them:


      Sign up for the BLOG and it will be delivered to your inbox.

      Sign up for the DIRECTORY and you will have access to every RESOURCE listed.


If you have already connected with these, please know we pray for you.  If you haven’t connected yet, we hope you will do so.  Our ongoing prayer is for God to be glorified through the expansion of the movement of sports, rec, and fitness ministries in local churches.  

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We are excited to start this new chapter in our ministry to churches.

Since 1996, our ministry mission has been to mobilize churches and chaplains through sports. During that time, the initiative of our ministry to Churches – most recently referred to as Church Sports Outreach (CSO) – has worked with Local Churches both in the USA and around the world. Our desire has always been to help catalyze a vigorous and effective pursuit of those Local Churches’ unique efforts to utilize the tools of sports, rec, and fitness.

This initiative to Churches is now called CEDE Partners – an arm of CEDE Sports. Cede means to relinquish power or control. We changed our name:

  • To more fully reflect our hearts desire to be used as catalyst to serve, coordinate, and assist Churches and Chaplains around the world.
  • To more closely link our two areas of ministry under one name – CEDE Sports, CEDE Partners, and CEDE Network (the name of our initiative to Chaplains)
  • To better communicate our collaborative strategy to accomplish our united mission


Our name isn’t the only thing that is changing.

We are excited to announce the opening of the CEDE Partners Church Directory. This Directory is a tool that can be used by any church in the world that is involved in sports, rec, and fitness ministry. It is FREE and will provide an opportunity for sports, rec, and fitness ministers to


  • Connect with other sports, rec, and fitness ministers for support, encouragement, and ideas
  • Access resources from CEDE Partners, other churches, and partner ministries who share this vision of mobilizing local churches


Right now we are just beginning the process of encouraging churches to join the Directory, with close to 100 churches now Directory members. It is our desire that hundreds and eventually thousands of churches join this Directory, providing needed support to the multitude of sports, rec, and fitness ministers in the USA and around the world.


With that in mind, I want to encourage you to join this Church Directory and start experiencing these benefits. It is FREE and as simple as filling out a brief registration form, which asks you for information that other churches would want to know about you and your sports, rec, or fitness ministry. To fill out that form, just click
here.


As a Directory member, you will then be able to take advantage of the resources assembled.  We are just starting to build this library of materials that we hope becomes
the place for sports, rec, and fitness ministers to find what they need to build the kingdom of God in their context.


Finally, look around the
CEDE Sports website and the tab titled Chaplains. There you can learn more about how us and how CEDE Network works to mobilize Chaplains around the world.


As we launch these new efforts, we look forward to your involvement and welcome your input on how we can better serve you in your ministry.

 

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