Words of wisdom from across the pond – Roger Lipe

Partners in Ministry,

When is it time to withdraw? How does one know when it’s the right time to resign his or her role in serving sportspeople? This is likely the most painful part of our tenure of service because of the tearing it does at the fabric of our hearts. When we serve relationally, the loss of relationship hurts, and we feel the loss very personally. A USA colleague of mine was recently released from his role with a prominent university and it was very painful to him. He is seeking his next station of service, and I am certain he will land on his feet, but neither his, my, your, nor my opportunities last forever.

Below are some thoughts about factors that may make it time to withdraw from your service as a sports chaplain, character coach, or sports mentor.

  • When your opportunity evaporates.Whether due to coaching changes, management or administration decisions, or other factors, it’s pretty common that one’s opportunity to serve a team or club could simply evaporate. This has happened to me at least twice over the years. In each case, I approached the new coaching staff properly, offered to serve, but the offer was declined. Suddenly the opportunity was gone. It was time to seek a new opportunity, and it has appeared each time.
  • When you lose your passion for the people and the process.The moment that I find that I am more annoyed with the people of a particular team than I am energised by them, it will be time to leave this role to another person. When I begin to dread visits to the practice field, the court, the pool, the track, or the ballpark, it will be time to get out. When I can no longer handle long bus rides, hours at practices, the alternating elation of victory and crushing pain of loss, it will be time to leave.
  • When you sense God’s calling to some other avenue of service.It is altogether proper for one to serve in various ways, in differing capacities, with different communities across his or her lifetime. There are certainly seasons to sports culture, and there are seasons to one’s service of Christ. Observe Jesus’ ministry in the Gospels. His areas of service varied widely as the geography changed and the people groups he encountered changed. His did not hang out at Jacob’s well throughout his ministry, just during John chapter 4. He was in Galilee for a season, in Jerusalem frequently, east of the Jordan on occasion, and even venturing through Samaria. We may find the Lord leading our hearts to a new station in our service. If so, seek a way to transition wisely, leaving this opportunity to another who is called to serve.
  • When you can no longer fulfil the role’s demands.There will probably be a day when your body will no longer be able to handle the physical rigours that come with my role as a sports chaplain. The way I have chosen to serve requires a good deal of energy, walking, standing, and long periods of concentration. My way of serving is very physically demanding and at sixty-one years of age, I can still do it. What about at age seventy? What about beyond that? If I cannot change how I serve, and I can no longer meet the physical demands, it may be time to withdraw.

These are just a few of the factors that may inform our hearts that it is time to leave this avenue of service to another. I would as you, as I ask myself, to evaluate your service at the conclusion of each season, to look forward to the next one, and to either commit completely to serving with abandon or to wisely withdraw, enabling another to serve in your place.

The Apostle Paul challenges us at Ephesians 4:1 with these words, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called…” I would echo his challenge by asking you to serve the people of sport with passion, energy, wisdom, and full commitment. That is service worthy of the calling with which we were called. Anything less is not worthy of Christ Jesus. When I can no longer do that, I will gladly walk away.