Preaching to the Super Bowl Champs
Some valuable lessons about preaching from pastoring the Baltimore Ravens
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Rod Hairston has a unique preaching assignment. On most Sundays he preaches to his local church, but four months out of the year he also serves as the chaplain to the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. It's not your typical Sunday morning crowd. But in the process of pastoring and preaching to some of the finest athletes in the world, Rod has learned some valuable lessons that apply to ministry anywhere and anytime.
PreachingToday.com: Rod, what's your basic job description as the chaplain for the Baltimore Ravens?
Rod Hairston: My job description is to serve as a pastor for the guys on the team, the general manager, and the coaching staff. So in one sense I do what any pastor would do for his flock—discipling, teaching Scripture at our regular chapel services, writing and leading Bible studies, helping guys come to know Christ and then get a foundation for their faith, training Christians to become spiritual leaders. I also do premarital and marital counseling. In other words, I provide the spiritual resources for continued spiritual growth and to reach out to unbelievers.
How do the guys respond to your ministry?
Well, just like any other setting, you get all kinds of responses. But I've noticed that no matter where guys are coming from spiritually, they'll listen to me if I respect them and respect their craft. But you have to walk beside the guys and respect them as men no matter how they respond. Some of my warmest long-term relationships have been with guys who didn't become believers until after they left the Ravens.
For example, I knew one guy who was our starting safety when we won the Super Bowl back in 2001. He definitely wasn't walking with Christ. But last year I bumped into him at a conference for Pro Athletes Outreach and he told me, "You know, Rev., I remember all those times you invited me to chapel and I wouldn't come. I wanted you to know that since I've been out of the league I've really found my relationship with Christ. I want to thank you for inviting me even when I kept turning you down."
So how do you pastor guys who seem to have it all? They're amazing athletes. They're young and strong. They have fame and million-dollar contracts. How do you shepherd and preach to guys like that?
It's a misconception that these guys "have it all." There are only a few marquee players in every locker room who make in the millions. It's true that the NFL's minimum salary is around $270,000, but the majority of guys are just like most of us—they're trying to get or stay established in their careers. They're searching for value and significance. They're afraid of failure. They're concerned about what they're going to do after their football career is over—which could end any day because it's a violent game. They've got challenges as fathers or husbands or sons and brothers. So they have the same needs that you and I have. As a result, they just want somebody who can speak to them as men and who will give them the truth of the gospel and not some watered-down version.
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