This week Noah and Bjorn spoke with Bob Schindler, who has been the director of CEDE Sports since 2003. CEDE Sports is an organization that works to help sports chaplains become more successful, as well as help churches become more successful at what God intended them to be in regard to sports, rec and fitness.
Prior to joining CEDE Sports, Bob worked as a pastor for 18 years in eastern Tennessee, where he started sports ministries that served both adults and youth at two different churches. Bob also published his first book “Does God Care Who Wins?” in 2017.
Before Bob became a pastor, he played professional golf for four years and worked in business for six years.
What Lessons Has Bob Learned from Sports?
“As a Christian I wasn’t born to glorify myself, make myself great or have other people recognize my greatness, but to make God great and recognize his greatness”--Bob Schindler
Bob says that he has learned countless lessons during his life from sports. However, there are three that tie together that he boils down as the most important.
The first lesson that Bob has learned from sports is how much he desires to be good.
Whether playing golf or a different sport, Bob says that he has always wanted to be great. More than this, he realized that he didn’t just want to be great; he also wanted people to recognize his greatness.
Bob was in a pursuit of glory.
This first lesson helped Bob to realize the second lesson he has learned: how self-centered that pursuit of glory is.
Over time Bob saw that one of the main reasons he was playing sports was to gain recognition from others. It was all about him and how much he could accomplish, and in turn be recognized due to these accomplishments.
This went against his purpose as a Christian.
Bob realized that his purpose should not be to glorify himself or have other people recognize him, but it instead should be to glorify God, make Him great and have people recognize God.
Bob says that once he saw how much he longed for recognition, he was able to see what the sin in his heart really was.
In the episode Bob talks about how the second lesson helped him learn the third important lesson. He talks about what that third lesson is, what it taught him about God, and how it still impacts his life to this day.
Why Does Bob Have Such a Passion for Sports Ministry?
“Sports are a great laboratory … laboratories are safe environments where things get revealed. That revelation is not to stay in the laboratory, it’s supposed to go out into life”--Bob Schindler
Bob says that he sees sports as an incredibly valuable bridge to connect people.
Bob didn’t know God until he was 22, when he met a Christian for the first time. Prior to this, Bob saw himself and God as disconnected.
In Bob’s mind, he existed in one sphere and God existed in another. However, he says that the process of getting to know God completely changed this view and he describes how intoxicating the experience of getting to know God was.
Bob found that there were a lot of men like him in the world, who viewed themselves and God as disconnected. He wanted to share this experience and says that sports were a way to connect with them.
Sports allowed Bob to build relationships and have what he describes in the episode as redemptive conversations.
Bob also views sports as a laboratory, where revelations can be made and then applied to real life.
In sports frustrations come out and filters get lost. Bob says that when handled correctly, this reveals things in a person’s heart that allow them to go to God and ask for assistance and transformation.
On the podcast Bob tells a story about a confrontation he had when playing basketball at a church. He talks about what the confrontation revealed about his heart and how he went to God for help afterwards.
What Does “Redeeming Sports” Mean?
“When we see the Gospel as a story that God’s been telling from the very beginning, we understand that redemption doesn’t only apply to people, but it applies to every realm of creation that has been marred by the fall … sports is certainly one of those realms”--Bob Schindler
Bob says that most of the people involved in sports ministry look at it as a platform to speak and share the Gospel from. He says that while sports ministry certainly is a platform, something he doesn’t see very often is the integration of the Gospel into a person’s life changing the way they play their sport.
In the episode Bob talks about how the history of Christians playing sports is riddled with some of the worst offenders of the rules of the sport. A common view is that as long as an athlete is expanding their platform then they’re doing what matters and it doesn’t matter how they play.
However, this view doesn’t align with the Gospel.
Bob points out that when Jesus says “I am making all things new” in Revelation 21:5, he doesn’t say he’s just making people new; he’s talking about redeeming all realms of creation. Sports certainly fall under this.
In the episode Bob talks about how too often sports have been ignored in this redemption and how many areas of sports need to be redeemed, whether it is the way a person plays a sport or an athlete’s view on competition.
Bob explains that instead of striving against an opponent, we instead need to strive with an opponent to bring out God given attributes and he talks about what this looks like.
What is God Teaching You?
As Bob talks about on the podcast, sports can teach us many valuable lessons about both life and faith.
Sports can help us learn how to communicate, how to work well with others and how to work to accomplish goals. They can also reveal to us sin we might have in our hearts.
Our goal in everything we do should not be to glorify ourselves. It instead should be to glorify God and lead others to him. Our own recognition isn’t what matters; the recognition of God is what’s truly important.
Sports or our job might give us a platform and lead to us having influence over people. This platform is a blessing and not something that we achieved on our own. It is our job to use whatever platform we might have to point back to God.
As Bob and many other podcast guests have talked about, sports can be a great tool for reaching others and guiding them to a relationship with God.
They are a great way to connect with others and form and strengthen relationships. They also help reveal the true character of a person and show what a person is struggling with. We can then use these relationships to offer advice and help lead others to God.
However, sports can also reveal to ourselves what we’re struggling with. During the course of a sporting event or a practice you might realize that you’re struggling with anger, jealousy or the desire to self-glorify.
We can take what is revealed to us during sports and then approach God and pray for assistance in overcoming these sins and challenges we are facing. Sports can force us to confront things that we otherwise wouldn’t have realized we were struggling with.
As Bob talked about, sports aren’t immune from the redemption that Jesus talked about in Revelation.
Using our platform isn’t enough. We also have to reflect God in the way we act.
To many people their only sign of God, or at least their first sign of God, may be our actions. If we’re claiming to glorify God and follow Him, our actions have to reflect this.
We can’t point to God with our words but then turn around and act in an ungodly way.
Part of redeeming sports can also be a changed approach to competition.
As Bob says, we shouldn’t strive against our competition - we should strive with our competition. It’s like a game of ping-pong.
If you and an opponent are playing a game of ping-pong, maintaining good volleys and bringing the best out of each other, you reach a point where you don’t care who wins. You recognize that you both raised the other person’s level of play and you are happy with that.
This might be a difficult idea to grasp, as it seems to fly in the face of traditional ideas of competition, but our goal shouldn’t be to beat the opponent. Our goal should be to work together to bring out the God-given attributes in the other person in a way that glorifies God.
When people are maximizing the gifts they were blessed with in a way that glorifies God, that is when we are meeting God’s desired goal for competition.
What have sports revealed to you about your heart and the sin you have? Do you take advantage of what sports reveal in a way that glorifies God?
Do you compete in a Godly way?
Are you striving for your own recognition or are you striving to recognize God in your accomplishments?
Can you challenge your traditional idea of competition? Are you striving against competition or striving with competition?
1 Corinthians 1:31
To hear the discussion that Bob had with Noah and Bjorn about what lessons sports have taught him, when he started thinking about if God cares who wins, what “redeeming sports” means, what the hardest shot in golf is for him, and much more, check out “The Sweat Room: Sports and Faith” episode 41.