Mike Weston's Faith Journey
This week, Noah and Bjorn spoke with Mike Weston. Mike is the executive director of His Branches Community Health Center; a faith-based nonprofit located in Rochester, New York, that specializes in medical care and community development.
He is also the chaplain for the Rochester Red Wings, which is the AAA affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, and the Rochester Amerks; the American Hockey League affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres.
He experienced a defining moment in his faith during his junior year of high school, when he was on a mission trip in Monterrey, Mexico. While listening to a service at a church in Monterrey, he became overwhelmed with a sense that God was speaking to him and telling him that he needed to serve God via ministry.
Mike has been in ministry since he left college, spending some time earlier in his life working with the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Penguins, before becoming involved with the Red Wings and Amerks.
How Do Sports and Faith Go Together?
“Sports and faith are inseparable. I don’t think there is any more opportunity for us to be faithful witnesses or faithful disciples than there is in sports.”
In Mike’s opinion, sports offer a unique relationship that is hard to find in other areas of life, as teammates and coaches connect in a special way that forms trust and allows a medium for honest feedback.
In sports, you need to trust your teammates and coaches to be there for you and to help you when you need it. You trust that your teammates don’t want to see you fail, and you know that when a coach is offering feedback to you, it is because they want you to succeed and be the best you can be.
In addition, the high emotions of sports force people to let their guard down. This reveals the true character of a person and may strengthen a preexisting relationship.
This type of relationship that is formed through sports is not only important in sports, but is also crucial for faith.
You are never going to be able to do everything on your own and you are never going to have all of the answers.
Just as an athlete will never be perfect in their sport, we are never going to be perfect in our faith. It is important to have people around who you have a strong connection with and who will hold you accountable.
Beyond the type of relationship that is formed through sports, sports can also help to form new relationships and connections.
One day Mike had a sign hanging up outside his office that asked if anyone needed prayer, but no one was stopping in. However, he was wearing former Buffalo Bills’ quarterback E.J. Manuel’s jersey that day.
Instead of people stopping to talk about prayer, they instead stopped and talked to him about football. From here, these conversations turned to faith.
The shared connection they had, in this case being football fans, opened up opportunities to talk with people who he otherwise wouldn’t have spoken with.
Sports can form and strengthen relationships, as well as provide a model for other relationships in your life that will be beneficial to your faith journey.
How Does Mike See Christian Athletes Using Their Platform?
“I encourage the guys to influence the people that they’re around all the time … you don’t have to say everything all the time, but you do have to say something some of the time.”
We see very little of the day-to-day life of an athlete. Because of this, if we don’t see an athlete speaking out in the media every day, it is easy to assume that they aren’t serious about their faith.
Mike encourages the athletes he speaks with to try to make a difference in the lives of the people they see every day, whether this is teammates, coaches, staff at the arena or stadium, or anyone else they consistently come into contact with. This goes back to the connectedness of sports and faith and the relationships they form.
Something he firmly believes in is that you don’t have to say everything to everyone all of the time. However, you do need to say something to someone some of the time.
In Mike’s opinion, you can make a difference in the lives of those around you if you are consistent in displaying your faith and if you speak out to others when opportunities arise.
Not every athlete is going to be Tim Tebow, just as not every Christian is going to be Andy Stanley. Nor should they be.
God’s has given all of us different gifts and talents, and his purpose for each of us is different. What is important is serving that purpose in whatever way he has chosen.
What is God Teaching Mike?
“As Americans, we’re caught up in this allure of speed, size and power. These make for a physically imposing athlete, but are actually enemies of our soul.”
Mike used to work for a church that was constantly pushing the need to be bigger and faster. They did this in good motivation that came from a desire to see more people introduced to Jesus, but Mike feels that this work was sometimes causing more harm than good.
A little more than a year ago, God ripped Mike out of that culture. He said this was hard for both him and his family, but he thinks it kept him from becoming emotionally destructive to both himself and those around him.
Even after this move, the themes of speed, size and power keep showing up in Mike’s life.
However, over time, and with the help of both those around him and some books he’s read, he has realized that we need to create rhythms of work and rest to pursue what God has called us to pursue.
Mike doesn’t have to work 70 to 80 hours a week. In fact, that is most likely harmful to his faith, his family, and his organization.
Mike needed to take a step back and let God take care of what he can’t do.
What is God Teaching You?
If you were an athlete, it is easy to understand Mike’s discussion of the relationships that sports from and the connection between sports and faith.
However, Mike’s feelings about speed, size and power, along with finding your individual purpose, can be relatable for everyone; whether they were ever involved in sports or not.
It is often easy to get caught up in the speed of life and trying to do the most you can to accomplish whatever goals you may have. There is a certain allure to doing things better and faster than those around you.
It can be hard to take a step back and leave things in the hands of others, even if that is God. However, it can be beneficial. The relationships you have with your family and friends might grow in ways you thought unimaginable.
As it relates to the purpose God has for your life, size can have a role in this too. It is easy to feel discouraged and lost when you see those around you having an impact on a seemingly countless number of people.
Once again, not every athlete is going to be Tim Tebow and not every Christian is going to be Andy Stanley. The purpose God has for you is not the same purpose he has for your neighbor, your friend, or your spouse.
You serve a unique role to God that he gave you unique gifts and talents to accomplish.
Where in your life can you see God calling you to use your gifts? Are there areas in your life where you can take a step back?
To hear more about Mike’s thoughts and the discussion that he, Noah and Bjorn had, check out “The Sweat Room: Sports & Faith” episode 28.