Culture At Large

God wants me to win?

Steven Koster

A friend of mine is a chaplain for a NFL team. He and his wife spend time with players and their families. He prays with them, mentors them, encourages, challenges, and teaches them.

He's not mentioned in Time Magazine's recent write-up on NFL chaplains, but the roles sound similar.

The Time magazine piece seems to emphasize the lighter side, like wearing team colors and wringing hands over the theological questions of competition. Does God want us to win (and them to lose)? Does God make the goal or do I? What if it's a fumble--it is God's fault?

But the real work, at which the piece hints, is with the players who have real struggles, even in success. What do you do with sudden fame and fortune? When do you say no when everyone wants you? How does your family survive stress, the public spotlight, and the potential for major injury?

I think Time has a little too much tongue in its cheek, portraying chaplains as mascots.

I've long had a heart for marketplace ministry, wherein chaplains are hired to staff corporations and factories as a benefit to employees. For the organization, a spiritually grounded employee should be a more productive employee. For employees, there's somewhere to go when private questions and tragedies overwhelm the workplace. And for the Chaplain, what better venue to minister than where people spend most of their creative energy?

But I suppose the real comparison to NFL chaplaincy is military. The questions become not 'Does God want me to win' but "Does God want me to kill?' Rather than life crises due to success excess or sports injury, the dangers are death by IED, maiming by RPG, long-term effects of horror and PTSD.

So I have to salute all chaplains. They've always seemed to me to be under-appreciated ministers on the front lines, sometimes quite literally.

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