The Gospel According to Hockey - Salvation Army Canada

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  • Feb21Fri

    The Gospel According to Hockey

    Forget about style. Focus on results, instead. February 21, 2014 by Jonathan Taube
    Filed Under:
    Opinion & Critical Thought
    Photo of a hockey playerMany people love sports because they tend to provide a high-stakes background for great drama to unfold. Your team wins or loses, but either way you feel something. I'm a sucker for a great sports yarn, so I recently read hockey legend Bobby Orr's story which sheds light on an often-overlooked principle within the church.

    Orr played for the Boston Bruins for his first 10 seasons in the NHL. He was instrumental in the team's first Stanley Cup victory in more than 30 years and led the league in scoring. That doesn't sound odd until you consider that he played defense. In fact, to date, he is the only defenseman in NHL history to ever set the season high in scoring.

    Orr bucked convention and played an aggressive mix of offence and defense, ushering in a new era of professional hockey. Today he is considered one of the greatest hockey players of all time. The Hockey Hall of Fame even waived the three-year waiting period for his induction, making him the youngest living player to receive that honour in his day. The bottom line is Bobby Orr redefined tactics and inspired the game of hockey by his fast, aggressive two-way play.

    True to his own nature, he famously encouraged young players, “Forget about style. Worry about results.” This statement sums up what made Orr such a successful athlete. Rather than focusing on expectations, he focused on doing whatever it took to win. Because of his focus on what actually mattered, he pushed boundaries and changed the game of hockey, almost single-handedly shaping it into the fast-paced game we recognize today.

    This issue of focus comes up all over Scripture. Jesus taught us to, “Seek first the kingdom” (Matthew 6:33 NKJV). Paul wrote of the importance of “fixing our eyes on Jesus” as an example of what that looked like (see Hebrews 12:2). Paul also counselled the churches in his day to set their hearts and minds on heavenly things (see Colossians 3), to live according to the Spirit instead of the flesh (see Romans 8) and to focus on good, pure and noble things (see Philippians 4:8).

    In Jesus' final earthly interaction with his followers, he laid out the blueprint for building his kingdom. “Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age' ” (Matthew 28:18-20). It should be helpful for us to remind ourselves of this charge.

    What this looks like practically can be argued about, contextualized and re-imagined in each age. Yet we are clearly charged with dedicating our lives to seeing men and women enter into a complete and saving knowledge of Jesus as Lord and submitting their lives and will to him in faith. If we are not seeing these results, then our style counts for very little. This is a sentiment that is too often overlooked in North American churches, where we have adopted culturally-defined models of success, corporate strategies and worldly ambitions.

    Jesus purposefully didn't talk much about programs or initiatives, but he did talk a lot about trees and the fruit they bear. The tree that bears good fruit is a good tree, the tree that bears bad fruit is a bad tree, and the tree that bears no fruit is cut down and its roots are burned so that it stops wasting space and resources.

    In our youth department at the USA Central Territory, we are moving from an outdated program-based ministry to a youth development mindset, but the purpose of this isn't to introduce a new methodology. It's about training ourselves to assess our impact and devote more time, effort and resources to trees that are bearing good fruit in the lives of our corps, and in the lives of young people.

    We're committed to bearing good fruit for the kingdom of God in the lives of the leaders and the young people we serve. We recognize that this requires a right focus.

    Together, let's focus on the example of Jesus, trust in the providence of God and see the Holy Spirit work through our stumbling efforts. Let's pray along with the Scriptures, “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known” (Habakkuk 3:2).


    1. What would it look like for the Army and for the church to focus on results instead of style?

    2. What would it mean to concern ourselves more with bearing fruit than with jumping on board to the “next big thing” bandwagon in each generation?

    3. As the rate of cultural change continues to increase in both speed and impact, we will see more clearly than ever that style is secondary to substance. Who are the people of vision in our corps who will focus on keeping the first thing first in our day?

    Jonathan Taube works and worships with The Salvation Army in the USA Central Territory's youth department and as a soldier at the Des Plaines corps in Illinois. God has grown a deep passion in his heart for discipleship, world missions and incarnational expression of the Gospel. Taube is also a big fan of the Chicago Cubs.

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