50 YEARS OF BASKETBALL MINISTRY
I just returned from the 50th year of ministry celebration for News Release Basketball.
Back in 1971, I attended a missions conference at Cedar Mill Bible Church in Portland, Oregon and heard a speaker, Norm Cook, speak about basketball evangelism. Since I was working in ministry with students at UCLA, including many athletes, I approached Norm and asked if I could put together a team with those who were part of our ministry. We did so, and in the summer of 1971 played 52 games in five weeks in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
We won all 52 games but more importantly we shared the good news of God’s salvation in Christ at the half-time of the games and the many clinics we conducted. We heard latter that several churches were started in Singapore among those attending our games. The next summer we organized another team, traveled and shared Christ across the Equator from Mali West Africa to Ethiopia East Africa, finishing in Israel.
In the summer of 1973, we began playing and witnessing in Europe, and adopted the name “News Release,” as we had the good news to release. In addition to spreading the good news of Jesus, one of the biggest impacts of our News Release ministry was on the lives of the student-athletes who played on our teams. Traveling with other committed Christians, sharing in Bible studies together, seeing the spiritual vacuum and hunger for people to know Christ personally helped our players to see “there are things that matter and things that don’t.”
One of my favorite country western songs is “Things that Matter” by Alan Jackson. The essence of the song is that in life:
There are things that matter
And things that don’t.
AFTER A DECADE: SHIFT AND HANDOFF
We chose to go back to Europe year after year to build on the interest in Christ we found. In city after city, people came up to us to ask what we meant by “a personal relationship with Christ.” In city after city people expressed that this was not something they heard in traditional churches.
Then after a decade of basketball evangelism tours, we decided move to Europe to start a Christ-centered, biblically-based, grace-oriented, outreach-focused, spiritually-vibrant, culturally-engaging, and passionately-missional church. Three of our News Release families (Gary and Tricia Edmonds, Chris and Debby Hall, and Sharon and I) moved to France (greater Geneva area) and started the first of what would be many such churches.
Because our focus shifted to church planting, we turned the News Release ministry over to Dick Beede and Steve Sorensen. Steve became the News Release director and has faithfully and energetically led the ministry ever since. Almost 900 athletes have been part of the many teams that have gone out and been influenced to see and share that there are “things that matter, and things that don’t.”
Some of the News Release players have gone on to full time and pastoral ministry. Almost all have been active in sharing the good news of Christ.
NEXT GENERATION OF LEADERSHIP
It was a joy to be part the 50 years of ministry celebration and honor Steve Sorensen for his faithfulness in stewarding News Release Basketball ministry. Joining us were players representing all five decades of News Release’s ministry. A highlight was the commissioning of the next News Release director, Tim (and Sara) Bieri. Tim will lead the ministry in the season ahead (Steve Sorensen will stay involved).
We only get so many trips around the sun
Some things matter, some things don’t
It’s up to you to choose which one
I’m thankful that some of the trips around the sun that Sharon and I made included starting the News Release Basketball—a ministry that continues today—one that has touched the lives of thousands of people over the last 50 years. The churches we planted and the training we are doing with Global Training Network have done and are doing the same.
Thanks for being part of this incredible journey of following Christ and making His Lordship, grace, and salvation known including our training with Global Training Network. Here’s my ongoing prayer (from one more stanza of Alan Jackson’s song):
So tonight as I close my eyes
I pray Lord help me realize
Something I already knowThere’s things that matter
And things that don’t