Feel free to view this on YouTube as well at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A78E08CI-00&feature=youtu.be
Presentation By Rick Radcliffe
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. When Nate contacted me, he asked if I would tell you my story and a little bit about the Fellowship of Christian Athletes position that I am currently filling.
I grew up on a farm near Bristow Iowa. I was introduced to Jesus by my parents and several Sunday School teachers in my early years. My dad instilled in me a love of sports early as we traveled around the state attending softball games that he was playing in. This love of sports continued into my high school years with football and baseball becoming my favorites. Like many of you I continued in the church being confirmed in my junior high years. My mother was a church organist, so I attended church every Sunday. I was a church goer, but I never fully realized the reason for being in church. It was a habit for me.
When I left for college that habit disappeared as I rarely attended church during those years. There were lots of new temptations and I tried to experience them all. I didn’t realize it then, but God was looking out for me as even as I was falling farther away from him. Sports continued to be a big part of my life and coaching was the career that I wanted to pursue.
I graduated and found my first teaching and coaching job and I was still busy just enjoying life, and teaching and coaching. I got married to my college girlfriend and at that time decided the right thing to do was to start attending church again. I attended faithfully, but I never fully engaged. I made several moves always searching for that school that would let me fulfill my coaching dreams. Those moves allowed me to meet lots of great people in two different states.
Things were going great during that time. I was blessed with a wonderful daughter and my professional career was in great shape. But there was a demon in my life-I liked to party. This continued and eventually I ended up at BGM as the 7-12 Principal and head football coach. Throughout all this time my family and I attended church, but I always shied away from becoming too involved with anything that involved the church.
I was sailing along, raising my daughter and tending to the business of being a school principal and coach. But then a bombshell dropped. My wife announced out of the blue she was getting a divorce. You see the drinking had driven a stake into our marriage. You see I didn’t have a problem with alcohol I was just having fun and reducing the stress in my life.
I tried for several months to change her mind and attended counseling for our marriage. I started to pray to God to save my marriage and make things ok. After a couple of months, the day finally came when my family moved out of the house. When I returned that night to an empty house it was one of the worst days of my life. Not only did I lose my wife, but I didn’t get to see my daughter every day. I will never forget the hurt and look on her face when I told her that her mom and I were getting a divorce. I’ll never forget that conversation and the fear in her eyes that her family was splitting up. How could God do this to me? I prayed and prayed, and he didn’t answer the prayers.
I was angry with God and stopped attending church. Things got worse during the next fall as I lost my football position and my daughter moved to Northeast Iowa with her mom. Next to my family coaching football was my greatest passion. I was even angrier with God and fell further away from him. What good was Jesus when all that I loved was gone. I was alone and trying to do my job. I was a mess and it was a miracle that the BGM staff carried me through that year. Oh yeah, the drinking didn’t stop as I didn’t have a problem.
As I am looking back, I realize that God was giving me a gift by the name of Angie. She was beautiful and boy could she sing. I met her at a dance where she was playing and singing in a classic rock band. After we had been together for a while, she asked me to go to church and I said I wasn’t comfortable going. I resisted her attempts to get me to attend. I didn’t realize that this was God’s way of asking me back. She persisted and finally I agreed to attend the Easter Cantata being performed by a community choir in Brooklyn. I went and sat in the back and listened to the story told through the songs. I remember that something stirred inside of me and tears were streaming down my face. I cried that night as I realized how broken I had become, I had blamed God for all that had happened. I prayed that night to ask God to forgive me. I can’t remember the words as I was an emotional mess, but I do remember a calming peace that came later that night.
Angie and I got married and we started the job of merging two families into one which is a challenge. With her help and faith in God she helped me get rid of alcohol, which was still a big problem in my life. I know now that God was working in my life and had provided me with a loving wife and family again. I know that he opened the door and invited me back and gave me the power to kick the alcoholism. I have been able with the help of God and my family’s support to stay sober for 16 years. I have spent the last 17 years studying the Bible and learning how God would like me to live my life.
All of that has led me to where I am today. I retired as the Secondary Principal from BGM last May, after 24 years. As you know schools were shut down in March last year and suddenly, I had lots of time on my hands. I spent a lot of my time during the last year wondering what I was going to do with my life. I prayed for God to show me, what do you want me to do next. Once again, no answers.
Little did I know that God had another gift for me. I remembered when the FCA field representative came to our school and prayed for me. I was so touched that someone had taken the time to stop and say a prayer for me. I had become pretty involved in our church, singing in the choir and serving on committees. I thought what if I send an email to him and ask him how I could help.
I was presented with an opportunity to serve in a ministry for coaches and athletes. I prayed about the opportunity as I didn’t feel worthy enough to become involved in a ministry. Then I decided that I had a lot of experiences that I could give to the coaches and athletes by telling my story.
I was hired as the FCA Field Ambassador in Poweshiek County, which is in the Central Iowa FCA district. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes is a ministry that seeks to see the world transformed by Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes. Our mission is to lead every coach and athlete into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and His church.
We pursue our vision and mission through the strategy of to and through the coach. Billy Graham said, “A coach will impact more people in one year than the average person will in an entire lifetime. FCA recognizes that the most strategic way to reach more athletes is to first reach the coach.
My job is to develop a coach’s ministry for the college and schools in Poweshiek County. Through the methods of engaging, equipping and empowering athletes I am working to help coaches and athletes to know and grow in Christ and lead others to do the same.
I have three goals that I am trying to accomplish:
Engage the coaches and develop a relationship by sharing our lives and the gospel.
Equip coaches and athletes to grow in Christ through God’s word.
Empower coaches and athletes to engage and equip others to know and grow in Christ.
As of today, I have been working to develop relationships with 70 coaches, three huddle leaders in Grinnell and Grinnell College who have had an active student huddle, four potential student huddle leaders at BGM and Montezuma.
My vision is to begin to see sports redeemed through the work of solid, sold-out Christian coaches that have something to offer their athletes. They will be able to coach with purpose and destiny. Their spiritual impact will be felt on their team, campus and community. Ministering to and through the coach has the potential to change the landscape of sports. To redeem the world of sports would be amazing, and it all starts with the Coach!
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes ministry depends on funding partners to come along- side the ministry with support. If you have interest in this ministry and can see the potential impact that is could have on the Poweshiek county area I would love to have a conversation with you on how you can help to keep this ministry in Poweshiek County.
I have learned a lot over the last 17 years about the power of God. Now instead of blaming him I look to him for help. I now know that we have to have faith and hope in our Lord as he has the best plan for us as stated in Jerimiah 29:11.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
So, in times of trouble you can focus on the Good News:
Focusing on what will happen one the storm has passed will give you the strength to overcome moments of doubt and fear.
As stated in 1 Peter 1:13
Therefore, with minds that are alert and sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming.
God doesn’t give us anything we cannot handle. The struggles will only make you stronger.
As stated in1 Peter 5:10
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
God works 24/7 to make our lives better, even, if it doesn’t feel that way at the time.
As stated in Ephesians 1: 18-19
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
Our hope should never deplete, because we know God will always be there for us.
As stated in Hebrews 10:23
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful
I would like to finish today with the following prayer:
Jesus thank You for the journey you have me on. Help me to completely trust You and praise You during this process. Strengthen me when I get weary. I pray that I continue to follow you and bring you glory. Use me so others may know you. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen
Nate Smith is a college baseball and football coach, a husband, a father of 6 girls, grandpa to 3 granddaughters, a police chaplain, a pastor, and has a passion to see men grow in Christ.
#girldad including granddaughter