Born for sports ministry — Part 2
After JP Flugel took a bold step of faith in 2008 and resigned his well-paid job to serve Bluewater Bay Community Church full-time, God responded at once, creating a job for him where none had existed — as sports coordinator at the church-run Bay Christian School.
This was the first of a number of sports ministry doors that God opened for Flugel that led to the birth of Fusion Sports Ministry this year.
In addition to his work at the school, Flugel got more and more involved in the church’s youth ministry, where his passion for sport proved especially fruitful. Before long the youth pastor left the church and Flugel was appointed to take over his position.
But, influenced by people outside the church who told him he should aim higher, he left the church within a year, to become youth pastor at a bigger church.
Bluewater Bay Community Church senior pastor Erik Momsen had tried to hold on to his youth pastor, warning him that he was making a mistake and that he did not believe God wanted him to go. But Flugel went along with the will of his external advisers.
At the bigger church he constantly felt he had made a mistake. But God used the year to grow him and his new employer sent him on a personal development course. Momsen kept urging him to return and after a year he came back to his old youth pastor post that had not been filled in his absence.
Still rebellious towards father figures, he often resisted the authority of the Bluewater Bay leadership. He acknowledges that he owes Momsen and other leaders there much for the patient way they stuck with him, discipled him, encouraged his sports ministry innovations, and gave him opportunities to preach and minister to youth.
In the early years he saw how children in the area roamed around and he had much success with turning up at a park with a soccer ball or rugby ball and attracting a crowd of youngsters, many of whom later joined church youth activities.
It was during this time that he learned to love soccer — a game he had previously despised. At the same time he was wrestling with deep regrets about bad past life decisions which had put an end to his professional sports career dreams.
At first he had wanted to reach out to the local kids through rugby, a game he knew well. But the children, who were predominantly Xhosa-speaking, preferred soccer and God impressed on him that soccer was indeed the key to the youth.
He knew nothing about soccer but started reading up on it and watched a lot of soccer, becoming a fan of Manchester United, and a great admirer of their coach, Alex Ferugson, whose books he devoured. He also picked up much from pre-match and post-match talks and soon was coaching the game. He entered the Bay Christian School into the local schools’ league: they got thrashed in the first year but then started producing unbeaten teams.
For a number of years Flugel’s life revolved around the church and the school and his vision did not extend beyond Bluewater Bay.
A new era
But all of that changed, rather suddenly.
Last year he was invited to a missions conference which stirred his heart. Later while watching a big schools rugby match he recognised one of the conference speakers and plucked up the courage to introduce himself. The speaker remembered him and introduced him to his OM missionary brother Jeremy Siberhagen who invited him to a coffee date.
Around about that time he met Pastor Afrika Mhlophe who visited Bluewater Bay Community Church as a guest preacher. Mhlophe invited Flugel to a meeting of the steering committee of Switched On, a citywide evangelical mission campaign involving the churches of Nelson Mandela Bay and African Enterprise. Flugel nervously accepted the invitation to “just come and see what is happening” and was in awe of the many city leaders from different denominations who were partnering in the mission planning — humbly submitting to one another. He sensed God tell him to be quiet and to “receive from Him like a sponge” — and to serve these senior leaders. Without understanding what he was getting himself into, but following a strong leading of the Holy Spirit, he agreed to help Ricky Venter, a young pastor at Fountain Vineyard Christian Fellowship, who was heading up the youth portfolio of Switched On. Ricky asked him to attend a meeting at his church the next day, which was the same day as his coffee date with Sieberhagen.
At their coffee meeting, Sieberhagen told him that the OM ship, Logos Hope, was coming to PE the following year and asked him to join the steering committee that was preparing for the ship’s arrival.
“I just started to weep, and I said to him: ‘What do you see in me? You have met me once and we have had a coffee once. So how can you ask me to be on your ministry team?
“He just said that that it was just what he felt God was saying. So I said I would take it.”
From that meeting Flugel went to meet Venter and a group of city youth pastors at Fountain Vineyard. Venter said he was going abroad for a while and asked if anybody would like to oversee his position on Swiched On while he was away.
“Everyone was quiet and he mentioned one or two names but nobody wanted it, and I thought to myself ‘What’s going on here and why are we not supporting each other?’ And as I was thinking that, Ricky turned to me and asked if I wanted to do it.”
Flugel told Venter he had no idea what the job entailed but if he trained him he would gladly take it on.
Rugby and cricket lunches
One thing led to another, and once again God opened a sports ministry door for Flugel. In addition to his youth involvement in Switched On he got to assist in arranging a rugby lunch addressed by former Springboks and a cricket lunch addressed by Gary Kirtsten. The events, which were part of the Switched On mission in August last year, were a great success, and during Kirsten’s testimony of how he came to surrender to the Lord, Flugel experienced “a massive healing” from hurtful words by a school rugby coach which had haunted him for years.
Flugel’s role in preparing for the visit of the Logos Hope ship in June and July this year was also in the sports ministry realm. He was asked to arrange a soccer tournament to create an opportunity for international sports ministry volunteers from the ship to reach out to the community.
Flugel imagined the tournament would involve a few teams playing in a church parking area. But Rev Rory Spence of Greenacres Presbyterian Church and chairman of the Switched On steering committee which kept on going after the mission, encouraged him to ask NMMU — the local university — if they could hold the tournament on the campus.
He said he was blown away by the generosity of NMMU and others. NMMU provided fields for the tournament, and transported goalposts which were loaned by Pearson High School. The university’s groundsman was very helpful and 16 five-a-side soccer teams and eight volley ball teams — from all over the city — took part in the reconciliation-themed event on Youth Day, June 16. A ministry team including ship crew members served water to players and ministered powerfully on a one-on-one basis, said Flugel.
“There were Christian teams playing with non-Christian teams. We don’t know how many of those present gave their lives to the Lord that day but we saw something happen, and now guys are asking when is the next tournament? Can we have a rugby tournament?
“I knew that day that this is what I was called to.”
Flugel’s recognition of his calling had recently taken a major step forward after he had coffee with Trevor Jennings, one of the senior city leaders he had met on the Switched On steering committee. After learning about the various areas of ministry that Flugel was juggling, Jennings advised him that to be effective he should focus on one area and he believed it should be sports ministry.
And Fusion Sport Ministry was born with the June 16 soccer tournament as its first project. Flugel is buzzing with possibilities for the ministry. He is already involved in the founding of an informal rugby network for the Bluewater Bay community. The network is expanding and is already positively impacting young people at risk. He is also involved with a property industry rugby tournament in October, which will bring Christians and non Christians together. He has had contact with African Enterprise and met missionaries from Transkei and envisages sports mission opportunities that will cross borders and play a role in uplifting communities.
But most of all, Flugel said he sensed God saying that for the rest of this year he should seek Him prayerfully on how to go ahead.
“It was so fitting that the church came to me and asked if I did not want to take a short sabbatical of a month,” said Flugel who is currently enjoying such a break.
He said Momsen had recently commented that his demeanour had become much more humble. Flugel said his experiences over the past two years of serving senior leaders had humbled him and expanded his ministry vision. He said Mhlophe, who was close to his own age, had also played an important. ongoing role in mentoring him and helping him to resolve his problems with father figures. He added that he now has a great relationship with his stepfather against whom he rebelled so many years ago. “All glory to God,” he concluded.
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