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Should We Be Celebrating Frank Reich?

On Social Media, I came across this article on Frank Reich, the former President at RTS Charlotte and now head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. The article was promoted by several men I know and respect. I do, however, have some questions I’d like to ask about how we are to view Frank Reich’s remarkable move from Seminary president to pastor to NFL football coach.

As a Seminary that promotes the Westminster Standards, is it not the case that RTS exists in order to empty NFL football stadiums?

As I understand the Sabbath commandment, it seems to me that we would rather see NFL football fans give up going to stadiums on Sundays and instead using the day to worship God in both public and private (see WLC 116, 117; WCF 21.7-8). Of course, if you aren’t a Sabbatarian, then the question is slightly different (though not much more), but I’m more asking questions of those who have taken vows to publicly uphold the Westminster Confession of Faith.

My daughter plays on a soccer team. She would love to play on a girls team, but in Vancouver the girls play on Sundays whereas the boys play mostly on Saturdays. As a result, she toughs it out and plays on a boys team. She is the only girl in her league. We made a decision that our love for sports should never get in the way of our love for the Lord, his people, and corporate worship. Missing worship for soccer goes against everything I believe is important in life.

So my second question is: Should I promote the TGC article and get my daughter and sons to read it? Would those who promoted the TGC article think that the story of Frank Reich is a helpful one for my daughter and sons to read or not? I suppose they do. Would my 8 year old son, who has been offered a contract already for a top pro team, now think soccer on Sundays is not such a big deal, as long as he’s a professional?

In addition, if a seminary student (from RTS) read the article and went to his professor and said he was thinking about becoming an NFL football coach instead of a pastor, what would the professor say to his student?

What do I, as a pastor, say to those who ask me about competitive sports on Sundays? Do I say it is okay for those who are professional coaches and athletes, but not for those who don’t quite have such a celebrity status? (Here I’ve addressed these questions in the past: “Christians Watching the Superbowl” & “Organized Sports on Sundays“).

Does our sphere of influence allow us to compromise Lord’s day worship and rest? So, if Frank Reich can have a positive influence on his immediate community of NFL folk, can my daughter likewise miss church on Sundays to have a positive influence on her immediate community of soccer players? Or does public worship and Lord’s Day rest take priority, regardless of our supposed spheres of influence?

In the TGC article, Frank Reich made the following comment: “I came to recognize more and more this false dichotomy between sacred and secular work.”  As the author, Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, says, “He learned about ‘the priesthood of all believers—that every Christian is called to live out their faith in their sphere of influence.'” Surely RTS doesn’t believe the priesthood of all believers erases the special vocational ministry or its singular distinction? A calling to the pastoral ministry is unlike any other, and any other sphere of influence is, in my mind, a step down in terms of kingdom building. Albert Mohler leaving SBTS to coach the Cowboys (mentioned at the beginning of the article) would be a step down for him and for the kingdom, in my view.

As Charles Simeon said to John Venn on the occasion of his ordination: “I most sincerely congratulate you, not on a permission to [receive a salary], nor on the title of Reverend, but on your accession to the most valuable, most honourable, most important, and most glorious office in the world – to that of an ambassador of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The TGC article seems to give the impression that spheres of influence are interchangeable, but this is not really the classic Protestant understanding of pastoral ministry. It’s even more troubling that a sort of worldly prestige is implied to grant greater spiritual prestige to a calling – that a football coach is “greater” than a pastor or seminary president. And again, the 4th Commandment is glossed over entirely.

I think if you want a truly inspiring story, read “For the Glory: The Untold and Inspiring Story of Eric Liddell, Hero of Chariots of Fire.” His gold medal at the Olympics was not ultimately of any significance compared to what he gave up to serve as a minister of the gospel in China.

Personally, I don’t begrudge a man who feels he is not called to the ministry and honorably steps down. These things happen. But I also don’t get the apparent obsession in America with glorifying celebrities, especially when a particular vocation will necessarily remove that person (and others under their authority) from keeping the Lord’s Day in a way honoring to the Lord.

The TGC article continues:

The ability—and charge—to work well is given to everyone, from seminary presidents to head coaches.

It’s also a lesson that RTS teaches.

“I wasn’t disappointed or bothered by it,” Cannada said of Reich’s decision to leave ministry. “At RTS we very much hold a Reformed worldview, where calling from the Lord can lead us in all kinds of directions. Church ministry is a good one, but it’s not the only one. We’re to serve the Lord wherever we are.”

Current RTS Charlotte president Kruger agrees.

“Frank’s story is a perfect example of what we value here at RTS,” said Kruger (who wouldn’t turn down a job coaching the Liverpool Football Club in the English Premiere [sic] League).

It is true, we ought to serve the Lord wherever we are. I don’t think anyone disputes that. But I fail to see how Frank Reich’s story is a “perfect example of what we value here at RTS” when RTS is a seminary that holds to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Liverpool F.C. happens to be my own favourite (not favorite) English Premier League team. But if by some remarkable providence I was able to coach them one day (and thus leave the ministry), I hope some of you will be writing of it as a tragedy, especially because of the compromises I would have to make on many Sundays and also because I’ve given up a unique calling to save souls.

Thus I write this to ask genuine questions as a father of children who love sports, as one who believes the Westminster position on the Lord’s Day, and as a pastor who feels the ministry is, as Lloyd-Jones said,

“the highest and greatest and most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called.”

By Mark Jones

The Rev. Dr. Mark Jones (PhD, Leiden Universiteit) has been the Minister at Faith Vancouver since 2007. He is also Research Associate in the Faculty of Theology at University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. Dr. Jones is the author of several books, including Knowing Christ, God Is, Living For God (2020 Crossway).

One reply on “Should We Be Celebrating Frank Reich?”

Excellently put! I graduated from RTS and all this greatly disappoints me. Thank you for writing.

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