I was pinching myself the other day when I had the incredible privilege of sitting in a room with a handful of people, listening to the wisdom, stories, and experience of Rev. John Boyers. Boyers is a Baptist minister and a chaplain at one of the biggest footballing (soccer) clubs in the world: Manchester United. How did he become a chaplain? Is it always what He wanted to do? Or did he step into an opportunity, not knowing what the future held, yet trusting what He believed to be the leading of God?
I sat there in amazement as he began to reminisce about how, as a Baptist pastor, he had no desire for sport or to be involved in that industry. At the time, he really had no understanding of what it was. But over a series of intriguing and mysterious moments, he found himself starting to think: “Is this God trying to get my attention about Chaplaincy?”
In the matter of a few months, three people suggested similar things to him about sports chaplaincy. Up to that point, there was still no desire– until these three instances occurred:
1. The Aldershot Town FC chaplain (also a Baptist pastor) said to Boyers, “I love chaplaincy because it gets me out of my Church. You should consider it.”
2. A few weeks later, at a gathering of some Christians, Rev. John had a conversation with Luton Town player Alan West (who had found God during the summer in New Zealand). He had come back to England after holidays, and his news had hit all the newspaper headlines in the UK. That night, as they were walking and talking after the event, Alan looked up and saw the lights of a stadium lit up in the near proximity. Without knowing about the previous conversation Rev. John had a few weeks back with the Aldershot chaplain, Alan said to him, “Is that the Watford ground? John, you should become a Chaplain at Watford!”
3. The following Friday, Rev. John bought the Watford Newspaper which featured an article from the manager, Graham Taylor. There was a paragraph in the local community section of the article stating, “If you think there is something you (in the local community) could do to help us, then please write to me”. At that point, Watford was at the bottom of the league and really struggling as a club.
Hence, in November 1977, Rev. John became a chaplain at Watford FC. He may not have had any sporting experience, but he was a pastor! And he thought to himself, “I will just be a pastor to a secular club.” Over the next 15 years he cared, loved for, visited, encouraged, and built relationship with the players, staff and fans. He figured he was there to HELP ALL PEOPLE. “It took a lot of time; the players, staff and people at the club are suspicious of you, because everyone always wants something from them,” Rev. John said. So he decided just to love them. He wouldn’t ask for anything, but he’d slowly win people over by building trust, keeping confidentiality, being consistent, keeping his word, and showing genuine care and support.
From there, God opened the door to Manchester United. The club had heard about Rev. John and his care for the people at Watford FC, so they invited him to become chaplain of this great club. In football chaplaincy terms, being appointed vicar to the (traditionally Catholic) Manchester United is like winning the FA Cup. Rev. John Boyers was “promoted” to Old Trafford from Watford. “In terms of size, Watford is like a little church, whereas Man U is a cathedral,” he said in a UK newspaper article.
Rev. John joined Manchester United in 1992, the year they won the league. Since then he’s had the incredible opportunity to work with some of the most famous players in the world, such as Eric Cantona, Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, and legendary coach Alex Fergusson. However, he was never enamoured by the status of the player or the person. He was known to say, “It doesn’t matter who they are– whether they are players, coaching staff, admin people, or the cleaners– BECAUSE GOD’S ALL ABOUT PEOPLE!”
I am so thankful to have had such an incredible day and opportunity to hear from Rev. John Boyers, and I’m so grateful that he followed the God drop– the opportunity to step out of the box and trust God to lead him all those years ago.
I will leave you with a few questions:
- What is God speaking to you about, when it comes to stepping out of the box?
- Has there been a God drop, conversation or leading that might be happening right now?
- If God is all about helping people, who can you help today?