[First posted November 15,2008]
Founder and Director — Christian Athletic Association
As a long time board member of the Christian Athletic Association, I just wanted to blog this tribute to Nic. I had the distinct privilege of being able to share some of my memories of Nic last night at a very special memorial service graciously hosted by Grace Community Church. But my brief words are only a drop in the bucket of the many expressions of love from the lives he impacted. Check out the CaringBridge site where people continue to post their words of thanksgiving and remembrance to encourage Dawn and the family. The service was a blessing to all — it was video recorded and I will post the link when it is available for those who were unable to attend.
REMEMBERING NIC …
It’s a tremendous privilege to remember with you the impact of Nic’s life on so many of us. What is it that made him so special? My wife and I have enjoyed over 20 years of friendship and partnering in the gospel ministry with Nic and Dawn. Along with the other board members of CAA, I have been alongside Nic in times of great joy and times of great pressure. You learn a lot about a man in such a wide range of experiences.
Hebrews 11 provides the record of some very special heroes of the faith who have gone before us and set us an example worth following.
What is faith? “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (11:1) Nic to me was a man of great Vision. Vision in what sense? Three very special areas:
First, in terms of Focus — he had the vision to keep his focus on the Lord Jesus Christ – he didn’t get distracted by peripheral issues while still standing firm for the truth of the Word of God. That was what enabled him to be such a unifying figure for the power of the gospel. Would you ever believe that people of so many different backgrounds could work so effectively together? He also didn’t try to make a big name for himself. The ministry was never about him. If he needed to step back and only work part-time for the betterment of CAA, he sacrificed and volunteered to take that course. He was never a promoter. He was never a fund raiser. In fact sometimes the Board wanted him to be more aggressive in promoting the ministry to other churches and groups. But he was most comfortable in a servant role doing all of the little things that would make CAA the best experience for all of the kids that he loved so deeply. How many hours of lining fields … of cutting them and grooming them so that we could have the best possible venue; of opening and closing gym doors on Sat morning and evening, of reffing and umping any game where he was needed. All the time his focus was on faithfully serving the Lord. If you want to understand servant leadership, remember the example of Mr. Nic.
Secondly, in terms of Mission — he had the vision to create a truly unique youth ministry that combined sports with a love for Jesus Christ and the fostering of Christian community. It’s difficult enough to be successful at a ministry that has many proven templates of how to go about things – you can look at church youth groups that are true to the Word of God – and Nic was effective in that role at Bishop Cummins as well. You can visit campus ministries that are impacting college kids. But where do you go to find another CAA? We have been privileged to have this ministry right here in our community for 24 years. I think many of us have lost sight of the uniqueness of the privilege that has been ours. If you want to understand effective ministry, remember the example of Mr. Nic.
Thirdly, in terms of Relating to People — he had the vision to connect with people of all ages and speak that word of encouragement that ministered to the need of the moment. I wish you all could have seen him last Thursday as people came to the hospital to wish him Good Bye. He was still thinking of others and focusing on them and speaking just that right word that would bring grace to their heart. Nic had a trait that many leaders lack – he was a fantastic listener. In our board meetings, he would show genuine respect for all of our opinions and encourage us to move forward as a team. He just had a knack for relating to people. That’s why you all love him so much; that’s why you’re here this evening. If you want to understand loving others, remember the example of Mr. Nic.
Focus, Mission , Relating to People – 3 areas where he exercised his great faith and vision.
Heb 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us (all of the heroes mentioned in chap 11), let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith”
We now have a cloud of witnesses + 1 – my wife Karen is better at the math equations than I am … but this is a simple one – we have a cloud of witness + 1 – plus Mr. Nic – a man who has shown us what it means to run the race of faith with our eyes fixed on Jesus – the one who has done everything for us and continues to work through us to impact others. Isn’t it interesting that this passage uses a sports analogy of running a race. Nic used sports to bring home life’s lessons to so many of us. It was never about Nic – it was always about how great a God we are privileged to serve.
I just want to leave you with one phrase from Heb. 11 that has been running through my mind these past couple of weeks – in talking about these precious saints whom God chose to promote to live in His presence – there is one phrase tucked away in parenthesis – maybe overlooked by many – “men of whom the world was not worthy” – vs.38 — that is how I will remember Nic’s promotion to heaven … as sad as it is for all of us who miss him so dearly, in my mind he falls into that company of heroes of the faith – a man of whom the world was not worthy. But not because of Nic’s greatness … but because of the greatness of our Lord Jesus Christ. That should be our motivation = to testify with Nic, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.”