FORERUNNERS OF THE SPORTS OUTREACH MOVEMENT: ROBERT MCBURNEY - PART #2 / DETERMING A CALL TO MINISTRY
This Series of Blogs provide vignettes of the early pioneers of The Muscular Christianity Era - Faith-Sport Integration who laid the foundations for the Modern Day Sports Outreach Movement
DETERMINING HIS PURPOSE FOR LIFE - A CALL TO MINISTRY
McBurney sincerely appreciated the Y and worked diligently for it, but he none-the-less always believed he would eventually become a business man. He saw his work at the Y as a temporary job until he found a more suitable position within business. His pursuit of a business career became a reality when he resigned from the Y after two to take a job with a company in Philadelphia. Before his resignation however, something occurred in the YMCA library which was to have a profound and lasting effect upon the young association secretary. This encounter changed McBurney for ever and insured the business world would never again hold a preeminent position in the heart of this young Scotch-Irish lad.
On a particular Christmas Eve, McBurney found a young man sitting by himself in the Y library. This young man was alone on a day usually spent with family and friends and had wandered into the Y after aimlessly walking the streets of New York. McBurney realized this young man’s loneliness and began to engage him in conversation. It became apparent McBurney’s newly met acquaintance was not only alone on this Holiday, but more importantly, was also in need of the Savior. McBurney proceeded to share his faith in Christ with his new friend and before the afternoon was over the young man opened his heart to the Savior. This experience was so fulfilling and exciting to McBurney it became the driving force in his life. Never-the-less, McBurney was still operating on the belief he should go into business and thus subsequently took a position with a firm in Philadelphia. However, after the experience in the Y library, business opportunities paled in comparison to kingdom opportunities and although his business career seemed secure, the business world no longer fulfilled him. McBurney longed to get back into full time Christian work.
Within a few months of McBurney taking a position in a business in Philadelphia and at the very time he had become disillusioned with a career in business, the New York City YMCA contacted him to return as their secretary. He quickly responded in the affirmative to their inquiry, went back to New York and spent the remainder of his life in service to the Y, his Lord and young men. The rest of his days were invested in doing what he had first done in that library with one lonely young man. As his biographer L. L. Doggett stated “The service in the association had made him restless in any calling which did not directly contribute to winning men to Christ.”
As he resumed leadership of the Association it became apparent he had a natural genius for friendship, sagacity and a high intellect which allowed him to enlist prominent New Yorkers in the work. (B) Upon returning to the Y in the spring of 1865, he along with one of these prominent men - Cephas Brainerd - performed a detailed survey of the New York community. The purpose of the research was to uncover what the needs of young men were. After the needs had been established, the Y could then create programming and ministry to meet the needs. What they found was distressing. They discovered a city, rife with vice and temptation.
It was decided that the YMCA should respond by providing a Christian alternative. In 1866 the Y approved a plan to build a facility which could “silently bring young men within the sphere of its influence.”  The building which was to become the heart of the Christian alternative cost $487,000 and was the catalyst for not only the New York City YMCA, but for every Y in the country. It also catapulted McBurney into a National leadership position. The, would be businessman, had found his calling. He would forever be a YMCA secretary.
Doggett - P. 68 This story is made more interesting when one realizes that although McBurney felt fulfilled in the ministry he did not see it as a viable career option. This same experience has been shared by many young people living in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. For McBurney there had never been a career option for ministry in the Y. In fact, he was to become the first paid YMCA staff person in North America, opening the door for many others to also enter into this exciting ministry. Similarly, most modern day young people don’t realize the great opportunities which now exist for exciting careers in sports ministry.
Doggett - p. 78
This blog is an excerpt from a future book "Surrounded by Witnesses" by Dr. Greg Linville. All rights reserved. For any reproduction right, including copying, computer reproduction, etc. contact:
Dr. Greg Linville at CSRM International C/O The World Outreach Center 5350 Broadmoor Circle N. w. Canton, Ohio – USA 44709 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Other blogs and articles on Local Church Sports, sports theology and ethics written by Dr. Greg Linville and other local church Sports, Rec & Fitness Ministers are archived at: http://www.csrm.org/blog/