FORERUNNERS OF THE SPORTS OUTREACH MOVEMENT: ROBERT MCBURNEY - PART #5 / LASER FOCUS - WINNING MEN TO JESUS
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
McBURNEY’S LAST DAYS
McBurney had always been an outdoor enthusiast with fishing being one of his greatest loves, but though an active man, he suffered physical debilitation during the last year or two of his life. Many believed his ill health was worsened and even caused by the incredible work load he assumed. He died at age 61 on December 27th, 1898.
McBurney’s wishes for his funeral were two-fold. He desired it to be of the greatest simplicity with only congregational singing and his good friend Cephas Brainerd be invited to speak to young men, recruiting them to engage in both association (YMCA) and personal work for the leading of men to the Savior. His request was honored except for the simplicity requirement. This was made impossible by the shear number of men who wished to speak words of praise, thanks and honor to the man who had so influenced their lives. This was alluded to by Bishop Henry C. Potter, of the Protestant Episcopal Church when he paid tribute to McBurney by stating: “what hosts of young men and of older men there are today who have come to believe in the fatherhood of God, because, first of all, they learned to believe in the brotherhood of Robert McBurney.”
Months later, many of these “hosts” gathered for a separate memorial service for Association workers which was held in April of 1899. It consisted of dozens of intimate fellow workers who shared with one another their personal experiences and reflections of the departed friend. It was through those gathered that McBurney’s principles and focus lived on.
SUMMARY OF MCBURNEY'S LEGACY
L. L. Doggett wrote in his introduction to McBurney’s biography the following description of McBurney. It is a warm and touching description which accurately portrays a man which should be an example and model to anyone engaged in YMCA work or in a broader context of Sports Ministry.
"Another thing as pre-eminent in this man’s life as his dominating love was the ever-present, ever-ready, concern he had for men’s salvation. It was hardly possible to come into personal contact with McBurney without feeling his interest in one’s eternal welfare. On every hand he made it his business in an engaging and tactful way to establish such relationships as would impress men with this interest. He took advantage of every slight occasion to this end and in a direct and really loving way he made a personal impress upon thousands of young men. His cordial, earnest greeting, his hand, his look, the few words he spoke, however brief or inconsequential otherwise the interview, lifted the life he touched. Multitudes of young men owe to his efforts their personal
salvation, and hundreds of others have been led by him to devote themselves to the Ministry or the Secretaryship of the Young Men’s Christian Association."
While all that Doggett has related about McBurney’s ability to love, his relational gifts and his great desire to extend the kingdom of Christ, is true, he also realized the man had his shortcomings. However, as the following quote by Doggett illustrates, it seemed that McBurney even turned his character flaws into positives.
"His chief failing, an occasional brusque, over dominant way, native to his Scotch-Irish character, was often turned to account for the deepening of attachments between himself and his friends, for even out of brief misunderstandings grew reconciliations which more clearly showed the fervor of his love, and which more strongly welded others to himself."
One last quote gives additional support to the point that personal evangelism was the purpose for which McBurney gave his life. Describing McBurney in his comprehensive volume on the International work of the early YMCA, Kenneth Scott Latourette states:
"He was warmly evangelistic, had a genius for friendship, and through personal contacts won many to the Christian faith."
Truly, Robert Ross McBurney was an exemplary witness for Christ and provides a wonderful model for the current day YMCA worker and Local Church Sports, Rec & Fitness Minister. May his fervor for his Savior and his dedication to winning others to the Savior, be the heart cry and foundation of each and every Sports Minister and YMCA worker who may read this recapitulation of Robert Ross McBurney.
Doggett, p. 256.
Kenneth Scott Latourette - World Service, p. 26.
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/
Dr. Greg Linville was one of the founding members of CSRM and has served as the Executive Director since 2000. He served for 15 years as a local church sports and recreation minister and coached over 30 years at the junior high, high school and collegiate levels as well as 30 years in rec. leagues. Dr. Linville has consulted with churches from Australia, Africa, Asia, Australia, Caribbean, Europe, New Zealand and North America. He was awarded the world's first honorary Doctorate in Sports Ministry and holds an earned Doctorate as well. He is the author of Christmanship: The Theology of Competition & Sport. Dr. Greg has been married for over 35 years, is the father of two married children and the grandfather of a growing number of grandchildren.