Jerry Birch just completed his 18th season as the chaplain for the NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
He is also the co-pastor of Abundant Grace Fellowship in Cleveland and leads a marriage ministry with his wife Gail.
In this episode, Pastor Jerry discusses what it’s like to be the primary spiritual advisor for the World Champion Cavs. We discuss LeBron James’ faith and whether he attends chapel, as well as how the community and culture of the NBA gravitates towards matters of faith.
Pastor Jerry also shares his own story of infidelity and sin and how God grabbed a hold of him and not only brought him back to the faith, but called him to become a Pastor.
LISTEN TO THE PODCAST:
PLEASE CONSIDER LEAVING A REVIEW ON ITUNES:
4:05 – The role of a team chaplain for the Cavs
7:45 – Team chapel consisting of both teams coming together before a game
10:20 – On building relationships with players who are consistently changing teams
15:01 – LeBron James and his faith
22:30 – Growing up with an immigrant mentality
28:30 – The moment he was being called to become a Pastor
33:15 – On marriage
39:45 – Can marriages work for NBA?
43:00 – On the perception vs reality of Christians in the NBA
53:05 – What is God teaching him right now?
“Jesus wasn’t a punk. Jesus could easily guard Barkley, hold him scoreless, and easily shake his hand after the game and smile.”
“More often than not, it’s the veterans who are longstanding believers and men of faith. On our team, it’s James Jones and Richard Jefferson. They are faithful.”
“The most difficult and most challenging thing is to develop the kind of relationship where you not only have a player’s trust, but you have his heart.”
“Kevin Ollie was the greatest evangelist that I’ve ever seen in NBA history. He was traded to more than 10 teams, but wherever he went, half of the team came with him to chapel. He influenced a lot of players and a lot of teams.”
“LeBron confessed Christ publicly early on in his career on National TV. LeBron is a believer.”
“We’re not friends or buddies but whenever I see him in the hallways, or around the arena, I always encourage him.”
“I’m a huge fan of LeBron James. When he came back, it was more than a business decision or a basketball decision, it was a calling. He HAD to come back.”
“We produce “Chapel Notes” that the players allow me to receive in the locker room before the game. I know LeBron and all of the players read these notes.”
“I have a habit, even today, with my wife of over 40 years, of full disclosure. I recite my schedule to her in the morning and let her know where I’m going to be.”
“The NBA has gotten younger and younger. I was a fool in my early 20’s and I didn’t have any money. I can only imagine what it’s like for these guys at 21, 22 and banking 90 grand this season.”
“The rate of the NBA players are no different to budge the stats in one direction or another. Marriages, staying faithful, or fathering children out of wedlock. It’s the same across the board.”
“You’re probably working across the cubicle aisle from another Christian and don’t even know it. You’re both in the C.I.A — the Christian Inactive Association.”
“On the court, they’re not choir boys but many of the players come from great families. Look at J.R. Smith. He’s so passionate and comes from a great family.”
“Jesus didn’t call us to be soft, he called us to be loving.”