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It might still seem strange for diehard baseball fans to see Lance Berkman in a St. Louis Cardinals uniform. After all, he spent the previous 11 and a half seasons (Berkman played the second half of 2010 with the Yankees) as a core member of the Houston Astros.
But no matter where Berkman is playing, there’s one thing of which fans can be certain. The six-time All-Star is passionate about winning, but he’s even more passionate about sharing his faith. Here’s what Berkman told me about his spiritual journey, his love of the Bible and how living for God and competing hard are one and the same:
Bonham: Tell me about your spiritual journey.
Berkman: I was raised in church by Christian parents and I was baptized when I was 11 years old. But I didn’t really have a good understanding of what the Gospel was really all about until college. It’s a time when you’re getting out from your parents’ supervision and you’re starting to think for yourself maybe for the first time. That was the case with me. That’s when my faith became my own. The Lord used a lot of people to bring me to that point. One of them was my brother-in-law Jake Baker and the other was my wife Cara when we were dating. She continues to help me grow spiritually. So it really began my sophomore year at Rice (University) and it’s a work in progress to this day.
Lance Berkman (Photo by Tony Firriolo/MLB Photos via Getty Images; Courtesy MLB)
Bonham: What’s your favorite Bible verse?
Berkman: John 15:5. It’s my favorite because a lot of people who will say, “Well, I’m a good person.” There’s a theology out there that says if the good you do outweighs the bad that you do, that means you’re a good person therefore you’re in good standing with God. That verse really hits home for me because anything we do that’s good apart from the power and the name of Jesus Christ, not that it doesn’t count, but from a spiritual standpoint, it’s not edifying. It’s not worth much. The only way that we can truly have a purpose and an enriching life experience is to do all things in Christ and through the power of Christ. What happens when we’re all about doing good works and we’re doing that outside of the power of Christ is that we end up getting the glory and the whole point of this deal is that God gets the glory. That verse beautifully illustrates that point.
Bonham: How important is it for you to use your influence as a clubhouse leader to share your faith?
Berkman: It’s extremely important. I don’t think you can overstate the importance of using your platform or using the position that you’ve been given to affect good in every circumstance that you’re in. Obviously, the only reason I’m where I am is because God has gifted me and He has seen fit to put me where I am. I have to honor that by using my influence and my status on the team and in the game of baseball for good and to His purpose.
Bonham: How do you go about making a difference in the lives of your teammates?
Berkman: The key to dealing with people in general is that they have to know that you care about them. You have to deal with people in gentleness. You have to come along side of them. You can’t push them. You can’t pull them. You have to walk with them. In order to do that, you’ve got to demonstrate care for that individual. That’s my whole thing. I want my teammates to know that I care about them personally. I care about what happens with them on and off the field. When you are in that position, you earn the right to speak into their lives. I try to let guys know that I do care about them and consequently I think they’ll listen to me when I have something to say.
Bonham: How encouraging is it to know that there are several players in the league who are also strong believers?
Berkman: You certainly know the guys on the other teams that share your values and beliefs. There is sort of a loose fraternity. At the same time, I know that every time I’m up there against Jake Peavy, I know he’s trying to strike me out just as hard as I’m trying to take him deep. The good thing about being a Christian is that you have that perspective. Then you can really have fun. Then it’s a fun competition. After it’s over with, it’s over. That’s actually a benefit to have some Christian guys competing because they understand that there’s more than just the outcome to the confrontation that’s important.
Bonham: How do you use your platform as a leader in the clubhouse to speak into the lives of other players?
Berkman: The key to dealing with people in general is that they have to know that you care about them. You have to deal with people in gentleness. You have to come along side of them. You can’t push them. You can’t pull them. You have to walk with them. In order to do that, you’ve got to demonstrate care for that individual. That’s my whole thing. I want my teammates to know that I care about them personally. I care about what happens with them on and off the field. When you are in that position, you earn the right to speak into their lives. I try to let guys know that I do care about them and consequently I think they’ll listen to me when I have something to say. One thing I do enjoy as a guy who’s been around for a while, I see these younger guys coming in and I always like to help them if I can and give them advice. It is difficult. Having been through it, I can reach out to those young guys and make sure that everything is good with them.