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What I Learned from Duke

For seven years I had an office in the Duke University Chapel.  As a staff member with InterVarsity I was an official part of the University Ministry.  I am still close friends with students I met in those days.   Some of my best friends now work for Duke.  Duke Divinity School is providing some of our best and brightest ministry talent in the Gathering Church.  And I just spent fifty dollars getting a library card at the Div School.

But, no one would ever confuse me with a Duke basketball fan.  The only game I’ve seen in Cameron was Gene Banks’ senior game when Duke beat the UNC team that had Michael Jordan, James Worthy and Sam Perkins.

But, I have to admit that I have learned a significant spiritual lesson from the Blue Devils:  it’s all about intensity. 

What a great national championship for Duke.  They totally exceeded expectations this year.  Of the four number one seeds in the tourney, they were the least likely to take the crown.

And, here’s what I have noticed over the years I have rooted against Coach K.  No one teaches passion, effort and intensity better than he does.  (Perhaps Butler’s coach, Brad Stevens is on his way to that.)  The two places you see intensity are in defense and rebounding.  Hustle is what helps you win those battles.  No one would say that Duke and Butler were the most talented teams in the tournament.  Some even complained that it was like retro basketball watching those teams play.  But, hustle can almost always beat talent.

So, the spiritual lesson?

The resurrection of Christ brings a level of intensity that was obvious in the first disciples, the early church, and people like the apostle Paul.  Next Sunday I will be teaching from 2 Corinthians 5:11-21, an incredible passage that identifies the new realities of the Gospel – like people becoming new creations, and people being compelled by the love of Christ to join in God’s work of reconciliation. 

How do we live with the right kind of intensity?  It’s so easy to get stressed out, be too intense about the wrong things.  How do we live a life compelled by the love of Christ? 

What helps you live with the kind of intensity that really matters?

What drains your intensity?

When do you feel most engaged with God's mission in the world?


  1. Betsy Rorie Leonard says:

    Hi Mark- I talked to Gregg Sykes last night for about 2 hours on the phone! It was great catching up and we really enjoyed laughing and talking about our days as teenagers and growing up at Carmel Baptist Church. Looking back, those years played such a big part in my development as a Christian and the things that I learned from that church, my parents and the Youth Group at Carmel are still so much a part of who I am…I am so blessed to have parents and friends from so long ago to lead and guide me all these years. Just wanted to say hello and hope you and Libby are doing well. I hope we’re having a 40th reunion for our class from South. You’d better be there! I’ll keep you posted. I love reading about your church. Love- Betsy