Reverend Andy Riemersma grew up with a passion for basketball in Westfield, Indiana. Little did he know that one day he would be planting a church in his hometown. ONE Church officially launched in January 2022 and has seen steady growth, but being a church planter is not Rev. Riemersma’s only ministry.

Maintaining his love for basketball from high school into adulthood, Rev. Riemersma was introduced to the Pro Basketball Chaplains at NBA All-Star Weekend in Salt Lake City, Utah by a mentor where he discovered a way to blend his calling to be an evangelist with his passion for the game. He received mentoring and coaching for nearly a year by other NBA chaplains to become a chaplain for the Indiana Mad Ants, the NBA G League affiliate team of the Indiana Pacers.

Interestingly enough, Rev. Riemersma co-chaplains the Mad Ants with a former high school basketball rival. These former opponents on the hardwood have united to pioneer the first Mad Ants’ chaplaincy program. Between them, they rotate home games, providing a chapel for about 15 minutes before game time. They are also present and available to players and staff during warmups and behind the bench during games for support.

The biggest ministry opportunity, however, is the authentic relationships being built between Rev. Riemersma and the players. He is engaged in mentoring, checking up regularly on players via phone calls and providing Bible studies for them.

“We want to help these players understand that we are trying to prepare them for beyond now, for a future beyond basketball,” said Rev. Riemersma. A common challenge for many professional players is that “so much of their identity gets wrapped up in what they do, the stats, the promotion, the marketing. We want to help them recognize that their identity is found in Christ.”

Rev. Riemersma is still in his first chaplaincy season and is grateful for it. One of his post-high school goals was to play basketball at Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU), but a series of concussions ended that dream. Yet, he sees how God continues to align his passions for basketball and ministry.

“Jesus doesn’t shame our passions,” Rev. Riemersma reflected, “but he gives purpose to them.”  He recognizes that God is using this as a creative outlet to do effective ministry. “There are creative ways that God displays his glory, and God wants to show his love through it.”

One creative opportunity to display God’s glory arose in February at the NBA All-Star Weekend 2024 hosted in Indianapolis, Indiana. Kicking off the All-Star festivities is a lesser-known event, the All-Star Gospel Celebration. Began by Tomeka Holyfield over 17 years ago, the All-Star Gospel Celebration brings attention to current and former NBA players who, because of their faith in Jesus, have positively impacted their communities, as well as recognizing other persons, often local to the host city, who are engaging in God-honoring philanthropic work. Included in the evening event are gospel artists’ performances. With so much of the All-Star Weekend about the glitz and celebrity, this event points to the reality beyond the bright lights of who the Lord is.

One of Holyfield’s yearly goals is to incorporate local faith leaders. Rev. Riemersma, with his connection and investment through his Mad Ants’ chaplaincy, was invited to perform one of his newest hip hop songs, “The League,” as the evening celebration’s opening act. The song outlines his testimony while simultaneously including the names of all 30 NBA franchises. Rev. Riemersma readily acknowledged that, “As a brand-new young artist, this had to be a God door that was opened.”

Rev. Riemersma got his start in spoken word and lyric writing during his sophomore year at IWU when asked to write and perform a piece for the university’s Summit week. Since then, Rev. Riemersma has written, recorded and performed at several college campuses, churches and conferences.

When asked what kind of kingdom impact his chaplaincy and recent performance have had, Rev. Riemersma cited 2 Timothy 1:6 in explaining his role to come alongside and “fan into flame” that which God is already doing. He knows that sometimes he will be a planter, sometimes a waterer and sometimes a harvester of spiritual fruit.

Rev. Riemersma also anticipates the future of connecting people to Christ through his involvement in sports ministry and recognizes athletes have a special kind of influence: “If God wants to get your attention, he will speak to people through something they love.” In this case, it is the love of basketball that might draw people into a life changing relationship with Jesus.

Rev. Jacob Gibson is the senior pastor at LifeSpring Wesleyan Church, Richmond, Indiana, and graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University and Wesley Seminary, Marion, Indiana.