On File

Rich Mahler III

As assistant chaplain for the NBA’s New York Knicks, and main chaplain of the Westchester Knicks, the NBA’s G (minor) League, Rich Mahler III is a spiritual mentor to athletes on and off the court. In 2006, he, along with his father Richard Mahler Jr., former Knicks Allan Houston, and the Allan Houston Legacy Foundation, founded the Xperience Outreach, an organization that brings outreach and mentorship to major sporting events. At the Westchester Knicks’ opening home game in White Plains, N.Y., Rich Mahler talked about his role as chaplain, and the ministry he wants to introduce to The Salvation Army.

What role did outreach play in your walk with Christ?
In 8th grade, I gave my life to the Lord at an inner–city basketball clinic. Pastor Willie Alfonso, who today serves as chaplain for the NBA and MLB, ran the clinic. That day, I realized my unique purpose. Even though I wondered where that purpose would lead me, I knew that, if I followed Christ, He would guide me. The first step was being blessed with mentors. These men of Christ helped me realize my spiritual goals and achieve my athletic education.

What led you to create The Xperience Outreach?
The Xperience Outreach was birthed from my own experiences with mentors in my youth. The Outreach offers programs and mentorships that reinforces positive, healthy values. We travel to sporting events such as the NBA All–Star Game, The Super Bowl, and the Kentucky Derby to share the love of Christ with young people and to enjoy a positive, grounded environment.

A combination of sports, ministry, and community outreach such as The Salvation Army is what saved me years ago. I’m a big supporter of the Army’s core values of feeding and sheltering people most in need. Athletes who value such service in the community are who we look for in outreach participants.

How does mentorship work in your life today?

A chaplain reminds the players that Jesus loves the game as much as they do. When an athlete brings God into his or her life, it brings Him glory.”
You are never too old to mentor or to be mentored. I have known Allan Houston [former New York Knicks star and Westchester Knicks General Manager] for many years. Just today, we prayed together before the Westchester Knicks’ home opener. He has been a mentor and like an older brother to me, and I’ve been blessed to return the favor. For the past five years, I have been a mentor and basketball teacher to his son. Before every basketball lesson, we have a Bible study to remember that God is at the core of our relationship and with the sport we love.

What is the role of a chaplain for a team like the Westchester Knicks?
A chaplain reminds the players that Jesus loves the game as much as they do and He wants to be part of it. It gives Jesus glory when an athlete brings Him into his or her life. Because of the Lord, that athlete can accomplish what might appear supernatural.

When a player participates in Bible study and prays with teammates and with the chaplain, it’s an invitation for God to join them on the court. They are thanking Him for blessing them with the gift of athleticism, and the opportunity to play the game.

Light shines on players when Jesus is with them. They carry themselves in a more positive way during the game, and away from it.

What do you ask God when you pray?
I pray that Christ continues to bring me clarity in life. I also pray that other people find clarity. May a spiritual fire burn inside them and create the desire to serve Him with their unique gifts, as I did.

What are the prayers of the players?
They pray for peace in their lives. We recently discussed Romans 8:28, which says, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, and who have been called according to His purpose.” The players know that they have been called by God to their roles as athletes, and seek peace in those roles.

They also pray for stronger faith. They want to have the type of faith that Matthew wrote about, even as small as a mustard seed, that can move mountains in His name. Faith is important to athletes. When they compete, they rely on it to do the unimaginable.

Finally, they ask for accountability. They ask God to be their fortress, to help them lead responsible lives, and to overcome the personal challenges of being professional athletes.

What will be your future involvement with The Salvation Army?
Allan and I are excited about introducing to the Army a program called FISLL (Faith, Integrity, Sacrifice, Leadership, and Legacy), which uses life lessons, mentorship, and coaching to focus on these tenets. These fundamentals are values everyone needs. FISLL is currently being used in schools and in sports programs, showing young people how to cultivate their faith and leave a legacy for future generations.

interview by Hugo Bravo

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