Some preachers are known for their fiery sermons. Others, like Pastor Chris Bruce, are known – at least in some circles – for their skills on the ice.
Bruce, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lexington, is a 36-year-old father of three daughters, and an avid reader who enjoys the outdoors. But a couple of times a month, he also is a sought-after goaltender in pick-up hockey games at a rink in Cedar Park, north of Austin.
“I love spending time intentionally sharing the gospel in different environments, but 98 percent of the time here in Lexington, I’m with professing Christians,” Bruce said.
Bruce grew up in Allen—a North Texas suburban community better known for its top-ranked high school football team than for hockey.
“Nobody in my family was a big hockey fan,” he said. “But when the Dallas Stars moved to the Metroplex, my dad on a whim took me to a hockey game. I immediately was drawn to it.”
Bruce—who acknowledges Disney’s The Mighty Ducks movies and animated TV series also sparked his interest—began playing driveway hockey on rollerblades before he graduated to House League Hockey.
He took an extended break from playing hockey when he moved to Abilene, earning his undergraduate degree from Hardin-Simmons University and his Master of Divinity degree from Logsdon Theological Seminary. He also served University Baptist Church in Abilene, first as pastor to youth.
“There’s no ice in Abilene, so for about seven years, I hung up my skates,” he said.
When First Baptist Church in Lexington called him as pastor in 2013, he thought his hockey playing days were behind him.
However, during his last semester working on a Doctor of Ministry degree at Baylor h and then pastor to college students.
University’s Truett Theological Seminary, he went to Cedar Park to watch the Texas Stars—the minor league affiliate of the Dallas Stars.
That game rekindled his interest in hockey, and he celebrated the completion of his doctorate by buying new hockey gear and making plans to begin playing amateur hockey in Cedar Park.
“Then the pandemic hit, and everything shut down,” he said.
Once the rink reopened, he began joining pick-up games two or three times a month.
While Lexington is more a football town than a hotbed of hockey enthusiasts, Bruce has generated some interest in the sport among members of his church and their friends.
“We took 40 people from the community to a Texas Stars game,” he said.
Bruce appreciates the variety of skill levels among those who participate in the pick-up games in Cedar Park.
“Some played in college. There are even some former minor league players. And then there are some who are doing well just getting their skates under them,” he said.
Austin-area hockey players tend to be “a tight-knit group,” and Bruce typically sees many of the same men from one week to the next. Slowly but surely, he believes he is building relationships that can provide opportunities to share his faith.
Along the way, he looks for opportunities to plant a few gospel seeds, subtly encouraging teammates to think about spiritual issues.
One time, he wore a shirt from a mission trip to Haiti that displayed a Creole phrase. When a teammate asked him what it meant, Bruce told him: “It means, ‘Jesus is my friend.’ What do you think about that?’”
“There’s no indication he’s a believer,” Bruce said. “But it’s the beginning of a conversation.”
Source: Baptist Standard