Navigating business and faith
By Mike Haynes
Amarillo and Texas Panhandle residents know D.G. Elmore as the face of the Elmore Sports Group, which plans to move the AA San Antonio Missions baseball team into Amarillo’s future $45.5 million baseball stadium in 2019.
Elmore certainly is a leader in sports business as well as heading up travel, food and other enterprises. But ballpark crowds and wheeling and dealing aren’t the only priorities for the 59-year-old
resident. He also puts great importance on one-on-one interactions where the
topic is a little more lofty.
“I came to faith in high school through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes,” he said in a July 11 interview. The spiritual growth of Elmore and his wife, Gini, grew when they got involved in couples Bible studies in college.
“We had been walking with Christ a number of years, but it was through the Navigators ministry at Indiana University that we learned how to really become practical disciples, how to walk with Jesus,” he said.
The Navigators have been around since the 1930s, when young Californian Dawson Trotman took 2 Timothy 2:2 to heart and began a ministry of teaching Christian basics to others, who would pass on the teachings in a chain of personal relationships. The international headquarters are in Colorado Springs.
Elmore said the organization complements local churches. “We come alongside people and help them grow in a one-on-one relationship which supplements what the church does,” he said. “The Navigators has zero interest in being a church.”
Locally, Mitch and Jaylene Williamson lead the Navigator ministry at West Texas A&M University. Bruce and Rosie Das, who started the WT group, still head up Navigator Bible studies in the area. Amarillo College had a group sponsored by David Ziegler until Ziegler retired from AC last year.
|D.G. Elmore speaks at a June news conference|
announcing the new Amarillo baseball team.
(Photo by Michael Schumacher/Amarillo Globe-News)
Elmore has been U.S. board chairman since 2011. He is just the fourth person in the position, having succeeded 80-year-old Jerry White, a retired Air Force major general, author and still a nationally competitive handball player.
“Our DNA is about making disciples and doing it one-on-one,” Elmore said. “It’s not events. It’s not large groups. It is meeting with people over coffee, it’s meeting with people for a meal, talking about where they’re at in their relationship with Christ.”
Fans of the new Amarillo baseball team or patrons of other events at the stadium won’t necessarily see overt displays of the Christian message, although Elmore said most of his company’s other ballparks have a “faith night” along with other special promotions.
“We’ll be looking for all sorts of entertainment to go along with baseball,” he said. “Certainly Christian acts would fall in line with that. When we had our team in Birmingham, we partnered up with an evangelist, we’d bring in a Christian band, and usually if there was a player who was a really strong follower of Christ, they would give their testimony.
“In other cases, it’s much more low key, where faith night is one night where we’re trying to get a bunch of the churches to come out and generally have a Christian band playing afterwards or before.
“Whether it’s a church group from a smaller community in the Panhandle or a larger church in Amarillo, we want every night to be one of those nights where they’re going to feel like this is a great event and a good time to be together.”
Over a baseball season, however, Elmore said the plan is for everyone to feel comfortable, whatever their beliefs. For those interested, beer will be sold at the games.
“All of minor league baseball is about family-friendly, affordable entertainment,” he said. “We want to bring that for everybody. We’re trying to create that type of environment that anybody and everybody can have a great time enjoying an evening at the ballpark.
“I think it’s going to be awesome in Amarillo and in the Panhandle.
“Our desire is to serve and care for and love our fans in the way that we believe a follower of Christ should care for a community. Whatever religion, non-religion, if they feel cared for and served, that’s fine. I think that’s how Christ really wants us to operate in society: to communicate love and care for people wherever they’re at.”
Elmore isn’t new to Texas or Amarillo. His law and master’s degrees are from Indiana University, but his bachelor’s degree is from SMU in Dallas. His freshman roommate was from Amarillo. But his base is Bloomington, Indiana, where he helped start a local group 25 years ago called Men’s Life.
“It was started before all the churches had men’s groups, before Promise Keepers,” he said. “We currently have a quarterly men’s luncheon where we bring in a guest speaker to share how their faith in Christ interacts with the world they live in, whether it’s in Congress or in business or in medicine, how that all connects.”
Elmore said Amarillo baseball fans won’t see Christian banners hanging in the new stadium. “If there are people who have zero interest in Christ, I just want them to have the aroma of Christ when they come into our ballpark,” he said. He paraphrased the advice attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Always preach Christ, and only if necessary, use words.”
“That’s how I see helping people move toward Jesus – how I love them and how I serve them – not by handing them a tract, not by hanging a cross up. I want them to say, ‘There’s something different about that guy.’”