By Chris Moon
Mike Gillespie was getting ready to be the public address announcer for two high school basketball games last Friday night.
It was part of a little side gig that the pastor of Marengo (Ind.) Christian Church picked up back in the 1980s—although it’s not that little anymore. Friday’s games were the 4,021st and 4,022nd games of his long career.
“It keeps me out of the bars,” Gillespie joked.
On Dec. 12, Indiana University Southeast Grenadiers athletic director Joe Glover presented a plaque to Gillespie honoring him for announcing his 4,000th sporting event, the men’s basketball team’s victory over Oakland City University.
Gillespie considers himself a picture of how God can use anyone in a wide variety of ways to impact the world for Christ.
“What some folks at times see as foolishness may really be an opportunity for service in ministry,” he said. “If we’re looking for them and we see it that way, and we have ourselves prayed up and ready, the Lord can use us anywhere we go.”
AN ITINERANT ANNOUNCER
Gillespie is a 1968 graduate of Louisville Bible College and has served 55 years as a pastor of churches in Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia. He’s currently “semi-retired,” he said, while in his third year at Marengo Christian Church in southern Indiana.
For the majority of those 55 years in ministry, Gillespie also has served as a public address announcer at multiple high schools and colleges across the country.
He has announced at sporting events at 19 different colleges and universities—from NCAA Division 1 schools to junior colleges. Among those was Milligan University, back when Gillespie was ministering in Johnson City, Tenn. Some others have included East Tennessee State University, Cincinnati Christian University, Valparaiso University, and Robert Morris University.
Gillespie also has announced games for about a dozen high schools.
He has announced basketball, baseball, softball, and football games. He recently announced his first wrestling tournament.
“It’s really been a lot of fun,” he said.
Gillespie remembers first paying attention to public address announcers when he regularly attended state high school basketball tournaments as a college student in Louisville.
Later, when his oldest son made his junior high basketball team in 1986, Gillespie told a school administrator he would like to try doing the announcing work.
“He handed me a microphone and said, ‘Give it a try,’” Gillespie recalled.
Gillespie has been at it ever since.
As he moved around with his ministry to different churches in different states, Gillespie frequently sought out opportunities to announce games.
For instance, he stopped off at a college athletic director’s office once after making a hospital call to a church member. It so happened the AD was in the office, and the college had just lost its previous public address announcer.
“I tend to think the Lord was in on that,” Gillespie said.
And he’s convinced God has used him in his announcing work.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR MINISTRY
When announcing the NAIA women’s national basketball tournament—which he did for 23 consecutive years—two players were diving for a loose ball and slammed into each other. A player was hospitalized.
It was the last game of a long day for Gillespie, but he still drove down to the hospital afterward to pray for the player.
Another time, a player’s grandmother had a heart attack in the stands. Gillespie called on her at the hospital after the game as well.
And two years ago, a player suffered a seizure during Gillespie’s announcing of the starting lineup of a men’s college basketball game. Gillespie gathered both teams together to pray for the player.
As it turned out, that player spent a week in the hospital, and Gillespie called on him every day. The two have kept in touch, and the player recently asked Gillespie to officiate his wedding next year.
“There’s ministry that can be done with athletics,” Gillespie said.
He has no plans to quit any time soon, even in his semi-retirement.
“I am somebody who just has to be doing,” he said. “That’s just what the Lord would have me to do. I’m involved as the Lord’s servant.”
Chris Moon is a pastor and writer living in Redstone, Colorado.