Friday, April 04, 2008

...the ongoing legacy of a godly man in professional football

-On the Road Again-

My children mean the world to me. They are my daily delight and it is a joy to be their father.

When I travel to minister sometimes I can bring some of them with me. Such was the case about two weeks when I was ministering in Springfield, IL at the regional FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) annual banquet. My 14-year-old son Marshall accompanied me. I was privileged and honored to be ministering that evening with coach Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts. Tony is the most famous and beloved of all Superbowl winning coaches in history.

One of the things I quickly came to realize was that Tony was not a Superbowl winning coach who happened to be a Christian; he was a Christian who happened to be a Superbowl winning coach. How refreshing was this... I have been around many truly famous in my thirty years of ministry and I can say without a doubt, he was the most genuine and humble of them all.

Coach and Marshall really hit it off too. Marshall is a very outgoing young man who will ply you with questions about what you do, your life, the Lord, etc. and he also has an incredible sense of humor and whit about him. During dinner, he was asking Coach many things about his career. At one point he was surprised to learn that Tony was actually a football player as well and not just a great coach. Marshall replied, "you mean you actually played football? You don't look like an athlete." Coach Dungy broke up laughing as the red slowly faded from my face. Coach leaned over to me and asked if he could mention Marshall during his speech. I told him to have at it. IMHO, Marshall was a highlight of the banquet (1,500 strong). People were actually coming up to him afterwards and shaking hands with him and greeting him. Very cool - not a bad way for a young man to spend a spring break.

My role that evening was to sing and proclaim the gospel; Coach's role was to give his testimony. The reaction, by God's grace. couldn't have been better. We really complimented each other well, in fact, the entire banquet was an evening of praise to the Lord. Hearing the testimonies of many of the students was very powerful as well. Kevin Elliot and his entire team at FCA did a superb job in planning and putting together this event. Also a special thanks to my dear friend, Pastor Dave Cunningham, for making the arrangements for me being there.

I was told before hand that most likely over 50% of the audience did not know the Lord. This was the largest banquet in their history and I was so grateful to be a part of it.

"For me to live is Christ;
and to die is gain."
-Phil. 1:21

Coach shared that evening on the theme which I used for this post: "our goal is to be champions; but our purpose is to be Christlike."He made the point to this astute audience that people confuse those things greatly in our day. When we make our life's purpose our vocation, making money, fame, etc. and maybe don't achieve all that we thought, it can leave us in despair, disappointed, broken, depressed; resulting in even turning to things to fill up that void with things that are usually sinful to help deaden the pain of an empty heart. BUT, when our purpose in life is to honor and glorify the Lord in all things - to be like Jesus, then even if we fall short of our goals in this life we have set for ourselves, we can rests in the confidence that God is still at work being glorified; that all is good because the main thing has remained the most important thing: living daily in light of the exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Well said Tony!

May I encourage you to please be in prayer for Coach Dungy as he continues to be a witness for the Lord and His gospel to many NFL players, coaches, news media, and reporters. He is the real deal folks and a rarity in our time: first a Christian; then a professional coach. A good model we can all learn from. Amen?

I would also ask for your prayers as events like this continue to present themselves to me. The next FCA function similar to this one is tentatively scheduled for late May in Chicago at Soldier Field with Coach Lovie Smith. Prayerfully, that should also be a tremendous time to proclaim the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in song and Word.

Sheltered in the strength of His grace,

Steve and Marshall
1 Tim. 4:12


Christinewjc said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful personal story. Your son sounds like a terrific young man.

Children always know when they are greatly loved by their fathers [parents]. Such love, attention, and devotion between father and son is very evident in your relationship! It is obvious that you have been a powerful, Christlike example for your son!

From what you have shared, I can see that Marshall handles himself quite well around people. How proud you must be of him! How exciting that he was able to meet and get to know Mr. Dungy.

Seeing a man of his [Dungy's] prestige and excellent coaching ability placing the Lord Jesus Christ first in his life is one of those fabulous lessons that I'm sure your son will never forget!

Hope you don't mind if I share an email that I received after a game between the Chargers and the Colts. I found it very inspiring!

Dear Chris,

Greetings! Whether you’re into sports or not, have you noticed all the excitement throughout the city over the SD Chargers tremendous playoff victory against the Indianapolis Colts last weekend?! Outside of a citywide revival stirred by the moving of the Holy Spirit, I’ve found that nothing unites a city more than the success of its sports team.

It probably won’t make the local or national news, but prior to taking the field for the game, about 30 players gathered together in the locker room for prayer. As they gathered hands and with heads bowed in prayer, we stood on a mighty verse:

Victory Verse of the Week
“Commit whatever you do to the Lord, and He will crown your efforts with success.” Prov. 16:3

The Lord heard those prayers prior to their great win. It doesn’t always work out that way… but if only He would allow a repeat against the New England Patriots!

Other Unpublished Highlights:

Tony Dungy - Spoke with Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy before the game, and told him how much our New Venture’s Men’s Group is enjoying going through his “Quiet Strength” Men’s Bible Study Series. He was greatly encouraged.

Antonio Gates - Star Player Antonio Gates remarked to me on his way to the locker room at halftime, that after a week of “daily treatment & much praying,” he was “pushing on” and continuing to play on a dislocated toe. His smile through his grimaced look reminded me of how often our Lord carries us through, during our time of greatest need. What a God!

Jesus Christ - At game’s end, many Colts and Bolts players met together and took a knee at the 50 yard line to gather hands and give thanks for playing the game, and most important - for having the privilege of knowing our Savior Jesus Christ! He makes winners of us all.

littlegal_66 said...

Steve, I think you're incredibly blessed that you're able to include your children in so many of your ministry opportunities. I'm sure they really appreciate it now, and will even more so as they all grow into adults and look back on these trips they've taken with Dad.

I also think every parent should have the opportunity to raise at least one of those witty, inquisitive, "outgoing" children...the type who can run full-speed for 18 hours straight on a 6-hour overnight "charge" and never slow down until way after their heads hit the pillow.....the youngster who's either constantly engaged in a perpetual game of "20 Questions," or sharing tidbits of knowledge they've attained thus far in their young lives with anyone who will give them an ear. Always on. I'm blessed with one of those social butterflies as well. (They help keep us on our toes, don't they? :-))

I'll definitely be praying that these types of ministry opps will continue to come your way, and that God will be glorified in them.

And Marsh, keep on for Him!


Michele Rayburn said...

Very nice pictures! We looked at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes website and it looks like a wonderful ministry that you are a part of. We'll keep this ministry in our prayers. There appears to be many opportunities for evangelism. And you do that so well.

In His Love,

SJ Camp said...

Thank you all.

Your words have been a source of encouragement to Marshall today.

Grace and peace,
2 Cor. 4:5-7

David said...

Very cool for both of you, Steve. I'm a little late on the comment, but you should be (and I know you are) very proud of that young man.

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