Coach of the Year

The year was 1995. I had just moved back to North Carolina after living in Nashville, TN. I was working two jobs while trying to get a record deal. One job was as a part-time Youth Pastor at a local church. The other one was as a substitute teacher and High School Men’s Tennis Coach. I loved both of those jobs.

Being that tennis helped pay my way through college, that one came quite naturally. I ended up winning the Coach of the Year Award in our Conference. I received a big plaque and a standing ovation. I was grateful and honored. But the truth is, I don’t even know where that plaque is now, my name didn’t get engraved on anything at that school, and virtually no one remembers or even knows that happened unless you are reading this right now. As great as that moment was, it wasn’t even close to the most important thing I did that year, nor what I remember most.

The guys on that team knew I was a Christian and a Youth Pastor. I never preached to them, but I did try and let my faith and the Gospel be seen as much as I could in that school setting, and within the guidelines that were set. One night after a match, after I had just gotten done parking the team bus and everyone else had gone home, two of the players came up to me and started asking me questions about my faith and Jesus. Before long, I was sharing my testimony and sharing the Gospel with them. I asked them if they wanted to trust Christ as their Savior, and right there in that gravel parking lot, after tennis and school hours, Wes and Eric prayed to receive Christ as their Savior.

I couldn’t believe what just happened! I was so excited I called one of my spiritual mentors from when I was a teenager, who just so happened to also be the Assistant Principal. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t about to get in trouble, but he assured me it was fine the way it happened. But more than that, I wanted him to share in the joy I had! I had previously had the privilege of leading others to Christ before, but only in a corporate setting at altar calls where I was preaching or singing at churches. But this was the first time I had ever done it individually out in the working world. You have to understand, I was no one significant. I had no special qualifications or the word “Reverend” in front of my name. I was just a regular dude living and loving life, trying to win tennis matches and get a record deal. But I also knew the primary reason I was on planet earth was to know God and make Him known, because I had trusted Christ as my Savior about ten years earlier. I knew what it meant for me, and I knew what it meant to a lost world that Jesus has saved us from our sin and given us His life! I was passionate about that. I’m still passionate about that to this day. I might add, social media didn’t exist then. So my social media posts didn’t invite this moment, living with people in relationship, in good and in bad, is what invited this moment.

I know there are multiple ways to share the Gospel; serving, singing, cooking meals, acts of love, even coaching tennis. But if I had not been ready to combine the proclaiming of my mouth with the work of my hands, those boys may have never heard the Gospel. 2 Timothy 4:2 says,“preach the word, be ready in season and out of season….” The word for preach in that verse means “to preach a message publicly with conviction or persuasion.”

Strangely, even though that is a biblical command for believers, approximately 81% choose to ignore it. Let me repeat…81%. Let me also repeat, the first time I did it individually, I was no preacher. I just shared my story of how Jesus saved me because I knew I couldn’t get my story wrong. You can’t get your story wrong either. And yet, most of those 81% will still claim they don’t do it because they don’t feel comfortable. But oddly, if there’s anything the social media world has revealed about us, it’s that if our convictions are strong enough, they will outweigh our comfort. Which is why some people, God love them, can’t stay out of their own way with their social media posts.

I guess I’ve just been pondering lately. I truly mean this as no offense to anyone, maybe just a challenge or a reminder. I certainly have room for improvement in my own life. I wonder what personal evangelism would look like if we got as passionate about sharing the Gospel that saved us, as we do about the things we post on social media? Not that these things don’t matter, but just personally speaking, it would be awesome if instead of getting another text that says, “Did you see what so and so posted or said on social media about the facemask, the monument, the virus, the protest, the governor, the president, etc.” if someone would send a text requesting a Bible for the person they just led to Christ, or the person they are talking to about the Gospel. Like my plaque, most of the arguments we engage in today, will be left forgotten in a box one day. But I can promise you that the Word of the Lord will stand eternal. That investment is worth the time and effort.

And to church folk who are called to represent unity and love to the world today, it may prove the Gospel better if you choose to live in relationship, rather than trying to prove why you’re right all the time.