“Turning 50, I ran squarely into this epiphany:‘What can I do to make sure that the people I know have heard the Gospel at least once?’”
God has been really good to me. I had the unique privilege of being an NBA public address announcer at about a thousand games — two seasons with the Detroit Pistons and nineteen with the Seattle Sonics. We met hundreds of athletes and their wives, making lasting friendships. In spite of their very public and seemingly desirable lives, they have pressures, temptations and demands on them which often lead to painful financial and relationship results.
I learned to patiently have no expectations, ask for no favors and avoid talking sports with them, being a friend rather than a fan. The spiritual temperature of a team depends in large measure on having one or more committed followers of Christ in each locker room. With all the temptations of playing on the road, of intimidating and exasperating moments during the heat of a game, a believer needs to rely heavily on the Holy Spirit to keep his cool and guard his conduct and language. They understand that God has given them visibility so they can have spiritual impact.
From childhood I knew about my sin and God’s love and forgiveness, and the crucial importance to choose eternal life with God over spending eternity without Him. At first I engaged in “discussions” with non-believers, often turning sadly into arguments. That was neither fun nor fruitful. I don’t recall getting any instruction in “soul-winning” until Liz and I began attending Pro Athletes Outreach conferences in my early forties. Before that I had prayed with several friends and colleagues who surrendered their lives to Jesus, but PAO provided real experience by taking us to prisons a few times each year where we spoke and prayed with the inmates, leading many to Christ. PAO featured outstanding Christian speakers who taught Liz, our children and me about how to honor each other, how to handle finances according to biblical principles, and how as board members to support the leaders in shaping the organization’s direction.
Knowing now that my workplace is my mission field, I would ask God to steer me to where I could best use the abilities He’s given me. I would seek wise counsel from veterans in my field and apply for jobs where I could learn my trade from successful professionals. Once hired, I would give 110% to serving people, trusting God to open doors for witnessing and advancement. I found that God wants me to be concerned more about serving people than seeking prestige.
The Lord launched Liz and me into this outreach in 1990. We began by inviting our clients and media associates to attend a downtown luncheon sponsored three times a year by CBMC (Christian Business Men’s Committee). We were amazed that 30-40 accepted our invitation each time. The speakers told how Christ had given them new life, and they invited the men and women there to surrender their lives to Jesus. Many did, and it was thrilling to behold! We left CBMC’s launch pad to zero in on just men, knowing that they’d be more transparent if no women were present in the room. Some 1,500 or so have come to these lunches over the years. It’s exciting to see the men grow in their life with God, to have them bring their friends and begin introducing them to the Lord. All of this is still a huge miracle in Liz’s and my eyes. God amazes us every day!
Speaking of the influence a mentor had on his life, a friend told me, “I don’t recall much of what he actually said to me, but I clearly remember how he made me feel when I was with him.” Above all else, I desire to have my children and grandchildren know that God doesn’t love anyone more than He loves them …. and that I love them unconditionally, that I always have time for them, that being thankful to God for everything is the key to handling the highs and lows that He allows us to experience, that hiding God’s Word in your heart, listening for His voice and spending time with fellow believers is absolutely vital. And I realize that the way I model this for them, especially in the way I love their mother and grandmother is far more effective than telling them how to live. The “abundant life” God offers us in Christ is both taught and caught.
It’s so freeing, so empowering to know from the Scriptures that because of Christ’s death and resurrection God has totally forgiven me of all my sin, that He will never remember them or condemn me for them, that He wants only the very best for me, that nothing can ever come between me and His love, that I can always crawl up on His lap, even at my advanced age, and call him “Abba” (Daddy). When I recall all the times that Liz and I would fly across the country to see her parents, I always remember how my late father-in-law would always welcome me, beaming from ear to ear. This all-man would invariably shout, “Heyyyyyyyy, Georgie!” It’s funny, but that’s how I envision my heavenly Father, smiling and saying, “Heyyyyyyy, Georgie!” I must be the apple of His eye; just look at the price He paid to welcome me into His forever family.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”