The 2017 NFL season could easily be summed up in two words: Public Demonstration.
Flip the channel to ESPN this fall, and you’re bound to get one of two very different tales.
On one hand, you may see headlines and reports of free agent Colin Kaepernick, and his public demonstration of taking a knee—although it may have cost him his career.
And while this NFL season, similar to that of 2016, has been riddled with politics and opinion, there’s one very different public demonstration that has been making waves among the NFL, thanks to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The team is ranked No. 1 in the league with a 10-1 record, warranting them plenty of airtime on the sports broadcasting network. But greater than their successful wins perhaps is the team’s public demonstration of their faith.
Earlier this fall, Faithit shared the story of Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver, Marcus Johnson, who was baptized by his fellow teammates and coaches in a hotel pool prior to a Thursday night game.
— Marcus D. Johnson📢 (@Mojomdj) October 12, 2017
Leading the showcase of Bible-believing brothers is star quarterback Carson Wentz, who has vowed to play for an “Audience of One.” His proclamation was the catalyst for an impressive faith movement among the thriving NFL team.
More than just a pre-game prayer on the field, Christianity has become “the locker room’s binding force” behind Philadelphia’s cohesiveness both on-and-off the field this season.
In celebration of the team’s faith movement, the Philadelphia Eagles organization released a video on Facebook, giving fans a deeper look at what their favorite players are all about.
The eight-minute testimonial features Carson Wentz along with wide receiver Torrey Smith and safety Chris Maragos, who openly share their individual faith journeys of redemption and hope.
“I went to church often growing up, but it wasn’t until I was in my last year of college where I realized I was kind of living off of everyone else’s salvation,” Smith explained. “I wasn’t really finding out things on my own. I wasn’t diving into the Word or exploring that the way I was exploring everything else around me. That’s when I kind of realized I was living the wrong way.”
Maragos had a similar “coming to Jesus” moment in high school.
“I was on this downward spiral because the things I was trying to place in my life to give me satisfaction would last for a little bit and then they’d fade away,” he said. “That was my sophomore year of high school. I was really at a crossroad at that point and had to make a decision on where I was going. That’s when I gave my life to Christ, and he supplied that satisfaction and that joy for me.”
And while most players in the NFL spend the season in practices, watching film and preparing for the competition on Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles spend their weeks suiting up for battle.
“Every Monday night we have a couple’s Bible study. We have a Thursday night team Bible study,” Wentz shared. “And Saturday nights, we actually get together the night before the game and just kind of pray and talk through the Word and what guys have been reading, what they’re struggling with, and just kind of keep it real with each other. To have that here in an NFL facility like this, it’s really special.”
Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am as well.” The Eagles have taken the Lord at His Word, and shown the world that there is power in the name of Jesus.
“I think what we’re always challenging each other with is not to lose sight of the bigger picture,” Wentz said. “Wins, losses, highs, lows, everything that comes with this game, it’s so easy to take your mind and your eyes off the ultimate prize, and that’s living for the Lord.”
The players say they’ve been encouraged to see their teammates push each others to grow as more than just players, but as men of God.
“As men, you tend to be very sheltered. If I am going through some things, I may not express that to the next man. Only you can expose your weaknesses and the things you want to work on, whether it’s in your relationship or your marriage or your family,” Smith added. “When you’re able to talk about it amongst your brothers, amongst your family, it helps you grow. And when you realize that you can apply biblical principles to it, it helps us all grow.”
While several of the Philadelphia Eagles players have either found Christ through the love and examples set by their teammates, or simply grown in their own faith journey, Wentz makes it clear that the goal is not to convert people to Christianity, but rather to love God and love His people.
“I’m gong to be genuine, I’m going to be authentic with believers, non-believers—it doesn’t matter. I am going to love on them. I’m going to treat them all the same. I’m going to respect them,” he said. “At the same time, as the leader of the football team, I am going to lead everybody the same… I think guys are willing to talk when you don’t have this self-righteous attitude when you have that mutual respect, it just makes it a healthier environment.”
Wentz’s evangelistic approach mirrors that of Jesus.
He didn’t come to call the righteous, but the sinners (Mark 2:17).
Throughout his ministry, Jesus didn’t make it his mission for people to know Christianity. His goal was for people to know Him, and to experience the love of a savior.
The Philadelphia Eagles have taken note, and they’re doing just that.
So whether you’re sporting green and white on Sunday or not, it seems the Philadelphia Eagles is a team that we can get behind. They’re using their platform and passion to make the name of Jesus known.