Basketball and a Chapel forum were combined Saturday night for a unique experience with guest speakers and former NFL/CFL athletes, Guy and John Earle, who gave their testimonies and spoke about “Think Twice Ministries.”
To receive two Chapel credits, students swiped in at 6:15 p.m., before half-time of the women’s basketball game, and swiped out at 8:45 p.m. after half-time of the men’s basketball game.
ACU Athletics and the Chapel Office have been in conversation for a couple of years about combining an athletic event with Chapel. The idea was to create a new kind of Chapel forum experience as well as boost attendance at ACU athletic games.
Mark Lewis, assistant dean for Spiritual Life and Chapel Programs, said, “This wasn’t something that was thrown together last minute, it was very purposefully thought through.”
In order for the event to be considered a Chapel forum, a spiritual aspect had to be present. The idea was formulated to bring in a speaker to talk during the halftime of both basketball games Saturday night.
“We started networking to figure out who would be good to come into the context of a basketball game at half time and be able to talk,” Lewis said.
John Houser, assistant athletic director, knew of the Earle brothers. He contacted them in December and they accepted the opportunity to speak at the event.
The Earle brothers were professional athletes in both the NFL and CFL during the 1990s. John Earle was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals (1992) and went on to play for the Kansas City Chiefs (1992), New England Patriots (1993), Baltimore Stallions (CFL, 1994-95) and the St. Louis Rams (1996). Guy Earle came out a year later and played for the Washington Redskins (1993-94), Baltimore Stallions (CFL, 1994-95), Houston Oilers (1996) and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (CFL, 1996-97).
Guy and John Earle shared their experience of being a part of the NFL and CFL, and how their faith in God brought them through the good and bad times including multiple broken bone injures along the way.
However, Guy and John Earle did not consider themselves as having a relationship with Christ until they finally decided to follow Him during their careers as professional football players. They grew up in the Catholic Church and thought they had Jesus, but realized what they had was just religion. John came to Christ on March 21, 1991 and Guy came to Christ on January 10, 1995.
Guy talked about the challenges he faced with his faith in the beginning of his professional career.
“Nowadays people are a little more outspoken about their faith. But sometimes people associate faith with meekness, and meekness doesn’t mean weakness. It just means how you go about handling business. Really, humility,” Guy Earle said. “So some of the challenges early on was being able to be outspoken, but also living in and competing in a field where you have a lot of money and people are showering you with praise. That’s hard for a person because a lot of pride sets in because of the pats on the back and always hearing how good you are.”
John Earle said, “A good friend of mine once put it this way, ‘The bigger the level, the tougher the devil.’”
Guy shared how some of his fellow players for the Washington Redskins encouraged him in his walk with Christ.
“There was a couple of guys when I played with the Washington Redskins that really lived out their faith and encouraged me to live out my faith when I became a believer. I didn’t become a believer until my second year in the NFL. But there were two guys. Darrell Green will probably go down in history as one of the best defensive cornerbacks of all time, just a great player, and he was very outspoken about his faith. Not loud, but people knew that he loved Jesus. And then there was Tim Johnson who was a defensive tackle, him and Charles Mann who was a defensive end really spoke to my heart. In fact one day I was wearing a Christian t-shirt in the locker room and I will never forget, Charles Mann came up to me and said, ‘Do you live the t-shirt?’ And I realized at that moment sometimes we wear these Christian t-shirts, and we put things like a Christian bracelet on and think that it makes us a Christian. I don’t wear a t-shirt, I live a t-shirt. And I live a faith that Christ touched my life. So that is what he challenged me with.“
John Earle also realized being in a community of believers within a professional athletic career helped his own walk with Christ.
“You have to be able to surround yourself by people with good character, you’ve got to surround yourself with individuals that walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk,” John Earle said.
Both Guy and John Earle have also been encouraged by fellow athlete O.J. Brigance, who played for the Baltimore Ravens. Brigance was Guy’s prayer partner, and they spent most mornings in prayer for one another. They realized a greater purpose than merely winning games. Their purpose was to live out their faith.
Brigance was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) in 2007, which confined him to a wheelchair and took away his ability to speak.
“Seeing him continue to live out his faith is an encouragement to my brother and I today,” Guy Earle said. “We do what we do today because of people like O.J. who prayed with us. He continues to live out his faith and doesn’t let his circumstances get the best of him.”
The encouragement the Earle Brothers have received from their families and people like O.J. Brigance, Darrell Green, Charles Mann and Tim Johnson is what drove them to “think twice.”
In 1997 both Guy and John hung up their jerseys and went into full time ministry. They had worked through other ministries such as Team Impact, Power Team, FCA and Sports World Ministries, but five years ago they decided to do something a little different. They decided to start their own ministry called “Think Twice Ministries.”
“Think Twice Ministries” challenges everyone to “think twice” about where they are in any stage of life if it doesn’t incorporate God.
“If someone wants to be an athlete, go and be the best athlete you can be and strive for what you want. But realize in the end if it doesn’t reveal the glory of God then maybe that is not what you should be doing,” Guy Earle said.
This is the message they brought to ACU Saturday night. Their careers shaped the message they have told to many.
Guy and John now average about 70 speaking engagements a year, and they stand in front of between 20,000-25,000 people. They have reached over 50,000 people who have come to know Jesus Christ either directly or indirectly through the ministry of the gospel.
“We want people to share our passion,” John Earle said. “If you have a passion for anything you do, you are going to find success. But most importantly, if you have a passion for Jesus Christ, people will see that in you and people will remember the words that you share and will see passion. And that’s what we want them to do, we want them to see passion.”
John Earle is a student pastor at First Baptist in Colleyville and Guy Earle is the executive pastor at Grace Point in Denton.
“It’s not us,” Guy Earle said.“God has just given us a platform and we just want to be a vessel, a mouth piece. We don’t have the ability, we just make ourselves available.”
Many students got the special privilege of hearing Guy and John Earle speak Saturday night, because the student attendance was almost double of what it is usually at a normal basketball game.
Evan Webb, junior business management major from Houston was able to attend Saturday night.
“Unfortunately, a lot of the time Jesus and sports do not go well together. However, incorporating two former NFL athletes into a sporting event, and chapel, to give their testimony was very interesting. I thought it was a great idea,” Webb said.
Mark Lewis said,“I think it’s just a real neat experience to see this opportunity. We have a close working relationship with athletics anyway because we share the same facility. This reflects that.”
Lewis will gather the students responses to the event from the end of semester chapel survey. If the majority of students display a positive response, Lewis anticipates that there will be more of these unique chapel forums in the future.
“Different venues have different challenges,” Lewis said. “I think in an athletic event, to have someone get up and give a 10 minute lecture about the book of Acts would be kind of awkward. But the context of having an athlete who is very overt in their faith getting up, seemed to be a good mix at least for tonight, and that’s part of what we will look for in the future as well.”
In light of the tragedy that struck ACU Friday night, John Earle left the ACU community with words of hope and encouragement.
“My dad shared with me the most important words; ‘Jesus loves you, he will never leave you nor forsake you.’ To the hurting community, and to the hurting classmates and especially to the families who have to deal with this, when you can’t make any sense out of things that happen in this world, the only thing that makes sense is Jesus and our hope that we have in Him. Cling to it.”
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