The Experience Jesus Calling

PODCAST

Kurt Warner and CBS’ James Brown: Living by God’s Playbook

Jesus Calling podcast #163: Kurt Warner and CBS’ James Brown: Living by God’s Playbook

Kurt Warner: I was fortunate to have a lot of success in the game, but the biggest part of things is how many people can associate with my story and the fact that life doesn’t always play out as you want it to, and sometimes there are struggles and perseverance that you have to have along the way to ultimately accomplish your goals. So through all those ups and downs, I finally got that second chance in the league and was fortunate to turn it into a pretty good career and finish it up just a couple of years ago by being selected for the Hall of Fame.


Kurt Warner and CBS’ James Brown: Living by God’s Playbook – Episode #163

Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Today we talk with two men who followed their dreams in the world of sports, and how God guided them in His timing to exactly where they needed to be to fulfill His purposes: Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner, and CBS Sports personality James Brown

NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner as featured on the Jesus Calling podcast

Kurt Warner’s dream of playing in the NFL didn’t come as soon as he expected. A series of twists and turns left him wondering if he would ever achieve his goals. When he finally did see his dream come to light, he was able to look back and see how God was preparing him not only athletically, but spiritually as well. 

Kurt: What a lot of people recognize about me is not so much what I did on the field, but the kind of journey that got me there. A guy that had the dream, like most kids, to play in the National Football League and be a superstar and all that stuff, but got a little sidetracked in college. Sat on the bench for four years in college, got cut from my first NFL team, found myself working in a grocery store before trying to get back into football. [I was] playing arena football in Europe, got my second chance in the league at twenty-eight years old.


Seeing Life from “A Completely Different Perspective”

I grew up in Iowa, I’m a Midwest kid: small, little town, small home, didn’t have a whole lot. But there were a lot of things that built my foundation, growing up the way that I did. I grew up in a single-parent household—my parents divorced when I was very young. I have a relationship with both Mom and Dad, but was raised by my mom and [with] one brother. We were very close, we had a great relationship. Faith was a part of my life, even though it wasn’t necessarily the thing that drove me. I was more driven by sports than I was by faith growing up. 

[My faith] really took shape when I met the woman who would eventually be my wife. She was very grounded in her faith. Me being an athlete, I was obviously trying to play college football. Things weren’t going well, I was sitting on the bench. And really [I was] at a time in my life when I was very frustrated because things weren’t playing out the way that I wanted them to. 

My roommate was a big country music fan, and so he drug me out to a country bar and said, “Okay, we’re gonna get out, we’re going to get away from all this stuff that’s holding you down, and we’re just going to live life and see where it takes us.” And [we were] at that country bar, doing what they call a barn dance, which a lot of people don’t know what that is. You do this dance 10–15 seconds with one girl, and then you rotate to the next girl, and you go around the circle. It’s an all-inclusive kind of dancing with everybody [involved]. And [my now-wife and I] ended up finishing the barn dance together, and we started a conversation. We ended up dancing the rest of the night and that’s how the relationship started. 

And so, I went over there actually the next day, she was friends with someone that was a friend of someone close to me. I went over to her house and I met her kids, and we’ve always joked that I fell in love with the kids first. And that was the coolest thing. 

I got a chance to meet her in her life, as opposed to going out to a bar [and meeting someone there]. I think there was something unique and special about those moments when I got a chance to see her as a mom, and I got a chance to see her as Brenda. [There weren’t] any preconceived ideas about a divorced mother of two, but [it was more like] let me get to know who you are, let me get to know your kids, and let me get to know what this relationship would look like if we were to continue it. 

And as I said, the further I went into [the relationship], the more intrigued I was, the more enthralled I was with who she was, the life that she had lived, what she had overcome, and the strength that she projected. I fell in love with the kids, especially Zachary, who was three and a half at the time and [who had] suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was four months old, so he was legally blind. I was able to build a relationship with him and the beautiful part of that is that he doesn’t see you, he doesn’t know anything about you, all he knows is how you treat him and what that relationship is like.

It just allowed me to see life from a completely different perspective. And that, to me, was one of the greatest times of my life. Even though you might look on the outside and [think] “Well, things weren’t all going in your favor.” 

NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner and his wife as featured on the Jesus Calling podcast

I think [Brenda] came to realize that the best way to get me to look internally at where my faith was and where my relationship was was to challenge me. She would challenge me often. [She] would say, “Okay, you believe that. [But] where does it say that in the Bible?” Or, “Open up your Bible and tell me where the crux of what you believe and what you think faith is all about [is located].”

It was at that point in time, I was probably twenty-five or twenty-six years old, with the challenging of my wife and my friends—my wife’s parents were actually killed in a tornado. There were a lot of things going on around me, and through that sequence of events I watched my wife. She’d always talked about this relationship, and in the midst of one of the most devastating incidents in her life, I watched her wade her way through it, and [I watched her] get angry, but never to the point where she turned away from God. It was amazing because it was like she was having a relationship with God very similar to the relationship I had with her. I never really saw God in that way before. 

I looked at God as kind of a spare tire. He was in the back of the car and you never really think about Him until you need Him. And then you need Him, and it’s, Can you get me out of this jam? Can you help me with this? This is my dream. Can you make this happen? [I thought about God] like a genie, I could rub the bottle, and He would answer whatever wish that I had. And then He would go back in and I’d go live my life until I needed Him again. 

And so, it was through all these incidents, and during that period of time, when I came to really see and understand that my life was about what God wanted me to do and not the opposite. It wasn’t, I’m going to live my life and then God’s here to help me do what I wanted to do, but it was about having a relationship, talking every day, and being able to be open with your feelings. I’d never really seen things that way before, so it opened my eyes to a new place. 


“Why did You choose me for this story?”

NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner's Panthers photo (as featured on Jesus Calling podcast)

There was a lot of deliberation between both of us on what the future [would] look like. There were times that I thought, Man, is it time to give this up and get a real job? And there were times that I think [Brenda] was wondering the same thing, Is this going to be able to sustain us? How long can this last—you playing arena football and bouncing around? 

I went to Europe, shortly after we were married, for three months to try to fulfill my dream and [we had] a lot of conversations about what the future was going to look like. Never at any point did she discourage me from chasing my dream. We had to wrestle with that a lot, and the good thing was that she was willing to do it, and we were willing to make it work, if I really felt like it was the way that I needed to go, or that I could still chase that dream, or if I had to try a little bit longer. I guess we’re fortunate that it was a couple of years after we were married when I got my second chance in the NFL, so we didn’t have to wait long. 

Our faith played a huge part in being able to wrestle with some of those tough issues, and believe in one another, and believe in where we were, and that no matter which way we chose: a.) God would be with us and b.) we would find a way to make it work between us. 

When I finally did get to the NFL, I was so grounded in who I was, what I believed in, what I wanted to accomplish, and what this platform of the NFL was all about. When I was 21, 22, I wanted people to wear my jerseys, I wanted my face to be on TV, and I wanted to make a lot of money. All that worldly stuff is all I was chasing after.

“When I finally did get to the NFL, it was so much bigger than [people wearing my jersey]. It was, ‘How can I use this to inspire and impact other people?'” – Kurt Warner

When I did finally get there, it was so much bigger than that. It was, How can I use this to inspire and impact other people? How can I use this to impact people for Jesus and have a lasting impact on the lives and hearts of people? 

It’s amazing, the Bible tells us that “God works all things together for the good of those who are called according to His purpose.” I remember thinking that, Well, this sounds really good, but what the heck does that mean as you’re going through all these trials, struggles, and speed bumps in life? And it’s amazing that often I don’t think we understand that verse until we’re five years removed, or we’re ten years removed, and we can look back and go Aha! Now I see what God was doing there, and now I see how He worked that together for good.

I can’t tell you how many times I’d sit back and think Why me? Why couldn’t I have been the top draft pick? Why couldn’t it have been easy for me? Why did I have to go through all these hoops and go through all these struggles to get to that point? And I look back now and I ask the same question: Why me, God? Why did you choose me for this story that no one else will ever have? [I have] this unique story that has a chance to impact more people because of the journey [itself] than anything accomplished on the field.

“[I have] this unique story that has a chance to impact more people because of the journey [itself] than anything accomplished on the field.” – Kurt Warner


“Thank Me for the very things that are troubling you.”

NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner and his wife and family as featured on the Jesus Calling podcast

I think so often, even when we’re doing devotionals, and even when we’re trying to connect to God, He just seems so far away. We’re trying to [shed] light on Him, or bring a voice to Him, through the words of other people. 

And that’s actually how I heard about Jesus Calling for the first time, is that somebody sent me a copy of it and said “Hey, check this out. This is a devotional that’s a little bit different than probably what you’ve used up to this point. Give it a shot.” And, you know, that’s been a huge blessing in all of this. It’s gone a long way in helping me with my faith journey, as I’ve been challenged by different things, and encouraged by different things. That’s the crazy thing, there are so many things that connect to you.

I marked the Jesus Calling passage on my birthday, June 22nd. I’m just going to read a little bit of this, because [the devotional date is] my birthday and it spoke to me. It starts out by saying:

“Thank Me for the very things that are troubling you.”

 I think that that first line, when you look back at my journey, going through all these trials and struggles, and I’m just going, God, why am I going through all these things? It was much later when I came to the point [that I thought] Hey, God, thanks for all those things. Thanks for all those troubles, trials, and struggles that I went through, because it really shaped who I was and shaped my journey. 

[The passage] says,

“Thank Me for the very things that are troubling you. Thankfulness awakens you to My presence which overshadows all your problems.”

To me, it hits home, because [the passage is on] my birthday—but it’s also my journey. And I think it’s so many of our journeys, we’d like to think that life is going to be perfect, that everything is going to work out in our favor and that everything’s gonna be roses when we commit our life to Jesus and we try to walk by faith. But I think what life tells us is that there’s a lot of things going on in this world, and there’s a lot of people and forces working against what we’re trying to accomplish. There are going to be struggles and there are going to be trials, and it’s amazing to step back and think, God, I don’t know what you’re doing in the midst of this trial, but thank you for it, because I know in this you are going to do something that’s unique and special, whether it’s for me personally, or whether it’s part of a big picture. 

I know my wife went through these same sorts of feelings when her three-month-old son suffered a traumatic brain injury. And here she is, looking at this child, and thinking, Are you kidding me? This child was perfect, and I had these huge dreams, and now all of that’s changed, and I don’t know how to raise a child with disabilities. I don’t know what his future is, I don’t know how to dream and pray

And I think it’s so easy to get angry and go, God, why? Why this? Why me? Why him? Here we are, 30 years later—he just turned 30 a couple weeks ago. It was His inspiration that not only has created the people that we are within our family, but has allowed us to be able to create Treasure House, and create a new model, and to impact the lives of other families that have children with disabilities. And it’s so easy to get mad and turn away from God, when somehow, some way, in the midst of it, just as it says here, it can feel awkward and contrived of like—How in the world can I sit here and thank God for my child that’s been injured? 

And oftentimes, I don’t think it’s always God’s will that some of those things happen in our lives, but I do believe that God can work it together for good. I think a huge part of this entire journey was developing that relationship with Zack, and seeing the impact that Zack had on our family and on the people around him.


“Let’s see what you can do.”

[Zack] always wanted to drive. I can remember when I first met him, he had Matchbox cars. For some reason, he fell in love with cars. He asked me from a very young age “When can I get my license? I want to grow up to be a black truck driver!” He wanted to drive a black truck for the rest of his life—that was his goal and his dream. 

And as a father, knowing that he’s legally blind and there’s really nothing that we can do about that, to sit there and want to encourage your kids, wanting to give them hope that they can fulfill their dreams and yet knowing he’s probably never going to be able to drive. Yet, I watched him start with a Matchbox car, and then he elevated to one of those little battery-operated cars that you use on your driveway that go two miles per hour. And then we were able to buy a riding lawn mower from John Deere and [I] remember him wanting to go out there and mow the lawn with me so [that] he could sit on my lap and pretend like he was driving the John Deere tractor. 

One time, we were out mowing the lawn, we’d finished and I was ready to go inside and grab something cold to drink and [Zack said] “Dad, can I just stay out here and sit on the tractor?” And I’m like, “Yeah, no problem.” We had this little roundabout in our driveway at the time, and I said “I’ll tell you what, Zack—I’m gonna go get something to drink. And you can drive this tractor around this little circle here. Don’t take it out into the woods or anything, just stay in this little circle.” 

And here he is for the first time, all by himself, driving this little tractor with a smile on his face and [I realized that] we wanted to put all these limitations on him and [determine] what he can’t do. And everybody wants to say, “This is what you can’t do.” Instead, let’s see what you can do. Let’s see what the limits are. Let’s see the kind of impact that you can have regardless of how you might be different, regardless of what disabilities you may have. Let’s see that. 

And so, it was incidents like that throughout my life and relationship with Zack that just kept inspiring me. I think in my journey, when everybody was telling me “you can’t,” “you won’t,” or “you’ll never get there,” [I wanted] to go “Well, let me just show you what I’m capable of. Quit looking at the fact that I worked in a grocery store or that I got cut. I’m 27 years old. Why don’t you look at what I can do?” And that was the kind of relationship that [Zack and I] had and it continued to progress as he accomplished one thing after another, and he graduated from high school. 

At that time, we went on this quest to create a community living facility for young men and women with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We wanted them to be around their peer group, and we wanted them to be pushed to their limits, and we wanted them to be able to share their gifts and talents, not only with those that were residents of Treasure House, but with the community as a whole. 

NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner and his wife founded Treasure House organization, which is highlighted on the Jesus Calling podcast

It’s been a long process, but about six or seven months ago, we opened our first Treasure House. Zack was the first resident of that facility, and now we’re up to 10 or 11 residents with another 8 to 10 on the docket within the year. And it has just been incredible to watch all these young men and women come together, to be able to create an environment with peers and to have social interaction on a daily basis, and then to watch them go out into the community and impact the community.

Now, I’ll always be thankful when things go against me. Every time something goes against us, the first thing we want to do is scream out to God, or blame God, or blame someone else. And [now I] have that constant reminder: Hold on, we’ve been here before. And you’ve seen how God has taken something that you think is horrific and [He has] made it into something unique, special, and impactful.

“Every time something goes against us, the first thing we want to do is scream out to God, or blame God, or blame someone else. And [now I] have that constant reminder: Hold on, we’ve been here before. And you’ve seen how God has taken something that you think is horrific and [He has] made it into something unique, special, and impactful.” – Kurt Warner

NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner's Regis photo (as featured on Jesus Calling podcast)

God was preparing me as a football player. God was preparing me as a Christian. He was preparing me as a husband, as a father. He was preparing me to be able to handle all the stuff that would come my way—the big contracts, the notoriety. How do you handle that without slipping and falling and messing up your platform? Or more importantly, messing up the platform that you’ve created to be able to share Jesus with people. 

So often now, I look back and think, Gosh, thank you for it. [Thank you] for giving me the journey that I have, because no one else will ever have that journey again.

Narrator: You can learn more about Kurt and his wife Brenda’s organization to help men and women with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Treasure House, by visiting Treasurehouse.org

Stay with us for our next interview, featuring the host of CBS’s The NFL Today James Brown after this brief message about the Jesus Calling Weekly Prayer Call.


Jesus Calling podcast_Jesus Calling weekly prayer callDid you know that Sarah Young, the author of Jesus Calling, prays for her readers each day? In that spirit, we want to extend the Jesus Calling prayer community out to you in a more personal way. Each Tuesday morning, you can dial in to the Jesus Calling weekly prayer call, where the team from Jesus Calling and special guests will minister to us during a ten-minute call to reflect on that day’s passage from Jesus Calling, read scripture references, and pray together for each other and our world. Prayer call times are 8:00 a.m. Eastern, 7:00 a.m. Central, 6:00 a.m. Mountain, and 5:00 a.m. Pacific and are for U.S. only

For more information on the Jesus Calling weekly prayer call, or to submit prayer requests, please visit jesuscalling.com/prayer-call. Again, to join us in this community of prayer every Tuesday morning, please visit jesuscalling.com/prayer-call.



Narrator: James Brown is a minister and an American sportscaster known for being the studio host of The James Brown Show, The NFL Today on CBS Sports, and Thursday Night Football on CBS Sports and the NFL Network.  James’ love of sports was evident in high school and later in college, where he was the captain of Harvard’s basketball team. After college, his dreams of playing with a pro team weren’t realized, so he dove into the corporate world. As he polished his speaking and presentation skills at companies like Kodak and Xerox, James was offered a job in broadcasting, which ultimately led him into his sportscasting career. James found the success he was looking for, but he yearned for something more. He prayed that God would reveal Himself, and that if He did, James would serve him. James shares how this journey to know God more deeply changed the course of his life. 


Planting Seeds of Faith

CBS Sportscaster James Brown enjoying a great laugh (as highlighted on the Jesus Calling podcast)

James Brown: Mother Brown gave me the biggest challenge in the world by naming me James Brown, [since I] grew up in a time when, of course, the Godfather of Soul was—Mr. Music—everywhere, so there was a lot of burden and pressure on me to try to live up to that, which inspired me to try to find something that was uniquely my own, because Lord knows I can’t sing. 

We affectionately called [my mom] “the sergeant.” Mom was only about five feet five inches tall, but boy, she carried a big stick and when she spoke, she meant what she said, she said what she meant. So we saluted the sergeant, and got things done. She had a spirit of excellence in everything that she did.

I come from a family of five. I’m the oldest of five, [there were] four boys and one girl. My mother and father went home to be with the Lord at tender ages. My father was only 46 years of age when he passed from stomach cancer. My mom was at the tender age of 72. Both were saved, and I’m so very thankful for that.

{My parents were] both were high school graduates, but I love to say that they had PhDs in drive, determination, and the objective of seeing us live a better life—a more fulfilling life than they did. There was no real faith foundation, we weren’t churchgoers. We were probably typical of a lot of folks who aren’t saved, we wanted to be good people, standing on principles of team orientation, we were good citizens and helpful neighbors and saw the best in people. 

And all those things are fine, but the seed [of faith] was planted when I was in elementary school. I’m dusting off the cobwebs, and as much as I cannot remember about elementary school, I do remember a five-minute radio broadcast before I left to walk to elementary school. The gentleman’s name was David Eton, [he was] a minister, and he always had words or a little sermon that was so encouraging. I may not have understood it all, but his soothing voice, and [the fact that] I may not have consciously understood the topic or the principles that he was imparting, [his messages] seemed to fit a God-sized hole in me.

But, it would be many years later when that would be watered. It wasn’t until middle school, when I was playing baseball with a Catholic youth organization. Even though I belonged to a nondenominational church, I played in a CYO League. I had a little baseball skill. 

Years before CBS Sports and his sportscasting career, James Brown (featured on Jesus Calling podcast)

The big-time, successful high school basketball coach in our area, Morgan Wooten, a well-known name in sports circles, came to watch the baseball team play, and I just happened to have a real good stretch of success. I was smacking home run after home run, and he asked me if I would consider coming to this powerhouse Catholic high school in Washington D.C., a suburban area in Maryland, called DeMatha Catholic High School. I was absolutely astounded that he would be interested in me. 

However, during the summer, I went to his basketball camp and found out that I had raw talent and potential there, and [I] worked diligently. There are a lot of biblical principles that I can certainly extract from looking at my trajectory in my life and all the aspects of it. I just grew by leaps and bounds in terms of my basketball talent, and our team did exceedingly well. My four years there at De Matha included winning a couple of national championships, and then I came to the attention of major colleges as a result of that. 

But a key point about my playing for Coach Morgan Wooten and his success with that high school basketball team was this: He stressed that those of us playing for him had to have four priorities in place. They were, and are even still today, just tweaked to reflect being in a work environment: God had to be first. Family second, then school, then your sport. God, family, school, then sports.

“My [high school basketball coach] stressed those of us playing for him had to have four priorities in place: God had to be first. Family second. Then school, then your sport.” – James Brown

And I remember, not too many years ago, about five years ago, or six years ago, I went to interview Coach Wooten for a 60 Minutes sports piece, and I thought to ask him: “Coach, why were those priorities so important?” And he said, ”If I had young men that had those four priorities, I knew that I had winners in the game of life, and that would translate very well to the sport of basketball.”  And that made an indelible impression on me, so I’ve tried to pass that same lesson on to youngsters.


Learning to Live Up to Your Word

I came to the attention of a number of major colleges that offered me athletic scholarships, big-time basketball schools [such as] UCLA, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, etc. But, I remember watching TV, and I was fascinated when I saw Senator, of course he wasn’t a senator then, Bill Bradley playing for Princeton University. They were in the NCAA tournament and I’m thinking, Man, that is awesome. As much as my parents are driving home the mantra of academic excellence being the key to success in the game of life, going to an Ivy League school would be just perfect, and maybe even Princeton, because I was fascinated with how well that team did, going deep into the NCAA tournament. A couple of African-American ballplayers played at Columbia, Jimmy McMillan who played with the old Los Angeles Lakers, and Heyward Dotson, and I’m thinking Wow, well that’s the answer right there, to marry academics and athletics. And I said to myself that if I could get into an Ivy League school, that’s what I wanted to do. 

I desired to go to an Ivy League, or at least a good school. I remember going to my high school basketball coach’s office one day, and I saw a letter on his desk. If it had been from Princeton, I would have pursued that. But the letter was from Harvard. And I said that “If I can get into Harvard, that’s where I want to go.” And indeed, I had to really prove to the admissions committee that I was a worthy student. I wasn’t the best standardized test taker, but no one was going to outwork me in the classroom. I was the class president, and certainly worked diligently to become a better student in all the key areas. And that’s what led me to be blessed to be accepted to Harvard. 

Shortly thereafter, I got a letter from the great UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, and I said, “Oh my gosh, this is UCLA. Winner of ten national championships, John Wooden. Are you kidding me?” I said, “Mom, I’ve got to go visit UCLA,” and this was the only time she stepped in to be dictatorial. She said, “No, if you shook the hand of the coach and the admissions officer at Harvard, and you looked him in the eye and gave him your word that you are going there, you need to be a man of your word, and that is where you’re going to school.” And that was one of the best lessons in life that I learned.

There is absolutely no regret that I have [because I did] exactly what my mother said, which was correct. That lesson has served me well throughout the game of life. 

If I had it to do all over again, I absolutely would do the same thing, even though the story did not work out as well in terms of the athletic success that we should have enjoyed. I mean, we were the subject of a number of articles nationally, with the talent that Harvard had attracted there, and big things were expected of us. Freshmen couldn’t play on the varsity team. This was during the era when freshmen had to play on a freshmen team, and we were selected as the second-best freshmen team in the country. Excitement was high at Harvard, but there are a number of reasons why it didn’t materialize. 

When I look back on [my] collegiate experience, while we should have been one of the best college basketball teams in the country, I’m taking responsibility because I didn’t lead the way. I wasn’t well-grounded in leadership principles that are based in the Bible. Nehemiah is the book of the Bible that Coach Tony Dungy studied for two years, it took him forever, it seemed, to get his first head coaching job in the NFL. He and his team chaplain spent two years studying leadership principles in the book of Nehemiah, and look at what it did for him. As you look and are encouraged by other examples around you, that here he goes on to win the Super Bowl, becoming, as the world focused on him being, the first African-American to win the Super Bowl, his focus was on showing the world that success at the highest levels, important in the game of life, are absolutely guaranteed if you employ, internalize, and execute Biblical principles, doing it the Lord’s way. 

Leaders Are Prepared to Give an Answer

Vintage image of James Brown (sportscaster) as highlighted on Jesus Calling podcast

I certainly look at what I do in my professional life, as the host of The NFL Today or any other show that I may do, as being a meaningful contributor to the effectual working of a body. But I didn’t think that I would be a leader. I certainly wasn’t aiming to do that, because one of the painful lessons I learned in corporate America was when i was I was to be giving a presentation before my colleagues at Xerox, and I hadn’t done my homework. This is a very elementary lesson, but a powerful one, and a profound one. Many things that are very simple are really profound and leave an indelible impression, a life-changing influence. I wasn’t prepared, and I was standing up in front of my colleagues, who were very sharp salespeople, and it was abundantly clear that I was shallow in my presentation, because I had not done the homework. And I vowed to never allow that to happen again.

“Many things that are very simple are really profound and leave an indelible impression, a life-changing influence.” – James Brown

So to the degree that I’m prepared for anything, then I’m okay getting up to speak. Certainly in sales, I had to demonstrate the line of zero graphic equipment that we were marketing to the public. So there was some comfort there, and I can see now that I’m answering this question, how that also prepared me to be a minister of the gospel. How to give a sermon, if you will, in churches, and [how to] be able to speak in various environments. So, those principles certainly paid dividends, those experiences pay dividends in building that comfort level to be able to do what I’m now doing for the Lord. 

I was about twenty-four years of age when my father passed away, and I was not aware that he did not know the Lord. I certainly wasn’t saved at that time, so I didn’t know, but my sister—she’s the middle child [and] is steeped in the Word—made me aware that my father had a deathbed conversion when she visited him in the hospital before he passed away. She led him in the salvation prayer. As I’ve become a Christian, I am just thrilled to know that. My father made it clear to all of us, especially [to] the four boys, to take good care of Mom as much as she was the one taking care of us. 

Around the time that my father went home to be with the Lord, I remember coming home from some executive training with the Xerox Corporation. I was in sales and sales management, and I remember coming up a lonely road, and I was thinking Boy, what this lifestyle? Yeah, you are a successful sales person, you drive around in a nice little sports car, a little Corvette. Got my own apartment, nice clothes, I go to happy hours,  which is what the world says is supposed to be success. And there was an emptiness, and I said to the Lord, on that lonely road, coming up by myself around 11:00 at night, and I said, “God I know who You are, but I don’t really know about You, but I do know You if You would reveal yourself to me, I’ll serve You.” And that began a twelve-year search for a good, Word-teaching church. After about twelve years, I did find a good Word-teaching church, with Bishop Clarence Givens, who founded Rainbow Christian Center Church here in Washington D.C. 

And boy, did a whole new world open up to me, because he was a phenomenal teacher, [good at] breaking down the Word [in to] bite-sized morsels for the purpose of understanding, embracing, and then being obedient to it. 


Learning to Seek God Early

CBS Sportscaster James Brown and grandchildren (as highlighted on the Jesus Calling podcast)

I have been blessed to be a professional broadcaster, heavens, since about 1982, my goodness gracious, and at the network level since about 1986. I started first with CBS Sports. I was there for ten years, then went over to Fox Sports and co-hosted the NFL, actually the Fox NFL Sunday show, with Terry Bradshaw, Jimmie Johnson, and Howie Long for twelve years. Then, [I] came back to CBS, and I’ve been there since 2006. I’ve been blessed to host a number of Super Bowls and major sports including the Winter Olympics, NBA championships, and NCAA championships. The Lord has truly blessed me to do a variety of sports, and I’m also quite thrilled to be a special correspondent for CBS News, because my interests are varied. It’s pretty clear that the Lord has me in the workplace as my ministry platform, which I thoroughly enjoy. 

I am thrilled to be an ordained minister with my church. And I’m even more excited with all of the ministry work that I’m doing, whether it’s speaking and conducting a men’s seminar at the Billy Graham Training Center in Asheville, North Carolina, or speaking at the men’s conference at Charis Bible College, as part of the Andrew Womack ministries, at a number of churches around the country. I’m really excited about doing what I do in my professional life. I consider it my avocation. My vocation is about the business of God.

“I’m really excited about doing what I do in my professional life. I consider it my avocation. My vocation is about the business of God.” – James Brown

So I am truly on fire and [I] love it, and I’m so excited about learning and spending time in His Word daily, and certainly the Jesus Calling devotional has been instrumental in that. It fulfills that which is in Scripture, which says to, “Seek Me early, seek God early before the day starts.” As a matter of fact, in the Jesus Calling devotional, and one of the things that resonates so strongly with me, one of those daily readings said to “Seek Me early, before the doorbell starts ringing, before the phone starts ringing with business calls, before difficulties or challenges that the day will present. If you start off with Me, internalize My Word, embrace it, I will see you through.” And coming from a corporate environment, I’m so accustomed to being a Type A personality that maps out my day from A to Z. After reading that one daily devotional in Jesus Calling about seeking Him first and being conscious of his presence daily, allowing Him to set the priorities of the day, I looked at my tendency to map out the day from A to Z, trying to anticipate every conceivable challenge that might come. Jesus was basically saying, “Hey, wait a minute. Where am I in this process?” I think it’s Proverbs 16:9 that [says,] “Many are the plans and devices of men, but the purpose of the Lord is that which will be fulfilled.” So this has really helped me. It’s been a little different not relying on myself to map things out, but boy, has it worked out a whole lot better.

Modeling God’s Word in a Work Environment

CBS Sportcaster James Brown with Dorothy. Jesus Calling podcast

What that brings to mind is all the varied opportunities that the Lord has given me, outside of the traditional sports that I played. Things that were off the beaten path, [like] going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with a number of Special Olympians, the Olympians wanted to show the world that they were just as success-driven as able-bodied athletes and they wanted to be appreciated. Those human interest stories really pique my interest. 

[I was] doing a story on an Italian couple out of Grand Island, New York who were going over, sponsored by their church, to adopt kids who were victims of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and who were staying at an orphanage. They were going over to adopt a young boy who was a double amputee, but when they got to the orphanage, they realized that there was a young girl who was protecting him from some of the other kids who were bullying him. She was a single amputee below her knee—her name was Tonya—and she was protecting him, and the family realized they couldn’t just take him without her. So, they adopted both of them. But it showed the human spirit and how people were overcoming, and people were champions at all levels of society. I love telling those kinds of stories that will encourage us, because there is so much news that makes you feel that the world is just a terrible place.

So I look, with my producers, to find those kind of stories to stem the tide of activities by those engaging in aberrant behavior that get most of the attention, as opposed to the good news stories that are out there that we can learn something from, and learn about others, and hopefully speak to and pique the interest in our better selves.

“So even though in the work environment, you may not find me running around beating people over the head with the Bible, I pray that I am modeling God’s word with all the characteristics being displayed in what I do.” – James Brown

I am blessed to be around some people who are doing some very significant and major things. And as opposed to having a human-limited, worldly perspective. Like, Gosh, I’d like to get some of that credit, and, Why not me, can I go? No, no, no. God has got each of us right where He wants us, so let’s maximize that lean, that sphere of influence where we are, because we are, in effect, a part of the human body, and that little finger plays just as big a role as your head, or your knee cap, or any other part of the body, [or] your heart, in terms of contributing mightily for Him.

“God has got each of us right where He wants us, so let’s maximize that lean, that sphere of influence where we are.” – James Brown

I’m excited when I look back over how the Lord has blessed me to be doing what I’m doing, but also to expand the horizons beyond the world of sports, which I love, and that’s where my equity is. I think there are some great sports to cover, great lessons to be learned in the world of sports, and some great people doing some good things in sports. 

I am so very thankful for invaluable tools and aids like Jesus Calling, because just as I come from the athletic environment, and I believe that all truth is parallel, what’s true in the natural is true in the supernatural, the principle that applies in the game of life certainly is a principle in the world of faith. And athletes, even the elite-level athletes, they still practice every day, internalizing, sharpening, and crafting their tools by practicing the same fundamentals, so that they don’t have to think about it when they’re on the field of competition, they just react because it’s internalized. To me, it’s the same principle with preparing by studying the Word of God on a daily basis to understand those key scriptures that will arm us and equip us for the day ahead, so that when a situation occurs—no matter what.

In 1 Thessalonians 5, I believe it’s verse 8, it says “In everything, we are to give thanks, because it is God who blesses us. Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of Lights.” But even when we encounter challenges and difficulties, God lets us know in His Word, certainly in Deuteronomy 31:6 and Hebrews 13:5, I believe, where God says that He will never leave us nor forsake us, that He is always present help in a time of need.

So why wouldn’t we be diligent about studying His Word, renewing our minds, daily growing in progressive understanding of His Word, so that we can live this life successfully and be champions? Not just in the world of sports, but most importantly, champions in the game of life, because ultimately, the prize that we all want is to have our names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. That’s the biggest joy, the biggest crown that we will get.

Narrator: You can watch James Brown on The NFL Today on CBS, in addition to his roles as a reporter and host for other programs.

If you enjoy inspirational stories featuring athletes, check out our interview with NFL linebacker Mark Herzlich.


Next time on the Jesus Calling podcast, we visit with Pastor Erwin McManus. Erwin is artist, writer and cultural thought leader known for his integration of creativity and spirituality. He is the founder and Lead Pastor of Mosaic, a Los Angeles-based church of faith recognized as one of America’s most influential and innovative churches. 

Erwin: I’m convinced that the reason we’re created in the image of God—I mean, the evidence of that is that we’re imagined by God to imagine and we’re created by God to create.


Narrator: Do you love hearing these stories of faith weekly from people like you whose lives have been changed by a closer walk with God? Then be sure to subscribe to the Jesus Calling: Stories of Faith Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you like what you’re hearing, leave us a review so that we can reach others with these inspirational stories. And, you can also see these interviews on video as part of our original web series with a new interview premiering every other Sunday on Facebook Live. Find previously broadcasted interviews on our Youtube channel, on IGTV, or on jesuscalling.com/media/video.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *