Jeff Henderson: My dad used to say, “Do your very, very best because God’s paying attention.” And I think when you do your very best, good things can seem to happen.
Your Time Is Now—Let God Help You Make the Most of It: Jeff Henderson and Jonathan Evans – Episode #317
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. There’s an African proverb that pairs well with John 14:6 where Jesus proclaims Himself, “The way, the truth, and the life.” It goes like this: “We make the road by walking.” What comes to the fore in both of these statements is the thought that life is not necessarily stretching out in front of us well-paved and easily discernible, but that life is an active endeavor requiring learning, maturing, and adapting. Jesus emphasizes His nearness to us in the process, but the implication is to step forward confidently even while the unknown confronts us with every step we take. We don’t have to know where we’ll be exactly twenty years down the road, but only where we are and what we’ll do next.
This week, we talk to two people who have learned to navigate their callings in the now and the next. Jeff Henderson is a pastor and businessman who talks about the thumbprints of God that mark our lives, giving us clues to living out our purpose. Jonathan Evans is the son of Dr. Tony and Lois Evans. With numerous efforts to become an NFL player thwarted, Jonathan reshifted his expectations and began to see how God was getting him to his dream—just not exactly in the way he thought.
Jeff: My name is Jeff Henderson. I’m in the Atlanta, Georgia area. I grew up as a preacher’s kid. And my wife, Wendy, and I have been married twenty-six years, we have a twenty-three-year-old daughter and a twenty-one-year-old son.
My first memories of church were hearing my dad preach. And that really had a significant impact on me in terms of what I do today. Because part of what I do is help coach communicators, business leaders, and pastors, help them with their presentations. But I grew up with a love of sports, so I wanted to play for the Atlanta Hawks in the National Basketball Association and lead them to their first NBA championship. The Hawks never drafted me, but I will say they still have yet to win an NBA championship. So I think there’s a correlation there.
I was a pastor for seventeen years, but before that, I spent a number of years in the business world working in marketing for Chick-fil-A and the Atlanta Braves and a few other organizations. And now I own my own company called The For Company, and we help businesses and churches and nonprofits clarify what they want to be known for, and then also help business leaders determine what they want to do next.
I think the reality for a lot of us now, having dealt with COVID and all the challenges is that we’re really trying to find purpose. “How do you find purpose?” is a huge question. It’s on the minds and hearts of a lot of people. I think that’s why a lot of people are leaving their jobs. Four million people a month over the last several months have left their jobs. And I think part of that is a search for purpose.
The first question we ask is, “What do you want to be known for? What is your vision? What is your purpose?” For a lot of people, they feel like they have to figure out what they’re going to do for the rest of their lives. But what I’ve discovered is that’s a big question, and I don’t know if five-year plans exist much anymore. So what I encourage people to do is figure out what to do next. That makes a little bit more palatable. Find a problem you want to solve. What is in your background and your experience that God has blessed you? Those are clues.
The other thing I’ll say is that the path to your dream job often leads through your day job. So God’s thumbprints on you, the way He’s created you—those are your clues about His plans for you. I think the purpose of our lives is a lot closer than we might think. It’s a little bit of a journey. But the old adage is true: it really is about the journey and how that can lead to our destination.
“God’s thumbprints on you, the way He’s created you—those are your clues about His plans for you. And so I think the purpose of our lives is a lot closer than we might think.” – Jeff Henderson
When people ask me, “How do I find my dream job?” we’ll talk about their strengths. We’ll talk about their purpose, what you think God’s calling is on your life, and your past experience. We talk about your network, the people you know that you could go talk to and see that you’re probably just a few people away from the right person for that right job. But at the end of the conversation, I’ll say, “Now you need to go back to wherever you are and do your very best job there.”
God’s Paying Attention
I’ll give you an example. When I started working for the Braves, it was great. It was in the promotions and PR department, and so I had an opportunity to do a lot.
One of the things I discovered I wasn’t good at was advertising sales. They would have me call companies to see if they would put an ad in the game program for that upcoming season. I wasn’t good at that—I was good at creative ideas, working with corporate sponsors—but I came to work every day, and I did my best at advertising sales, and I did my best at what I was really good at.
I would come home and tell my dad, “I’m just not good at this.”
And he would say, “Hey, do your best, but don’t get down about the things that you’re not good at. That’s a clue about where your weaknesses are and a clue about where your strengths are. So lean into your strengths, but do the best job that you possibly can.”
Little did I know, just staying day in and day out at that job, I would eventually meet some people from Chick-fil-A, which years later would eventually land me a great job in their marketing department.
So just being faithful and working that day job, you can try to understand where your strengths are, but still do your best when you’re called to do some things that you might not be good at. Many times, I think, that is a character test, and you don’t know who you might meet. You don’t know what door God will open up if you’re faithful in the small things. So be faithful in the small things. Be faithful where you are, because God’s paying attention.
“You don’t know what door God will open up if you’re faithful in the small things. ” – Jeff Henderson
The most important thing within an organization is the culture of the organization. The famous management guru Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” You could have the best strategy, you could have the best systems, you could have the best ideas. But if the culture of the organization—meaning how we treat one another, what it feels like to work somewhere—all of that will undermine the systems and the scale.
So when it comes to being a people-centric organization, the strategy that I try to provide leaders or the thought that I try to provide leaders—I’m all for systems, I’m all for scale, and all that’s incredibly important—but do not let the systems and scale of the business drive out the humanity of the business.
I think at the heart of God is this idea that God loves people. And I think it breaks God’s heart that so many of His sons and daughters go to work and they’re mistreated. They go to work, and the culture is terrible. They go to work and they’re not led well. And I love what John Maxwell says. In his organization, Maxwell Leadership—he says everyone deserves to be led well. And the reason everyone deserves to be led well is that they are a son or daughter of God. They need to be encouraged. They need to be challenged. They need to be placed in an environment where they can grow. Because when they grow, not only do they get better, the organization gets better.
“I love what John Maxwell says. He says everyone deserves to be led well, because they are a son or daughter of God.” – Jeff Henderson
I saw this from an example at Chick-fil-A. I was driving the founder, the late Truett Cathy, to a speaking engagement years ago when I was working there. He asked me a lot of questions on the drive, but they weren’t about chicken prices and it really wasn’t about the business. He was just asking me how did I like working here, and was it making me a better man? Was it making me a better husband? Was it making me a better father?
I’d just become a father a few months prior to this. And I began to realize that in the course of this conversation, I discovered the secret to how he grew this massive, multibillion-dollar business now: Truett was more interested in the business growing people than people growing the business. And that’s how the business grew.
It is an inside-out approach, being that what’s inside the organization will eventually flow out. It’s very similar to what Jesus said: “Hey, it’s what’s on the inside of you versus the outside of you that’s going to make the biggest difference.” And so this inside-out approach about how we’re treating one another, that’s why I ask leaders to ask this question: “What does it feel like to work here? ” And while that sounds like an emotional, squishy question, the reality is that what it feels like to work here is impacting the work here.
Lessons in a Season of Suffering
I was having a conversation with a friend of mine and he said, “Sometimes we learn more from the bad leaders we worked for than the good leaders we worked for. Because the bad leaders, we suffer under them, but we learn from them what not to do.” And I think that’s true.
I used to try to pray myself out of bad situations. But now, if I’m in a difficult situation, I’m trying to change that prayer to, “God, I want to get out of this. But if You choose to leave me here, help me to learn the lesson You’re trying to get me to learn right now. What is the lesson in this season of suffering that You’re trying to teach me that a season of comfort would not?” I take comfort in that, and that there is purpose in the pain, there’s purpose in patience, and there’s purpose in the suffering.
“I used to try to pray myself out of bad situations. But now, if I’m in a difficult situation, I’m trying to change that prayer to, “God, I want to get out of this. But if You choose to leave me here, help me to learn the lesson You’re trying to get me to learn right now.’” – Jeff Henderson
I would love to close out our time with this prayer. I’m just so grateful for Sarah [Young] and how she’s just led so many of us through prayers like this. And this is what she wrote [Jesus Listens, February 12th]:
I’ve learned that my chief purpose in life is to glorify You and enjoy You forever. You crowned me with Glory so that I can reflect Your Glory—lighting up this dark world and pointing others to You. Please teach me to enjoy You more and more.
I’m grateful that You created me with boundless capacity for delighting in You. I know that the Joy I find in You here and now is just a foretaste of the vast eternal pleasures awaiting me in heaven!
In Your awesome Name, Jesus,
Stay tuned to Jonathan Evans’ story after a brief message.
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Narrator: Our next guest is Dallas Cowboys chaplain Jonathan Evans, the son of Dr. Tony and Lois Evans. Jonathan tried for years to make it in the NFL, but it wasn’t until he stopped running from God’s call on his life that he found just what he was looking for.
Jonathan Evans: My name is Jonathan Evans. I’m married to my wonderful wife, Kanika Evans, and we have five children. We’re residing here in the Dallas, Texas area.
Ministry has always been my life. I was born to Dr. Tony and Lois Evans who’ve been in ministry—my dad now’s been preaching for fifty years, been in the local church for forty-five years, and I’m forty years old. So it all started by the time I arrived.
And so now I’m serving as the chaplain for the Dallas Cowboys and the Mavericks, have been doing the Cowboys for ten years. I also do men and young adults ministry at the church that my dad still pastors and travels the country speaking. I’m just enjoying being used anywhere on God’s team. I’m excited to be selected to be on the team and be out running plays that He’s calling.
“I’m just enjoying being used anywhere on God’s team. I’m excited to be selected to be on the team and be out running plays that He’s calling.“ – Jonathan Evans
Jonathan Chases His Dreams to the NFL
I was the athlete of the family. I was the one always chasing a ball. I played football for Duncanville High School, then went on to get a college scholarship to Baylor University and played four seasons at Baylor University.
My goal was to be in the NFL. I was picked up by the Dallas Cowboys in 2005, and my dream was just to be able to run out of the tunnel, to experience the NFL, to play in the NFL, you know, to be able to look back and say that I did it. The dream was very difficult to try to make that a reality.
I got picked up by the Cowboys then I was cut by the Cowboys. Then I went overseas to play in NFL Europe, and that was a tough time in my life, but also a learning experience. I came back to the States and played for the San Diego Chargers, tried out there, but didn’t make it. I went to the Tennessee Titans, had a high ankle sprain, and was out for the season there. I went to Buffalo and had a year and a half being in and out on that team, and then finalized my career with the Washington [Commanders].
It was just tumultuous—almost six teams in five years. It wasn’t the dream I had. It wasn’t what I prayed for. I’m fortunate to have the opportunity, but it was just tough. I prayed to God and asked Him, “Why did You let me go through all that? Why didn’t I get to experience the NFL like I asked? I’ve been doing everything You asked me to do.”
And He told me, “Because there’s something greater that I have for you.”
And in my mind, I’m thinking, What greater could You have for me than the NFL? What are You talking about?
I got a call from the Kansas City Chiefs to come back and play, and I said, “Well, great. Here’s another opportunity.” And while I was working out to play for the Kansas City Chiefs, I tore my Achilles tendon. And at that moment, at about twenty-nine years old, I just hit the dirt and was in pain. But I was laughing because I heard God say, “I’m not going to continue to allow you to walk in a direction that I’m no longer calling you.”
When God Reconfigures Our Dreams
So I limped into seminary. And when I limped in the seminary, not really wanting to be there, I heard that call of my life. I got called back by the Cowboys to be the chaplain. It wasn’t until I was obedient that I got the call to come back to the NFL.
“I got called back by the Cowboys to be the chaplain. It wasn’t until I was obedient that I got the call to come back to the NFL.” – Jonathan Evans
And now, for ten years, I’ve been running out of the tunnel ever since. I’ve been on the sideline, on the team plane. God has given me my dream. Not exactly my way, but His way, which is my way. So I’m getting to experience the life that He wanted me to have. That’s what I’ve been able to do, and there’s no player who can tell me anything that I don’t understand because I’ve been through it. I’ve been cut, I’ve been traded, I’ve been hurt. I’ve been not wanted. I’ve been rejected. I’ve experienced all those things, which makes me even better as God’s player, as the chaplain for the Cowboys.
“I’ve been cut, I’ve been traded, I’ve been hurt. I’ve been not wanted. I’ve been rejected. I’ve experienced all those things, which makes me even better as God’s player, as the chaplain for the Cowboys.” – Jonathan Evans
There is a lot of sameness when it comes to players in general with the pressure, the quota, they have to meet the loneliness. If they’re a superstar—the money, the issues, the family, the struggle with relationships—who do they trust? Who do they not trust? So there are a lot of similarities when you deal with the pressure of that level. While it may be a different game, it’s still the same level of pressure, it’s still at the same level of injuries. It’s still the same level of pain, still the same level of expectations that they’re trying to meet. And so I want to make sure that I encourage them based on their needs. It’s been great to be able to play at that level so that I can understand that level so that I can minister at that level.
Encouraging the Next Generation
Along with being the chaplain for the Dallas Cowboys, what I love doing is serving with my dad in the local ministry, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship. I serve as the men’s pastor and young adults pastor. And so we really want to encourage the next generation, right?
There are all of these different questions the next generation has that the church hasn’t really been involved in or answering, and so they’ve been leaving the church in droves. And so what I’m passionate about is meeting them where they are and helping them to understand that we are the church—not just the building that we come to, but that’s just the place that we are able to worship as the church together.
[I’m also passionate about] the impact we can have based on the gifts, skills, abilities and experiences God has given you as an individual, and [helping them to] see their lives in connection with the Life Giver. Because if you live life without the Life Giver, you’re not really living your life, you’re just living a life. My goal is to make sure they see it that way, understand it that way, and really see the impact they can make in the problems they say they have.
Your Time Is Now
[My book is called] Your Time Is Now: Get What God Has Given You.
The first word of the Book of Joshua is now. It was right after the death of Moses, and so he’s coming from Deuteronomy 34—the book of his life, of his calling, of his leadership, of crossing the Jordan, of experiencing the promised, starts out with now.
Now means “not later.” It means that there’s no time to wait. There’s no time to sit anymore and analyze. You’ve had your experiences. You’ve been with Moses for a long time. You’ve been raised in an environment. You’ve experienced negative environments, and positive environments. You’ve gone to a place where there’s no more thinking, sitting, and being stale. It’s time to get up off of the couch and experience what God has for you.
And He tells Joshua four times in one chapter to be strong and courageous. Why? Because Joshua wasn’t. He was experiencing anxiety, he was experiencing worry. He was experiencing loss and grief. He was experiencing a lot of roadblocks that could have authority to tell him to stay where you are, sit still, don’t go forward in what God is calling you to do.
What I’m learning is to not be in a hurry. I realized that Jesus got everything done in thirty-three years, and He didn’t run anywhere. He walked. And so I’ve learned to slow down, to not be in a hurry, to turn on worship music, to fast and pray, to take walks. And somehow everything still gets done because it’s not by my might, but His.
“Jesus got everything done in thirty-three years, and He didn’t run anywhere. He walked.” – Jonathan Evans
Jesus Calling is important because spending quality time with God is important. Devotion is important, and that’s what gets missed for many people, including myself in the busyness. You can be so busy in ministry that you have no devotion. You can be so busy providing that you have no devotion, so busy chasing, whether it’s purpose or money or people or spouse or whatever it is that you have no devotion to God. You have devotion to something, but it just may not be God. And so I think it’s important to have your devotion with God, and it may be fifteen minutes to thirty minutes a day.
I believe everyone has a calling on their life. And a lot of times we’re looking at the barriers, looking at the problem, looking at the loss, looking at the grief, looking at the pain as the reasons why we’re not called to go forward instead of the catalyst that shoots us off into the calling that God has for us.
“I believe everyone has a calling on their life. And a lot of times we’re looking at the barriers, looking at the problem, looking at the loss, looking at the grief, looking at the pain as the reasons why we’re not called to go forward instead of the catalyst that shoots us off into the calling that God has for us.” – Jonathan Evans
One of the things in my life was that being my dad’s son, I thought that my faith was solidified in riding his coattails. I thought that my faith was solidified in being my dad and my mom’s son. And because they were monsters in ministry, I thought that I was good in my faith and I thought that I could ride their coattails straight to my calling. And I realized really fast that their faith and their accomplishments and their ability to do and faithfulness to do what God has called them to do, I get no credit for that.
God has given me a unique calling. He’s given me unique strengths. He’s given me unique gifts, and that uniqueness out of seven billion people on the planet is unique to me, for me. So God can work through me, and every person has that uniqueness and they don’t have that uniqueness so that they can sit and read the coattail of sameness, of the sameness of where they’re from, the sameness of who their peers are, the sameness of where they work, the sameness of what they’re around and what they’re used to. And I think that people must realize that your faith, your calling, your purpose, your destiny is unique to you, and it’s on you to connect with God so that you can find “you.”
“I think that people must realize that your faith, your calling, your purpose, your destiny is unique to you, and it’s on you to connect with God so that you can find ‘you.’” – Jonathan Evans
Comfortable? Or Called?
One of the most powerful ways to know that you are being complacent and you’d rather be comfortable than to be called is because there is a voice, there is a direction that God continues to call you to that you continue to reject because you’re not comfortable with it. He’s the voice in your head that tells you to forgive someone you don’t think deserves it. He’s the voice in your head that tells you to go reconcile a relationship that you don’t think you need to. He is the voice in your head that’s telling you, “This is the job that I want you to go to,” even though it pays less.
That may sound illogical based on your thinking, but you cannot shake it because it keeps staying with you. It’s on you. It’s hovering on you for days or weeks, for months, for years, and some people will sit in it for decades because they continue to reject this same idea, the same thought, the same spiritual push that keeps hovering on them because it makes them too uncomfortable to accept it. And so a lot of times you know that you would rather be comfortable than be called. When you’re rejecting God’s voice, when you’re rejecting those ideas that you can’t get rid of, but they follow you anywhere you go and you spend your life saying, “I shouldn’t do that,” a justifying your way out of going in that direction.
And it’s the same exact idea that you continue to justify over and over again why you can’t do it. Because you’re too fearful. You’re not good enough. You can’t speak well enough. You’re not tall enough. You’re not small enough. You’re not big enough. You’re not smart enough. You keep saying the same thing Moses said.
[God said,] “Moses, go let my people go.”
[Moses said,] “Well, who am I to go stand in front of Pharaoh?”
He’s trying to stay in his comfort zone admittedly leading sheep, and God is calling him to lead a different level of sheep from Pharaoh, but he doesn’t want to do it. And the reason why he doesn’t want to do it is because he’s too uncomfortable with that calling based on his own insufficiencies. And whenever you’re looking at your own insufficiencies to determine whether you can go do what God keeps begging you to do, then you know that you’re saying, “You know what? I’d rather be comfortable than be called.”
“Whenever you’re looking at your own insufficiencies to determine whether you can go do what God keeps begging you to do, then you know that you’re saying, “You know what? I’d rather be comfortable than be called.” – Jonathan Evans
I think people must realize that your faith, your calling, your purpose, and your destiny is unique to you, and it’s on you to connect with God so that you can find yourself at a level at which you’re going to be able to go before God, and Him look at you and say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You’ve done what I’ve called you to do, and you didn’t live in such a way where you were hoping that the judgment I give you is based on the efforts of someone else.”
And I think that it’s important that people recognize their uniqueness and in that uniqueness be unique. And so that’s something that I had to realize. It’s kind of a breakaway for me, where I’ve learned I’ve grown, but I needed to break away and really experience a relationship with God on my own so that I can experience my own calling.
If you’d like to hear more stories about taking the next steps confidently, check out our interview with John Maxwell.
Next week: Tayla Lynn
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we’ll hear from Tayla Lynn, the granddaughter of legendary country singer Loretta Lynn. Tayla shares the legacy of music that’s been woven naturally into her life, as well as her journey to sobriety and how she built back trust with her loved ones.