THE INCREASE: Outside the Room – Ted Winsley

(Photo Courtesy: Ted Winsley)

I’m really excited to have Nick Foles back on our team. His dedication to Christ is unique, especially in the football profession. When he was first on the Eagles, I saw him continually put his neck out for Christ in a way that others took notice of. What he established during his time here on the Eagles is really inspiring. Now that he’s back, he is able to see that the core group he was pouring into a few years ago is now so much stronger.

I’ve been with the Eagles for 17 seasons now. When I first came, there was a small Bible study which soon began to grow. The year we made it to the Super Bowl (2005), we had about 25-30 guys consistently coming to chapel, only one of whom was white. Our kicker, David Akers, would come every now and then.

This group of guys was not one that I would say was really firm in the faith, but they were hungry for God. The Bible study seemed to really reach outside the pews, so to speak, and draw in the gully guys—men who were living pretty worldly lives. They were not looking for a Bible study, but were drawn in by God’s power and the authenticity of the guys who were a part of it.

This dynamic changed when Nick came on the team. Though our Bible study was 99% black at the time, Nick immediately started coming faithfully and without a second thought. Not only did he attend, he changed things. I remember him coming up to me and saying, “Hey Ted, Bible study is too long. You’re a great teacher, but we can’t take it for an hour. Make it 30 minutes.” And he was right! I immediately changed my approach and the players were more responsive.

By Nick’s influence, soon our studies were about 50/50—half black, half white. It was a perfect blend that started to attract more and more players.

At this time, the team began to recruit a lot more Christians. It seemed like with most draft picks I would hear, “Oh he’s a Christian too!”

There’s been a really cool movement happening on the team but we don’t want to only recruit Christians. This year we are really working on going back to what we first established. We want to draw more seekers in—those who don’t necessarily want to come to Bible study.

When Malcom Jenkins was on the team, he approached it with the mindset that guys might not come to Bible study but they may come to your house. So while our official Bible study doesn’t start until season begins, we are meeting at 8am in the mornings before the players train. After that, I hang around and stay for lunch, interacting with the players and engaging them in conversation. The guys who don’t come to Bible study then have a chance to hang around, listen in, and soon they begin to ask questions. They are finding out that we speak the same language as them and I’m not throwing Bible verses at them. Soon more people are drawn in.

Our Bible study is moving outside of the room. Not only are the players viewing their team as their mission field, they are also going out into the local high school FCA groups in Philadelphia to lead athletes in Bible studies. Our guys don’t just desire for others to follow them or act like they act, they want to have a Kingdom influence. Instead of bringing people to us we are going out to them. Paul says it well:

“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone,to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” —1 Corinthians 9:19-23

Pastor Ted Winsley, chaplain of the Philadelphia Eagles

Ted Winsley is the chaplain of the Philadelphia Eagles and a regular contributor to The Increase. 

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