Christian Athletes: Pointing Others to Jesus through Sports
"… I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in the earth." (Romans 9:17).
This verse is one that most Christian athletes live. Not only do they use their God-given talents fully, but they proclaim His name in the fields, bring people to know Christ, and glorify God.
Here is a list of a few top Christian athletes who have used their talents to glorify God.
Tim Tebow, former NFL quarterback
The former NFL quarterback, Tim Tebow, is known for his strong faith in Jesus Christ on and off the football field, including publicly wearing Bible verses on his eye black. He is also known for "Tebowing," an act of dropping one knee in prayer with a bowed head and one arm rested on the bent knee.
Tebow has never been ashamed of his faith. He says that being outspoken about faith is not only what he does but also who he is.
In Tebow's story about his favorite eye black verse, John 3:16.
On Jan. 8, 2009, in the BCS Championship Game, then-Florida quarterback Tim Tebow wore eye black with the inscription John 3:16, a reference to the Bible verse, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
On Jan 8, 2012, exactly three years later, he did it again during his first NFL playoff game with the Denver Broncos against the Pittsburgh Steelers. In that game, Tebow threw for 316 yards passing and 31.6 yards per completion.
When I first saw those stats in the news, I (a believer) doubted that actually happened. But those stats are in the books today (9 years later) on ESPN and many other sports stat websites.
Tebow is also a successful author. He has written books such as, Through My Eyes, Shaken, and This Is the Day: Reclaim Your Dreams. Ignite Your Passion. Live Your Purpose. His books are a combination of his personal life, profession, lessons of faith, and following Jesus Christ.
Tebow has a foundation called the Tim Tebow Foundation that brings faith, hope, and love to those needing a brighter day in their darker hour of need.
Tebow talks about how the desire to start the foundation was rooted in his past, "My early years were spent in the Philippines where my parents served as missionaries. My experiences there and the training from my parents who instilled in me the importance of God’s word, the salvation that we have in His Son Jesus, and the responsibility that we have to give back to others, gave me a desire to make a difference in people’s lives."
Russel Wilson, NFL quarterback
Russell Wilson, the Seattle Seahawks quarterback, is a devout Christian who's never ashamed of sharing his faith in social media and in his community. He regularly shares Bible verses and acknowledges God for his success.
Wilson has long been outspoken about his Christian faith, often citing encouraging Scripture verses on his Twitter page. He awoke with thankfulness in 2019 after agreeing to his contract extension and redirected all the glory upward to God.
Wilson has been open about his faith many times while in the public eye. Even after winning the Super Bowl in 2014, Wilson gave glory to God in front of millions who were watching. The first words out of his mouth when asked how satisfying it felt to win were, "It's a true blessing. God is so good."
These were the 1st words the QB said after winning his very first championship at the NFL level.
After winning the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award after the Tampa Super Bowl in 2021, Wilson invoked the words of Payton in 1 Corinthians 13, the Love chapter.
Wilson is the founder of the Why Not You Foundation. Founded by Russell Wilson in 2014, Why Not You is a nonprofit dedicated to education, children’s health, and fighting poverty, empowering today’s youth to lead with a why not you attitude.
Albert Pujols, former MLB player
Albert Pujols, a three-time MVP, and two-time World Series champion, gives credit to God for all his victories. He is quoted saying, "It doesn't matter if I hit a home run. It doesn't matter if we win a game. It doesn't matter if I go four; what matters at the end of the day, as long as I glorify His name, that's what it's all about.”
Pujols also says that he needs God to survive in this world and over temptations.
Together with his wife Deidre, they started a foundation known as Pujols Family Foundation.
According to the PFF website, "THE PUJOLS FAMILY FOUNDATION is a national not-for-profit agency that exists to honor God and strengthen families through our works, deeds and examples. Since beginning this foundation in 2005, we have sought to help those living with Down syndrome here at home and to improve the lives of the impoverished in the Dominican Republic."
He is also passionate about teaching his kids about God. He tells his kids, "that's how I wanna live…like Him, and I want you guys to do the same thing."
Pujols feels it's his responsibility to spread the gospel throughout the world and make Christ known anywhere he goes.
Tony Dungy, retired NFL player and coach.
The former NFL coach and sports analyst, Tony Dungy, is an evangelical Christian who at one time considered leaving football for the prison ministry. Over the years he has mentored countless NFL players.
Dungy once reflected, "When I got to the Steelers, I was kind of shocked because growing up, I was focused on, I want to be a good player. I got to the highest level of the sport, and I saw all these Christian guys on the team, and that Christian walk was important to them. And it really kind of blew me away. It made me realize that what my mom said was true. It’s not what you do in life, it’s how you do it and who you’re doing it for. These guys were doing it for the Lord, and it made a big impact on me."
Tony Dungy says that being a father is his most important job, and with eleven children, it’s a job that keeps him very busy.
Clayton Kershaw, LA Dodgers MLB Pitcher
Clayton Kershaw, a pitcher with the Los Angeles Dodgers, is a three-time Cy Young Award winner and a seven-time All-star. Kershaw has a strong faith in Jesus. He believed in Jesus Christ during his days in high school and he says that his identity is found in Jesus Christ.
Kershaw was quoted as saying, "I think, a lot of things get wrestled around with Christianity in this day and age about what it means, what it stands for and I think it gets the wrong connotation all over the world. So, for me, using baseball and using Jesus' name - I really just want to focus on Him. I don't want to think about Christianity or the religious aspect of it. You just want to focus on Jesus and loving Jesus. Saying you're a Christian shouldn't turn people off. You should love people well and that's Jesus' first commandment!"
Clayton and his wife Ellen share a mission in Lusaka, Zambia, where they started an orphanage known as Hope's home.
The eight-time all-star believes that believers should stand for their faith, be like Jesus, be an example to others, and love people.
Drew Brees, retired NFL QB
Super Bowl 44 MVP quarterback, Drew Brees, accepted Christ while in high school at the age of 17, and he immediately knew there was something bigger planned for him than just sports. Drew was quoted saying that God does have a purpose for him that's much greater than football. Even when he dislocated his throwing shoulder, he knew it was a trial to strengthen his faith in God.
With his wife Brittany, they founded The Brees Dream Foundation to help in research in the fight against cancer and help recover what was lost in Hurricane Katrina.
Drew has written a book, Coming Back Stronger, which is all about his journey and a big message conveying God's plan.
One of Drew's fitness trainers and friends is a devout Christian man named Todd Durkin. Durkin, who is known for the book Get Your Mind Right and many others, has an amazing story as well. Durkin was one of the components that helped Drew Brees recover from his injury and come back to complete a record-setting career.
Stephen Curry, NBA All-Star and MVP
NBA Champion Stephen Curry has been open about his Christian faith. Curry was raised in a God-believing family, and he gave his life to Christ while in eighth grade.
He says he wrote “I can do all things…” on his shoes before every game. He chose Philippians 4:13 because his Mom challenged him to find a verse that he could rely on to give him strength. This was his purpose every time he laced up his sneakers.
The Golden State Warrior is confident that God blessed him with the talent to play and that God was preparing him for a bigger stage to represent Him and be His witness on the basketball court.
In an interview with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Curry said, "For me, I stay grounded knowing that my faith is the most consistent part of my life and knowing where my talents come from. I know why I'm in the league, and why I've been given the platform that I've been given: to shine [Christ’s] light out there on the floor, hopefully inspire people."
Recognizing your talent is God-given and living your faith in Christ while in the public spotlight is not easy for everyone. There's rejection, criticism, and mockery (translation: Persecution). These athletes demonstrate what it means to be a Christian athlete. They've used their athletic ability and a platform, that has millions of fans, to point people to Christ and bring glory to God.
Who is your favorite Christian athlete? Please share with us in the comments section below.