Most are familiar with the story of Michael Vick. The talented NFL quarterback played 6 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons before being convicted of participating with an interstate dogfighting ring that landed him 18 months in prison. On July 27 of this year, Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner, conditionally reinstated Vick. On August 13th, the Philadelphia Eagles picked up Vick with a one year contract. A press conference was held on August 14th with Vick, Eagles coach Andy Reid, and former Colts coach Tony Dungy. There was a recurring theme throughout the press conference: 2nd chances.
I have always been impressed with Tony Dungy. He is known throughout the league as a great football coach, but even more as a man who lives with high ethical standards and a desire to do the right thing. All of this stems, as Dungy has repeatedly emphasized, from his relationship with Jesus Christ. During the press conference on the 14th, Dungy demonstrated just how sincere he is about his faith and about coming alongside those who need to hear the good news. At one point during the press conference, Dungy said that his interest and determination to see Vick through to the end was solidified when Vick confessed that he had completely abandoned any relationship with God and knew that led him down the wrong path. Dungy made such a statement during a nationally televised press conference. I believe moments like this press conference are crucially important for the gospel witness. Here are a few reasons why:
- For those who don’t believe and only come across anything pertaining to the teaching of Christ through the television, the well is pretty darn dry. Most televangelists (not all) make even me question whether or not Christianity could be the real deal. Since most of the media attention concerning the things of the Church is driven by controversy and moral collapse, finding anything positive about the person of Christ and the teaching of Scripture on television is a rare thing. But then comes a sports-related press conference where a mild-mannered football coach, without preaching to a stadium full of people or skillfully asking for money, simply says that God is the way and that the future of this young football player ultimately depends on his relationship with God.
- The church has sometimes been referred to as “the only army that shoots its wounded.” At times, such a sentiment is unfortunately true. Yet, here is a good model from which we can learn. Vick felt the consequences of his sin; his actions were not simply ignored. Yet, modeling the reality of Christ himself, Dungy was willing to forgive and believe in the person who was responsible for the offense. That is an incredibly important point for the world to see in us who profess Christ as Savior.
- The church aint nothin but a bunch of hypocrites. That is a classic and often used phrase (which I heard just last week) that comes from the lips of those who have no interest in the things of God. I have never understood this one actually. Do non-believers expect Christians to be perfect? And is their own hypocrisy somehow lessened because they don’t commit to anything? Regardless, they are right! We are hypocrites to one degree or another. All Christians fall short of where we need to be and what we need to be doing. That is one of the reasons why the church is the church; for believers to worship God together. Edification of the saints is a major aspect of corporate worship that hopefully spills over in our daily lives. Dungy demonstrated that even a hypocrite can be about the business of living his faith in passionate and caring ways. It was an important message to see and hear.
So, a simple press conference isn’t going to change the world for Christ overnight. But, Dungy is doing what Dungy can do. The biggest lesson we can learn from him is, are we doing what we can do? God help us all.