One of the best serendipities in my life occurred at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes Conference when Coach Bobby Bowden came up to me and thanked me for Frazer Television Ministry. He said that our worship service was shown in Tallahassee on Thursday nights, and he and his family watched.
We were fortunate to have our worship services carried nationwide by ACTS Network, which was the television ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention. We were one of two non-Baptist churches on the network. We also were on INSP which covered most of the United States.
Coach Bowden was a devout Christian gentleman. He was Mr. Baptist. He even told me that he watched our service for a few weeks before he realized we were not a Baptist church!
When his son, Terry, was head coach at Auburn and his son, Tommy, was the offensive coordinator, they both joined my brother George’s church in Auburn and became Methodists! Coach Bowden couldn’t believe it. He had to apologize to some of his Baptist friends. I just told him that their Dad ought to listen to the boys and maybe also see the light! He enjoyed kidding about being a Baptist.
Coach Bowden was a legendary coach at Florida State. He won a couple of National Championships and was the National Coach of the Year. He took a football program that few people had ever heard of and made it into one of the national powerhouses.
Nobody used their vocation as a platform for sharing the Christian gospel better than Coach Bowden. He made it clear to everyone that he wanted every student to give his/her life to Jesus in a personal way. He changed the population of Heaven!
On one occasion, my son, Si, and I were in Panama City at the funeral of a high-profile person. We were offered a trip back to Montgomery on a private plane if we didn’t mind going through Tallahassee and picking up Coach Bowden. Florida State had an open date and he was going to Auburn to see Terry and Tommy coach.
It was a very illuminating time for me. I have never seen a man more focused on his mission in life. I mentioned a couple of things going on in college football, and he said that he was unaware of them. He was totally focused on two things – Florida State football and how he could best witness to people for Jesus Christ. The plane ride was too short for us.
When I asked whether his wife would be joining us on the plane, he said, “Definitely not.” He said his young grandson was playing in a YMCA football game on Saturday morning, and she had rather see the grandson play than to go see her sons coach major college football!
A friend of mine told me about Coach Bowden’s relationship to Burt Reynolds, who played football at Florida State. Before he died, Reynolds went to see Coach Bowden, and Bowden led him to a commitment to Jesus Christ. That was a bigger victory than Coach Bowden ever had on the football field, and it was the best victory Burt Reynolds ever celebrated! The population of Heaven changed!
I want to use my vocation as a platform like Coach Bowden used his to change the population of Heaven. I hope you do too. Coach Bowden was a humble Christian witness who also happened to be one of the best football coaches in the history of college football! Oh God, please increase his tribe!
How will you help change the population of Heaven?