Colts coach Dungy challenges pastors

INDIANAPOLIS (BP)--Tony Dungy, coach of the Super Bowl-champion Indianapolis Colts, addressed the Southern Baptist Pastors' Conference June 9 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, saying it was "a pleasure and an honor to be here" and "it is great to welcome you to our city."

Dungy's pastor, Ken Whitten of the Tampa-area Idlewild Baptist Church, introduced the coach. "Let me tell you, if you ever get the opportunity to be senior pastor of an NFL coach, you just pray that God lets you be the pastor to a man, and a family, like Tony Dungy," Whitten said.

Dungy will direct recreation for Idlewild's Vacation Bible School this summer, Whitten said, and Dungy's wife Lauren works in the nursery at the church.

"I want you to know [Dungy] is the real deal," Whitten said, adding that Dungy "won the Super Bowl because he is a super man, and he is a champion."

The audience broke into applause and stood as Whitten asked for "a big Southern Baptist pastors' welcome to my friend and Southern Baptist, Tony Dungy."

Dungy told the crowd that winning the Super Bowl and writing his book, "Quiet Strength," not only helped him affect the lives of athletes and fostered conversations with many people across the country, it also made him "realize how vital you all are, how vital our mission is to reach our world."

He also said he has grown more attuned to the search that engages many of America's young people: "They are looking, and they want to find it in all that the things our society calls exciting." Yet, "they're still searching for what we know is fulfilling, and that's the relationship with Christ. And I think that's the message that we have to continue to deliver in a lot of different ways."

Dungy compared the Pastors' Conference to the Colts' training camp, saying he was "excited that you're getting those batteries charged and getting ready" for the mission ahead.

"We're all on the same team," Dungy said. "We're going to work for the Lord, and Christ is going to honor what you do."

Dungy thanked Southern Baptists for coming to Indianapolis, "but more than anything I want to thank you for what you're going to do, going back to your homes and being on that mission field for the Lord."

Pastors' Conference President Michael Catt, senior pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., responded to Dungy's remarks.

"The world tries to run from the Gospel, and then God puts a godly man to coach an NFL team," Catt said. "And by [Dungy's] faith on the mountain and in the darkest of valleys, he has shown Jesus to the NFL ... and so I want to ask you to join me in praying for Coach Dungy, that God would continue to open doors for him to be a light and a witness for Jesus Christ, that his players so see the love of Jesus in him that they want the Jesus he has, and that those that watch him on television will see the Holy Spirit in him so much that they want what they see in him."

In addition to Dungy's coaching and local church responsibilities, he also has been involved in a wide variety of charitable organizations, including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Athletes in Action, Mentors for Life, Boys & Girls Clubs, the Prison Crusade Ministry and All Pro Dad. He also works with Basket of Hope, the Black Coaches Association National Convention, Indiana Black Expo, the United Way of Central Indiana and the American Diabetes Association.

The Dungys are the parents of six children: daughters, Tiara and Jade, and sons, Eric, Jordan, Justin and the late James Dungy.


Norm Miller is a freelance writer based in Richmond, Va.

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