Playbook for Life

Tony Dungy and James Brown have been weekly Bible study partners for 13 years

Playbook for Life

Tony Dungy and James Brown have been weekly Bible study partners for 13 years

The National Football League (NFL) generated $18 billion in revenue during the 2022 season. As the most profitable professional sports league on the planet, the NFL averages nearly 17 million viewers for a regular season televised game.

And amid the league’s unprecedented popularity, two of its most acclaimed commentators—NFL Hall of Fame Coach Tony Dungy and three-time Emmy Award-winning network television broadcaster James Brown—say the Bible is their playbook for life. 

Dungy and Brown co-anchored the “Uncommon Influence Men’s Retreat” in April at The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville. Both men have been involved together in a weekly Bible study for more than a decade with several dozen others via phone and video calls.

“I just want to underscore the absolute veracity of the Word of God,” Brown told the more than 400 attendees at the weekend men’s retreat. “It is truly the inerrant, infallible Word of God. And it is worth basing our lives on. It is the difference between life and eternal death.”

Brown, 72, who is the host of “The NFL Today” on CBS and a special correspondent for the network’s news division, is also an ordained minister. Preaching from the Old Testament Book of Daniel, he encouraged the retreat attendees, ages 14 to 85, that the same God who was with Daniel in the lion’s den and his three Jewish friends in a fiery furnace in Babylon is ever present with those who remain steadfast in their obedience to His Word. More than a dozen attendees gave their lives to Christ.

“A dead end for man is an opportunity for God,” Brown said. “The Bible says the God we serve is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.”

Dungy, 67, who played defensive back for the 1979 Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers and became the first black head coach in the NFL to win a Super Bowl in 2007 with the Indianapolis Colts, is now an NFL analyst and commentator for NBC Sunday Night Football. The New York Times bestselling author said that when a person recognizes and submits to the authority of God’s Word, then most decisions in life, although often not easy, really aren’t that complicated.

For example, Dungy said, he will not be silenced by the vitriolic criticism aimed at him earlier this year for speaking at the annual March for Life rally in Washington, D.C.

“I’m speaking for the Lord,” Dungy told Decision. “I see so many examples in the Bible where God spoke about people in the womb. And God said in Psalm 139, He’s watching over us while we grow there. So, that tells me that’s a life that He values. So, I don’t care what anybody else says, because they don’t trump God’s Word.”

Teaching from the New Testament Book of Titus, Dungy exhorted young and older men alike not to just tell but to show others how to live a godly life. “If you’re following me and I’m following Christ, then we’ll be going in the right direction,” he said. “When that opposition comes, we’ve got to stand firm.”

Throughout his nearly 30-year career as an assistant and head coach in the NFL, Dungy’s poised and Christlike demeanor brought the best out of his teams. He regularly used Biblical illustrations to motivate and inspire his players to excellence and a record 10 consecutive playoff appearances. And when his Colts won Super Bowl XLI, Dungy proclaimed that being the first black head coach to win the Lombardi Trophy paled in comparison to “showing the world that you could win doing it the Lord’s way, and we can be excellent and still honor the Lord.” Fittingly, Dungy’s team knelt in the locker room and prayerfully thanked God for their world championship while a gaggle of reporters looked on.

Having lived through the Civil Rights Movement, these brothers in Christ say that the racial divisions in America today are the result of spiritual warfare being provoked and stoked by the father of lies, Satan, whose sole mission is to rob, kill, steal and destroy. 

And once again, they point to Scripture for the answers.

“Race relations are still deeply problematic, and have been since the beginning,” Brown said. “The last time I checked the Bible, in essence it says it is faith in God for whosoever will, that’s all of us. So, anybody who would dare try to play the game of racism is sinning. The Word is so simple with it: ‘How can two walk together unless they be agreed?’ ‘A house divided cannot stand.’ So, I pray that as the Body of Christ, we’ll take that and model it the way we are supposed to.”

Dungy said that people of God of all nationalities must remember that they are Christians first and foremost. 

“Christ is the example; that’s what we want to get across to people, and that’s what I think our country is missing,” Dungy said. “Yes, I’m proud to be African American. Yes, I’m proud of a lot of things. But it’s got to be Christian first. And the Bible has to take precedence.”

Dungy and Brown both recognize that God has given them a platform on the media’s biggest stage for His glory and not their own.

“Simply put, the Word of God prevails,” Brown said. “It rules.”

And Dungy agrees. “To those who hate the truth, it will sound like hate,” he said. “But if you love the truth, the truth will sound loving. And, so, I think we have to really embrace that and do what Jesus did, and talk to everybody, see their point of view, hear it, and then speak Biblical truth in a loving way. If we know that if they die that way, they are going to be banished from God’s presence forever, is it loving not to say anything to that person?” ©2023 BGEA

Photo: Thomas J. Petrino/©2023 BGEA

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