Finding Purpose, Even from the Sideline


Finding Purpose, Even from the Sideline

Christy Johnson

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Shawn arrived at Rutgers University with a full-ride football scholarship. As a four-year starter at wide receiver, he would go on to help his team win the 2006 Texas Bowl championship and be named team captain his senior year. But Shawn learned early on that living out one’s faith in the midst of Division I athletics brings numerous challenges, distractions and temptations.

As a freshman, he felt lost.

Everything changed for Shawn the following season, when Athletes in Action came to Rutgers and his coach put him in touch with chaplain John Maurer.

“Without Athletes in Action, I would never have realized that I’m more than a sport—that my identity is not wrapped up in being a guy that was fast or could catch a football and run down the field. No, my identity is wrapped up in Christ.”

Knowing his identity in Christ was essential for Shawn when two serious injuries sidelined his football career for good at the end of his senior year. You see, he was part of the student leadership team with Athletes in Action on campus, helping prepare weekly Bible studies for his peers.

“I had been the one being discipled, but now I was doing the discipling,” Shawn says. He didn’t realize it at the time, but God was using Athletes in Action to build his foundation as a ministry leader …

Now 34, Shawn is the Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics at New Jersey City University where he taps into his experiences with Athletes in Action to help minister to kids today in his community.

Young men and women around the world latch onto athletics to give their lives meaning. Yet serious injury can bring their world crashing down. Like Shawn, they need to discover they are more than a sport, that God has a bigger plan in store for them far beyond their athletic careers.

Then there are those athletes who don’t know God at all.

Today, Athletes in Action is establishing ministry on college campuses and even in professional sports teams, helping them learn about Jesus for the very first time. These athletes have influence today and will continue to have influence beyond their competitive careers, multiplied for years to come.