“Sometimes winning can be a distraction,” says Pastor Ted Winsley, chaplain for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Ted has been the Eagles’ chaplain for 15 seasons now, celebrating the winning seasons and enduring the frustrations of the hard ones right alongside his guys.
“Each year is completely different,” he says. “Ironically, losing can be really good for ministry.”
What Ted’s witnessed while serving pro athletes is that the rough seasons on the field cause the players to think about a greater purpose—an eternal purpose—for their lives.
“When the team isn’t doing well,” Ted explains, “the guys tend to really deal with themselves. I remember back in 2001, we had a very disappointing end to the season and it caused the team to really dive into the Bible studies and seek God. A few years later, when we were in the Super Bowl, we had such a solid spiritual foundation! In fact, 9 out of the 10 players who we sent to the Pro Bowl that year were key leaders in our Bible study.”
This season proved to be a tough one for the Eagles on the scoreboard, but Ted saw great growth in many of the players’ spiritual lives.
“These types of seasons set the stage,” Ted adds, “so that when we do win, winning becomes a great platform to bring God glory. Winning is no longer a distraction.”
In addition to the Bible studies and chapel services that Ted leads for the team each week, he and his wife, Dawn, engage with the Eagles players and their wives to offer premarital counseling, marital counseling, and one-on-one mentoring not only during the season, but throughout the year.
“We are there to bring a grounding aspect to their lives,” says Ted. “The NFL life is not real. These guys live in a culture where people constantly want their autograph. I have to tell them, ‘When you’re not playing, people aren’t going to care anymore.’ We can help them gain a healthy perspective so that they’re not pulled into the many different dramatic directions that this lifestyle encourages.”
Ted and Dawn have seen many lives change during their ministry within the NFL. This past season alone, they were able to play a part in players’ marriages being restored, individuals giving their life to Christ for the first time, and emotional walls be torn down in players’ personal lives.
“Seeing these guys connect with God and find their identity in Christ is so cool,” he says with humble amazement. “Now they operate as if football is their platform, not their identity.”
The Eagles’ Bible studies and meetings this year have made a lasting impact, and not only for the players.
“I’ve learned a lot from the players this season,” says Ted. “Watching the guys really open up their hearts, becoming vulnerable and hungry for growth has been incredible. This transparency has created an environment that has bonded the team together and made me eager to grow in my own faith in God and my transparency with those around me.”
“May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” – Ephesians 3:17-19
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