By: Rev. Larron D. Jackson
I am delighted to be the Friday keynote speaker and preacher for The Association of Presbyterian Church Educators at the APCE Annual Event for 2017 in Denver, Colorado. I am looking forward to where the Holy Spirit will lead and guide us during our time together.
The theme for our time together is “Finding Strength in The Chaos.” Scripture is replete from Genesis to Revelation with narratives that speak to the chaos that plagues humanity. It also speaks of the redemptive love of God that meets us in the midst of our brokenness. As we read the biblical accounts of such events we are reminded that the chaos that surrounds us will never be greater than God’s love for us. (Read Rom. 5:6–11 and Eph. 2:1–10.) This sovereign scenario is yet played out in the lives of the lost, and those who walk with the Lord.
A Trilogy about Chaos and Grace
In my autobiography, The Ghetto, The Gridiron and The Gospel: A Journey in God’s Grace, I attempt to share how God repeatedly poured out God’s love and grace upon my life before and after I embraced the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Let me tell you what gave rise to this effort.
The first time I was encouraged to write my life’s story was when I enrolled in Emory University, Candler School of Theology in January 1980. My first semester at Candler I had to take a faith development course with the world renowned theologian on faith development, Dr. James Fowler. We were asked to write a paper on our life and faith journey. Upon reading my paper Dr. Fowler said, “You need to write your life story.” He was deeply moved by seeing the gracious hand of God upon my life amidst the chaos and turmoil. I thanked Dr. Fowler for his comments. However, I knew I did not want to write a book about my life for a number of reasons. For the next twenty-two years wherever I shared stories from my life’s journey there was someone saying, “You need to write your life’s story.” I knew that the common denominator in all of those places was God. However, I still was not moved to write my life story. In the fall of 2002, in Green Lake, Wisconsin, I was in a small group meeting with Rev. Dr. Roy Medley, General Secretary of American Baptist Churches, USA. During that meeting he asked all of the ministers present to tell a brief story about their faith journey. After I had spoken, he turned to me and said, “You need to write your life story.” That did not surprise me. However, what he said next struck me at the depth of my being. Dr. Medley said, “If you die without telling your story, God gets no glory.” Those words indicted my heart. After much prayer and spiritual wrestling, I began writing my autobiography in January 2003 and completed it in July 2011.
As I began to write my autobiography, the Spirit of God led me to tell my life story in three parts. Again, the title of my autobiography is The Ghetto, The Gridiron and The Gospel: A Journey in God’s Grace. The “Ghetto” portion of my book invites my reader to understand what life was like growing up in a world of legalized discrimination and racism, seeing street violence and death on a regular basis, experiencing the “fruits” of alcoholism and domestic violence, and learning how to cope in that cultural context became my means of survival. I would later come to know that God’s love and grace was present in the midst of it all. The “Gridiron” section of the book talks about the turning point from the “mean street of the city” to a more productive life style found on the football field. However, high school, college and NFL football came with its own forms of chaos and challenges. Being recruited to play major college football is big business. Playing in the NFL is a ruthless and cold-blooded business. The grace of God brought me through. The “Gospel” section of my book allows my readers to transition with me from “the hype and the headlines” of the NFL to embracing the trials of life and faith of God’s call in the work of the ministry of Jesus Christ. Trust me, the trials of transitions were many. Through it all, God made real God’s power and presence in every situation.
My hope for all who read this article is that you will come away knowing that regardless of the chaos you shall encounter over life’s uneven journey, if Christ is your Savior, God will be your strength. (Read Rom. 8:31–39.)
Rev. Larron D. Jackson, DMin, Area Minister, ABC, Rocky Mountains, has taught at several major colleges and seminaries; has an extensive background in curriculum development for church and community; has worked in international ministry; is a published author of the book The Ghetto, The Gridiron and The Gospel: A Journey in God’s Grace, a former NFL football player for the Denver Broncos and the Atlanta Falcons, and a member of The Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. Persons desiring to contact Dr. Jackson for speaking engagements or to purchase a copy of his book may do so at [email protected] or at (303) 594-3941.