NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Seven seminary students experienced more than the NFL could provide at the “NFL Experience” attraction in New Orleans.
In addition to managing the many football attractions for the tens of thousands of participants, these students, all from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, were able to experience the work of God in some of the hundreds of volunteers and staff around them.
“The seminary is such a small world,” said Julie Bauman, wife of seminary student Nathan Bauman. “It was almost refreshing to be around lost people. They act like lost people. They don’t hold back on their language or anything.
“Before I came to seminary, I worked in a church. I feel like I’ve been in this Christian bubble for so long now. Being with lost people has been a daily relationship that I’ve missed. I didn’t know if I could handle it at first.”
The students served on the staff of the NFL’s weekend family attraction Jan. 31-Feb. 3, where children and adults could play one of several games, sometimes against their favorite NFL players; buy NFL products; and watch several concerts by renowned secular artists throughout the day. The event was the preliminary event for the NFL Super Bowl.
Tim Knopps, evangelist with the Timothy Institute of Evangelism in Oklahoma City, served as an event consultant for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans and as one of the leaders of the volunteer staff. Although neither he nor the students are able to mingle with the thousands of people who attend the NFL Experience, Knopps said they had opportunities to share Christ with the volunteers and fellow staff.
“We always tell them to look for the question, ‘How did you get to be a volunteer?'” he said. “They can then answer, ‘Our church brought a group.’ Then the person may ask, ‘What church?’ And hopefully that will lead them into a discussion about Jesus.
“If you can’t talk about Jesus by talking about the church you go to, then you’re probably going to the wrong church,” he added.
The seminary students say they were given even more providential opportunities than just talking about church.
James “Tex” Brandon, a master of divinity student at NOBTS, said he was able to talk about his faith just by having a good attitude throughout the often-hectic day.
“I was just standing there this morning, having a good time, and this girl asked me, ‘Why are you having fun so early?’ I told her that I have a lot more fun than I used to because of what God has done in my life,” he said. “I was able to share my testimony with her just because she’d never seen a person do that.”
Kyle Cox, an undergraduate student at the seminary’s Leavell College, said he was able to share with some of the volunteers after they’d asked him what school he attended, while Bauman was able to share her faith by talking about a summer mission trip, as well as talking about the blessing of the money God was providing through the NFL staff position.
Her husband, Nathan, a master of divinity student, was able to share a little about his faith in his interview with the NFL.
“When I was interviewing, the manager asked me, ‘If you could have the ideal job, what would it be?'” he recalled. “I told her my ideal job would be to be a missionary in the jungle. She was completely blown away, and I was able to share with her that God had called me to be a missionary and that I wanted to obey him.”
Though making those connections with the lost was rewarding, the team also said it was good to have a support group of Christians, and more specifically seminary students, as co-workers.
“The whole thing was a divine appointment of God to put us all together like that,” said Sam Purcell, also a master of divinity student at the seminary. “He presented opportunities for us every day.”
While they were focused on the spiritual task at hand, the students admit it was fun to see all of the celebrities who attended the event.
“Peyton Manning whispered in my ear,” Julie Bauman said, laughing. “He wasn’t flirting or anything, he just wanted to make sure that all of the kids got autographs. That was awesome.”
Each student said the event was a great opportunity to meet with lost people and a reminder to seek them out as Jesus did. When asked, however, if the experience made them more adept at leading a conversation into a talk about Christ, Nathan Bauman said he didn’t think they should view it that way.
“I don’t think it should be an intentional segue into the gospel,” he said. “It’s more of a lifestyle. We’re talking about our life, and our life is Christ.”
For additional stories about Baptist ministry related to the Super Bowl, go to BPSports at www.bpsports.net . (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: GOING OVER DETAILS, A HELPING HAND and WORKING TOGETHER.