Chris Norman, a former linebacker for Michigan State University, was once a talented NFL prospect, but in a video recently posted to Desiring God, he explains why he passed on a career in professional football in order to become a pastor.
Norman grew up in Detroit, and although his first love as an athlete was basketball he later found a passion for football, according to the video. He left high school as an All-American in football and one of the top-ranked outside linebackers in the nation.
He was a talented college player, but in the 2011 Capital One Bowl he severely damaged his elbow, sidelining him for the rest of the game and for several months of practice. During that time he began to realize there must be more to life than the game he loved.
"When I was growing up, although I went to church all the time, I thought that Christ was a distant possibility instead of an intimate truth," he said. But while he was still injured, he visited a Christian camp for athletes where he saw young men and women who genuinely loved Christ. Jesus "got a hold of" his life on May 24, 2011, and, as his injury healed, he worked his way back into the game prepared to glorify God through his sport.
When his senior season was coming to an end, however, he felt restless about his future in the NFL. On his way to the 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, his last college bowl game, he read John Piper's Don't Waste Your Life, which helped him realize the importance of living to glorify God.
He waited about a week after the bowl game to tell everyone what he had decided: he would go to seminary instead of pursuing a career on the gridiron.
"A lot of people told me not to do what I know the Lord wanted me to do," said Norman. "It was tough, because I care about these people. I value their opinions, but the one thing that I have to do is follow Christ, because at the end of the day that's the opinion that I care about the most."
The day after he decided to go to seminary, he received a call from a friend who knew of a church that was looking for leaders. The church, Highland Park Baptist Church in Southfield, Mich., not only hired Norman but also offered to pay for his seminary education.
"True life, what it means to live, is all wrapped up in the way that you follow Christ, to do what he's asking you, to do to listen to what he says and to chase his glory means that you will have not wasted your life," he said.
Norman racked up 197 tackles in 50 career games as a Spartan, according to MSU's athletics website. The talented athlete didn't leave the game because football is "evil," he said in a recent blog post. In fact, he described the sport as a "mission field" and said it has benefits for players and fans alike.
"All that being said, while football is very good, it should never become a god - something ultimate or central in our lives and worship," he wrote. "As I gaze on the glory of the Lord, I have learned more and more that He alone is God, and there is none like him."
Even after he decided to attend seminary he continued to feel pressured to return to football. The thing that made him most indecisive, he says, was that he would have to give up a platform from which he could make Christ known. He found peace, however, after reading John MacArthur's Twelve Ordinary Men: How the Master Shaped His Disciples for Greatness, and What He Wants to Do with You, which helped him realize there have been many ordinary people whom God has used in powerful ways.
"I came to this conclusion: what the Lord is asking from me more than anything else is faithfulness," he wrote. "A big platform is great, but it is greater to obey and follow where God is specifically calling me."