When most people think of Sunday activities, things like church and football come to mind. At Transformation Church – people get both.
Derwin Gray is the pastor. A former NFL defensive back, Gray spent five seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and one season with the Carolina Panthers, until a knee injury ended his career – but led him to his calling in the ministry.
"I was the poster-boy of the American dream,” Gray said. “I had the girl, I had the money, I had the cars – I had everything I ever wanted but what I did not have was unconditional love."
The fast-growing congregation (over 2,500) appreciates how Gray’s football background can translate to the church podium.
“He really understands the value of team,” music director Laura Veal said. “We say teamwork makes the dream work. He knows how to grind and go after it. He leaves it all on the stage, Well, he says he leaves it on the field."
And Gray agrees.
"My experience in the NFL prepared me epically,” Gray said. "To be an NFL player you've got to be a team player, you've got to learn how to play with pain, you've got to have a strategy and a game-plan. So as a pastor this has allowed me to be tough minded and show what it means to put the team before yourself. And then as a coach, I love seeing people flourish to who God's called them to be."
So which is harder, preaching or tackling wide receivers?
"It is much harder to be a pastor than it is to play in the NFL,” Gray said. “ In the NFL you play 16 games, playoffs, Super Bowl -- as a follower of Jesus, every day is the Super Bowl."
Gray’s vision is a multi-ethnic, multi-generational community that loves God upward, inward and outward – a phrase screamed after every service like a locker-room speech.
“My wife and I said there needs to be a church where white people, black people, Asian people, Latino people, old people, young people, hipster people, uncool people (jokingly) could come together and worship Jesus. We wanted to create a community that looked like heaven.”
Now the question remains: who would Gray root for in the Super Bowl if both of his former teams happened to meet?
"Now if the Colts and Panthers played, that'd be tough. In the first half I'd pray for the Colts and in the second half I'd pray for the Panthers."