Pastor Judah Smith showed up at an evangelical community north of Los Angeles for the taping of Sunday’s episode of “Beyond A.D.” to talk about God, but first he had to also talk to me about football.
The April 26 installment of the Web companion series to NBC’s “A.D.: The Bible Continues” — new episodes are available Sundays at 9 a.m. ET (click here to find at it NBC.com) — features Australian evangelist Christine Caine; Smith, who runs The City Church in Seattle, Washington; and musician Lincoln Brewster.
While the studio audience watched the previous week’s episode of “A.D.” inside the auditorium, I caught a few minutes outside with Smith, who looked rather un-clerical in a black beanie and Birkenstocks.
He said he came to “Beyond A.D.” at the behest of host Jason Kennedy, whom Smith describes as “one of my best friends.”
Smith approves of the notion of “A.D.”, which is dramatizing the story of Christianity’s earliest years, from the Crucifixion and into the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles.
“Putting it on the silver screen, so to speak,” said Smith, “and bringing life to it, bringing humanity — you can see the characters sweat. You can see their emotions. It brings the Bible to life, and I’m all for that.
“There’s no perfect take on it, is there? That’s impossible, but it’s beautiful. I love what Mark [Burnett] and Roma [Downey] are doing, and I’m a storyteller and so passionate about this story being seen and heard more and more.”
We segued into talking about people having a public witness for Christ, and that led to one of Smith’s other best friends, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, an
outspoken Christian who’s cultivated a gracious public persona.
Wilson was put to the test when New England Patriot Malcolm Butler intercepted his pass into the end zone — rather than a handoff to running back Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch — near the end of the Super Bowl, crushing the Seahawks’ hopes for a repeat win.
Here’s the 26-year-old’s reaction from his @DangeRussWilson, Twitter account:
Thank You God for the opportunity. We’ll be back… I will never waiver on who He has called me to be.
“People don’t know the half of it,” said Smith. “He is the truth, the real deal, on and off the field. I actually would say that who he is off the field far surpasses who he is on the field. We were joking, two nights ago, we were laughing. And I said, ‘You’re 43 years old in terms of your head, your mind and your processes. You’re a sage.’ I’m telling you, he’s a sage.
“It’s insane, and at 36 — he’s 26 or 27, I’ve got ten years on him — and I don’t compare, in terms of wisdom and street knowledge and practical, just knowing how to make good decisions.
“Obviously, I’m really excited about him in terms of his football, his career, but I’m even more excited about the man he is, who he is, and the difference he’s making in the world.”
With so much public talk about the misbehavior of some NFL players — or downright criminal behavior, like former Patriot Aaron Hernandez, recently convicted of murder — it’s heartening to see a young man who’s a leader on the field and also setting a good example off the field.
(Click here to see “20 Reasons Kids Should Look Up to Russell Wilson Over Johnny Manziel,” and here to see how Wilson overcame his adolescent anger to go from being a bully to visiting Children’s Hospital in Seattle every Tuesday.)
“It’s cool,” said Smith. “Maybe the thought’s getting out that good guys can win, that you can actually be true to yourself and true to your faith and still be ridiculously successful. I’ve heard the comments that when someone becomes a person of strong faith, that sometimes it makes them less aggressive in their sport or their art, but it’s beautiful to see Russ.
“All of his heart, he’s out there playing football, super-aggressive and passionate about winning and only winning, and yet is tender, compassionate, kind and loves Jesus and loves life. So it is a cool picture, isn’t it? It’s a beautiful picture for young people to aspire to, that you can be both.
“You can be ruthless and passionate in your gift and your craft, and yet kind and sweet.”
In other news about Christian NFL players, former Bronco, Jet and Patriot Tim Tebow — written off by nearly everyone except himself after the Patriots released him during the preseason in 2013 — just signed with the Philadelphia Eagles … after working out for the team on 3/16 (John 3:16 being one of Tebow’s favorite verses, and a significant number in his football career).
“That’s my guy,” said Smith. “I love Timmy. He’s a dear friend, and I’m very, very proud of his persistence. He never gave up, and that’s Tim Tebow to a T. He just believes, he knows, and he never gives up. I couldn’t be more proud of that guy. I love him a lot.
“The story has yet to be written on what’s about to unfold [for him]. I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be pretty awesome.”
The Seahawks aren’t set to face the Eagles in regular-season play, but it is conceivable it could happen in the playoffs or Super Bowl. If that happens — and if Tebow makes the final roster — what will Smith do?
“I’m rooting for all my friends,” he said, “and, at the end of the day, if it comes down to the Seahawks and Philadelphia, here’s my thing, I live in Seattle. What can I do?”
Images: Kate O’Hare; Russell Wilson (with Smith and former NFL player Shaun Anderson), from Twitter.