It didn’t take long for Jonathan Jennings to sense that God was up to something big at Mount Juliet High School.
Jennings — the students and missions pastor at Victory Baptist Church and the chaplain for the football team in Mount Juliet, Tennessee — has had a front row seat during what has been described as a powerful move of God that has included 13 football players making professions of faith in recent months.
“The spirit is moving at Mount Juliet High School, and God is doing some awesome things,” Jennings said. “We knew there was something special happening in that (football) locker room.”
A total of seven athletes — six football players and one wrestler — were baptized during a service in November.
Jenkins noted that the movement among the Mount Juliet athletes started to take shape last summer, shortly after Jennings moved to Tennessee from Texas to join the staff at Victory Baptist.
After Jennings arrived, he had a meeting with Ty Collier, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes leader for Mount Juliet High School and the character coach for the football team. The two men, Jennings and Collier, set up a series of cookouts for the football team that were held in the months before the season started.
Jennings held the first chapel service with the team prior to the team’s preseason scrimmage (jamboree), and the chapel services continued each week throughout the season. It was those early cookouts and services that helped lay the groundwork for building bonds with the players, he said.
“(Being able to) pour into these kids for five or so months really paid off,” Jennings said.
Prior to Mount Juliet’s game against Hillsboro, Jennings invited a special guest, Tim Bryant, to speak at the chapel service. Bryant, who is a teaching pastor at The Fellowship at Mount Juliet, is a former NFL player who spent part of his career with the Titans.
Bryant’s message resonated with the Mount Juliet players and led to 13 professions of faith and 31 rededications.
Jennings said three seniors on the team — Jay Taylor, Garrison Lewis and Jeff Pillows — played a big role in sparking the movement. All three players made professions of faith, and they each followed through with baptism.
“Those guys were big contributors and leaders on the team all season, and it was no surprise that they led the way in not being ashamed to stand up and follow what God was telling them to do,” Jennings said.
Jennings said the service in which the student-athletes were baptized was memorable for all involved.
“It was so impactful for that team and their parents,” Jennings said. “There were so many people there to support these guys as they followed through with their public profession.”
Jennings said seeing these teenagers being bold about their faith is thrilling for him on multiple levels.
“As a Christian, it filled me with joy to see these teenagers standing up and being obedient to what God was calling them to do,” he said. “As a youth pastor, it gets me excited that God is moving in our schools and lives are being changed. We are pastoring the first post-Christian generation of kids, and so when something like this happens you can’t help but get excited to see what God is doing and what He will do with these students.”
Jennings said the athletes can make an enormous impact for Christ on the school campus. He said he believes it also demonstrates the timeless power of God’s sovereignty.
“This just goes to show that the gospel still saves,” said Jennings, “and in the midst of all the chaos going on in the lives of these kids, Jesus is still alive and saving souls.
“God rewards faithfulness and this is proof that if you will remain faithful to what God has called you to do, He will reward that by changing people’s eternity forever,” he said.
EDITOR’S NOTE —This article was written by David Dawson and first published by the Baptist and Reflector of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.