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7 Questions for Thursday – Brian Smith

Brian Smith is on staff with Athletes in Action at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is married with 3 kids, likes the Detroit Lions probably a little too much, and graduated with a degree in journalism from Wake Forest University. 

What does Jesus mean for you?
Jesus is Lord and Savior. His perfect life, death, and resurrection mean that there is now a way for me to have a relationship with God. I have been spending a lot of time in Colossians the last few weeks and love how He is described in chapter one, verses 15-21:

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.  For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.”

Name your favorite 3 Christian music artists?
I’m going back to the early 2000’s and starting with Reliant K. More recently, NF and anything from Bethel Music.

What is the church body doing well and what could we improve on?
A phrase that has gained a lot of momentum the last few years has been “Gospel-centered.” In large part, it has come from the Church’s intentional effort to get back to our foundational belief that the Gospel changes everything.

Pastor Dan Ortland has explained the phrase like this: “to be Gospel-centered does not mean that social action, marital and sexual matters, ethical issues, political agendas, our jobs, our diet, and all the rest of daily life are irrelevant. Rather, it means all of life is viewed in light of the Gospel. Everything passes through the filter of the Gospel. What Jesus has done and is doing to restore the universe trumps everything else and orders all other loves accordingly.”

The Church could improve in the area of diversity. That’s a loaded statement that deserves its own post, but I will just say this: We miss out on the fullness of God when we neglect to celebrate with, mourn with, and worship with people who look different than us.

What scripture really defines where you are today in life and why?
I mentioned that I am reading through Colossians right now and the verse that continues to haunt me comes from Colossians 1:25: “of which I (Paul) became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known.” What I love about this verse is that Paul was given something by God, but for someone else. Why didn’t God just give it directly to the other people? Why does He choose to give us certain gifts, talents, and responsibilities? To serve other people. The verse is helping me see all of my stuff as a stewardship that I need to give to other people. And that’s hard!

You work at Athletes in Action. Why is it important to have Faith tied with Athletics?
I think it’s vitally important to have faith tied to whatever you are spending time doing. Colossians 3:23 is pretty clear: “Whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord, and not for men.”

For the doctor, this means figuring out how to serve God in the context of his profession. And that will probably look a little different from an accountant, or a social worker, or a stay at home mother. The athlete, too, has to wrestle with how to be faithful to the Lord within the context of sports. It’s easy for athletes to separate sports from God and think that He does not care. I believe He very much cares.

I work with Athletes in Action because, first and foremost, athletes need to know Jesus! But they also need to understand that God has them where they are for a reason and they have an opportunity to serve Him in this unique context.

A lot of people today are thinking of adopting children. You and your wife have adopted two children. Both of who have different skin color then you. How did God play a role in that decision to adopt and deal with the race difference?

We take James 1:27 very seriously. It is not a suggestion to care for the orphan and the widow, it’s a command. There are obviously different ways to be obedient to this type of command without actually adopting a child but that was the conviction the Lord laid on our hearts from earlier on in our marriage. Both Hadassah and Judah have dark skin.

When we went through the adoption process, there were options of what we “preferred.” Caucasian? African-American? Asian? Hispanic? Boy? Girl? Mother with drug history? Alcohol history? Ect. It was a little overwhelming. We said we were open to any child.

Now, if you know how adoption works, you would understand that black boys and girls are the least preferenced children. In being open, we assumed God would match us with a child who had dark skin and we were excited about the opportunity.

I could write a lot about how we have come to deal with race differently but here are a couple thoughts. It has made us aware of how we are often drawn to people who look like us and how adoption forced us to step outside of our comfort zone and engage more with different cultures. It has encouraged us to learn about the rich cultural heritage of the African-American community. It has shaped the books we read, the people we spend time with, the music we listen to, and most importantly, it has grown our appreciation for God.

Name your top five athletes coming from UW-Madison?
Wow, ok here are the first 5 that come to mind in no specific order: Suzy Favor Hamilton, Ron Dayne, Gwen Jorgensen, Joe Thomas and Mark Johnson.