WATCH – ‘The Word of God Undergirds Everything I Do’: Sports Broadcaster James Brown Opens Up About Preaching, Calling, and Straddling Two Different Worlds

More and more these days, pastors are taking second jobs in addition to their ministry work, and not just for financial reasons. Many pastors see a second job as an opportunity to minister outside the church building’s walls and to build credibility in the community. As bi-vocational pastor Ben Connelly wrote, “God seems to be working through my bi-vocationality, not in spite of it.”

CBS sportscaster James Brown—or “JB,” as his viewers know him—understands the tensions of bi-vocational ministry. Most people know the three-time Emmy Award-winner as host of The NFL Today on CBS Sports and Thursday Night Football on CBS Sports and NFL Network, but he’s also an ordained minister. He’s fond of saying, “That which I do in my profession is my avocation, but the Lord’s work is my vocation.” Pastor Maina Mwaura sat down with Brown to learn about his introduction to ministry, how he balances his dual roles, and the challenges of displaying a vibrant faith in a secular work environment.

How did you get into ministry?

Clarence Givens, our founding bishop and pastor at Rhema Christian Center Church, was quite a persuasive man. He asked my wife and me to become the youth directors. I thought, You have to be kidding me! I’m going to go into his office with my wife and let him know I can’t do that. I’ve got too much on my plate right now. And that’s exactly what I told Dorothy, my wife.

Now it makes me laugh because when we got into his office, I said, “Look, Bishop, you’ve got all of these responsibilities for me, and you know how busy I am. What is it exactly that you want me to do with the youth director position? I’m prepared to take it on.” And my wife started laughing, as if to say, “You get all bold talking about what you’re going to do, but when you sit in front of him, that all goes out the window.”

So in 2002, my wife and I became youth directors. And I was ordained in 2009.

Looking back, I know it was the Lord guiding me. God sees the end from the beginning. Imagine a parade coming down the street in Washington, D.C., and somebody is sitting up on top of the Washington monument, 555 feet high. They can see where the parade started, where it’s moving, and where it’s going to end. That’s how God sees my life. I only see a little bit ahead of me. Isn’t it awesome to have somebody who sits high to tell you where to go?

How was preaching different from being in front of millions every week as a broadcaster?

It was a night and day difference! Sermons are serious business because you’re preaching the Lord’s Word. It’s not a pep talk. It’s not a motivational speech to a corporation. It’s about rightly dividing God’s Word, knowing that I want his Word to fall on fallow ground, receptive hearts that are searching.

[For more thoughts on preaching from James Brown, watch this video on]

After you finished your time in youth ministry, what did you do next in the church?

Our role in the youth ministry led to us overseeing many different ministries. From there, I joined the staff as a confidant to the pastor, and I started preaching as well. The story of Moses and Aaron helped me learn to serve in that role. Aaron was there to assist Moses and help him keep his arms up, which is exactly what I learned to do, by simply being available.

This grew me into the role of speaking at different churches. My wife and I are very active in our church, but over the last several years my ministry has grown to look more like an itinerant speaker. I like speaking in different churches, but when given the chance, there is no place like home.

Can you think of anything from before your time in ministry that prepared you for your current roles?

Before I become a broadcaster I worked at Xerox and Eastman Kodak in sales and sales management. Sales isn’t about running your mouth; it’s about being an effective listener and observer to know what a customer is looking for, hearing what they’re saying is important to them. Some people think being in sales is about telling customers 1,000 pluses of a product. But the truth is, all you need are five key points. For example, if you’re selling a car, what’s the gas mileage? The safety reliability of the car? Can I get four grandkids in there? What’s the cost of service? Good salesmen listen for those things and sell to them. My time in sales helped me learn to listen—to people and to the Holy Spirit.

Tell us about your wife, Dorothy. How do you minster together?

My wife is an awesome woman of God. She is no nonsense when it comes to internalizing and obeying the Word. She teaches the Tabernacle of Moses at our church’s Bible college. I learn at her feet. She likes to say, “You know, James, public speaking and preaching are what the Lord has gifted you to do. I prefer to be a teacher and a supporter of you.” But whenever she is called on to preach, she is excellent at it.

My wife is very strong. She has a packed schedule. She sings in the church’s choir. She’s an active evangelist. She’s diligent in attending Bible study every Wednesday. She teaches. And she also has a full visitation schedule, visiting those in nursing homes and assisted living.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Interview by Maina Mwaura