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The Faith of LSU Coach Ed Orgeron: Two Keys to Using Fame Well


“Best team. Best season. Best player. And for this season, perhaps even the best coach. Of all time.”

That’s how CBS Sports begins its coverage this morning of LSU’s victory over Clemson in last night’s NCAA football championship game. LSU’s coach, Ed Orgeron, is one of the best stories of this improbable season. 

Orgeron became the interim coach of the University of Southern California football team in 2013 but failed to get the job permanently. He told his wife, Kelly, “Besides the day I buried my father, this is the worst day of my life.” 

She replied, “No, it’s not,” and explained that “God had a better plan.” Orgeron said, “Whew! It better be good.”

It was. 

Orgeron became head coach of the LSU Tigers in 2016. His quarterback, Joe Burrow, won the Heisman Trophy this year. Last night, his team won the title, stopping Clemson’s twenty-nine-game winning streak. 

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney’s faith has become well known over the years, as has the faith of quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Now we know that Orgeron and his wife are followers of Jesus as well. 

What Alex Trebek hopes we appreciate

Athletic fame is fleeting. 

Former NFL coaches Jimmy Johnson and Bill Cowher learned over the weekend that they would be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. They join twenty-four other head coaches in the Hall. Can you guess their names? (I only got ten, and I’ve been watching football my entire life.) Eight people were inducted into the Hall last year. I had never heard of two of them. 

The first key to using fame well is using it for greater good. 

For instance, Serena Williams, Roger Federer, and Rafa Nadal are among the tennis champions who have committed to a charity match raising funds to fight Australian bushfires. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio pledged $3 million toward wildfire relief, joining a variety of other celebrities who are making donations. 

NBA basketball star Trae Young recently helped eliminate $1 million in past-due medical debt for struggling families. And Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek, who is making headlines for his show’s “Greatest of All Time” competition that continues tonight, told reporters that he hopes viewers have come to appreciate “the benefits of knowledge” as a result of his thirty-six-year career with the program. 

“Let your light shine before others”

The second key to using fame well is to be a person whose private integrity empowers our public influence. 

I was asked a question recently: If a person doesn’t believe that the Bible is true, how can we convince them that Jesus is the only way to heaven? Quoting John 14:6 will not be persuasive for them any more than a Muslim quoting the Qur’an will persuade you to become a Muslim. 

Since fewer Americans than ever believe the truthfulness of Scripture (24 percent in a recent Gallup survey), this is a real and growing issue. 

I talked with this person about the amazing evidence for God’s word from archaeology, manuscripts, fulfilled prophecy, and internal consistency. (For more, see my essay here, my video here, and my book on this issue here.) 

But then I noted that in a postmodern culture which believes all truth to be personal and subjective, our strongest argument for the Bible is often the difference it makes in our personal lives. When we submit our words to the word of God, others will hear God in our words. When we align our actions with God’s revelation, our actions will reveal God to the world. 

Jesus called us to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Otherwise, the world will say with Ralph Waldo Emerson, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” 

“Apart from me you can do nothing”

Living a life that leads others to Jesus requires the power of Jesus. 

Today’s article is not about trying harder to do better. It’s not about resolving to treat everyone we meet as perfectly and graciously as possible. Jesus commanded us to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). 

But first, he taught us to “abide in me, and I in you” (v. 4a). 

Our Lord was realistic: “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (v. 4b). He then added: “Apart from me you can do nothing” (v. 5). Not “something”—”nothing.” 

I fear that many Christians know about Jesus more than we know him personally. Hearing sermons and Bible studies about him and even taking a few moments to read his word and pray to him is not enough. 

Jesus wants an intimate, transforming daily relationship with us. He wants to be as real and alive as any other person in our lives. Even more so, since his Spirit lives in us (1 Corinthians 3:16). 

“I need a continual infilling because I leak”

This is why, as each day begins, I need to get alone with Jesus in worship, Bible study, and prayer. I need to ask his Spirit to cleanse me and empower me (Ephesians 5:18). Then I need to stay in touch with him throughout the day by praying about my problems and opportunities, seeking his word for my decisions, and depending on his power for my obedience. 

Dwight Moody was once asked why he urged Christians to be filled constantly by the Holy Spirit. “Well,” he said, “I need a continual infilling because I leak.” 

So do I. 

Do you?

Publication date: January 14, 2020

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Jonathan Bachman/Stringer

Jim Denison, PhD, is a cultural theologian and the founder and CEO of Denison Ministries. Denison Ministries includes,,, and Jim speaks biblically into significant cultural issues at Denison Forum. He is the chief author of The Daily Article and has written more than 30 books, including The Coming Tsunamithe Biblical Insight to Tough Questions series, and The Fifth Great Awakening.

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of CrosswalkHeadlines.

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