How Todd Peterson Came to Know Christ
“I came to faith in the latter part of college. I grew up in a great home but wasn’t taught to prioritize my relationship with Jesus. My girlfriend for a number of years came from a really strong Christian family. Her influence in my life and an experience in a weekend renewal called the Walk to Emmaus rocked my world.
The combination of all that stuff was sports ministry on my college team. Athletes in Action, specifically, opened my eyes to the fact that Jesus wanted a personal relationship with me. God created a way for me to understand who He is, His love for me, and His plan for my life through His son Jesus Christ, who could be my Savior if I trusted Him with my life.
Suddenly, I saw the world differently and didn’t worry about the things I worried about before Christ. As it says in Romans 5, I was justified by faith and had peace with God through Jesus. And I’d never had peace before. I was not full of peace or joy. I was worried and jockeying for position. But everything changed when I trusted Jesus.”
Diving Into The Word in The Christian Life
“I’m a byproduct of sports ministry in a lot of ways. I had a chaplain early in my NFL career who poured himself into me and taught me God’s word, which changed my life. Scripture says that when we look intently into the word, it changes us. Romans 12 says we’re transformed by the renewing of our mind, and I needed transformation.
I needed my mind to work differently than it had before Jesus. God is faithful; that’s what we know as a result of the scripture. So it’s become my life. I love God’s word. We spent a lot of our time as a married couple and as a family, ensuring that the peoples of the Earth have God’s word in their language.
I got saved because 1 Corinthians 1:25 changed my life. And yes, the gospel in concept and essence is what I embraced and offered me salvation in Christ. But 1 Corinthians 1:25 says, ‘For the foolishness of God is wiser than mankind, and the weakness of God is stronger than mankind.”
How Todd Peterson and His Wife Have Grown in The Word and Christ
“Behind every great man is an even better woman. And that is very true for me. She is an amazing, godly woman. There’s a proverb that says A woman of grace is rightly honored. And I see my wife regularly honored because she’s a gracious woman, godly, wise, and beautiful in every sense of the word. She’s fun and adventurous; she’s an amazing wife and mom. We met at The University of Georgia and fell in love over the span of a couple of years.
We were both banking and finance majors accepted to law school, which is what we thought we would do. And God saved us from that, in a sense. He saved us from a small life because that was our dream. And yet what the Lord had planned for us was so much greater. Proverbs 11:24 says, ‘There is one who scatters and yet increases all the more, And there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in poverty.’
As a married couple for almost 30 years, we have found that as we give our life away, our world gets bigger and bigger. This life that God has called us to is a great adventure. Susan is the best part of me. She is my grounding and the one who levels me out. She is just a virtuous woman. I’m a very fortunate man.”
How Did Susan Peterson Navigate NFL Life?
“She understood what God had called me to. And because we were married, we were called to that together. There’s a lot of fun, adventure, and blessing in all of that. But there was a challenge too. When I got hurt in Seattle and had to sit out for part of a year before moving to Kansas City, she had to navigate. I think the public looks at pro sports at more of a meta-level. There’s a lot of glitz and glamor and lifestyles of the rich and famous.
But the reality is there can be some upheaval to it. So she had to trust the Lord and build a good community and family structure for us, and I had to be helpful. I was gone most of the time. I was consumed by pro football, and that was just reality.”
Kicking For The University of Georgia
“The first chunk of it was defined by missing a massive kick. I came in on the heels of Georgia having enormously successful kickers. Every university wants to be touted as something new. Georgia was ‘Kicker University.’
Every guy who had kicked at Georgia before me went on to play in the NFL. I missed a massive kick. We were the number one offense in the SEC. Alabama was the number one defense. We were ranked in the top five in the nation in offense and defense, respectively.
And we had a zero-zero game deep into the third quarter, and I missed a chip shot field goal. That would have been the three points that won the game. And it was a very humbling, or even humiliating thing. I realized my identity was tied up in how I performed. That’s a real blow to your ego. When you identify yourself by how you perform and fail, all of a sudden, you don’t think very highly of yourself.”
How The Lord Redeemed Failure
“Coming out of that, the Lord was gracious and restored my credibility as a player. I ended up earning the job back through a set of circumstances that was evidence of the grace of God.
The guy in front of me got mono, and the other guy missed a kick. So they had no choice but to come back to me. And then God blessed me and favored me, and I had a great senior year. So ultimately, that is what put me on the NFL radar.
God knew that I needed to be humbled; He knew He could trust me with a second chance. He knew that his grace was sufficient for my needs. He gave me a vision for life and understanding that the platform that would come with that success was to be leveraged for His glory, not mine.”
Encouraging Your Children in Their God-Given Talent
“I didn’t kick a football until I was 15. So, my take on that, usually when a parent asks me, is, ‘look, your kids either got it, or they don’t. And your job is to nurture them.’ Proverbs tells us to train up a child in the way they should go, and they won’t depart from it when they’re old. That’s a discipleship thing; Put the word into them, teach them Jesus’ way, and help them understand how to discern God’s will in their life. But, of course, you must also pay attention to their aptitude, proclivity, and academic predisposition.
Your job as a parent is to nurture and encourage them according to how God has wired them. And if you don’t have the humility as a parent to be willing to embrace the realities of your child’s life, shame on you. Be reasonable and realistic, and have the humility to help your child embrace reality. As for me, I don’t believe nor espouse that kids have to start doing these types of things in elementary school. Now, I will say that work ethic and stewardship of talent are critical. But at the end of the day, God’s got a plan for your life. My advice is to get in lockstep with God.”
The Illuminations Bible Project
“Illuminations is a Collective Impact Alliance. This means that the members of the alliance are working together to create an impact collectively that none of them could create alone.
As a result of our involvement and a number of other families, our collective influence, philanthropically and as donors, has been helpful to the coordination and strategic planning for activities and work across 11 leading Bible translation organizations. Before the alliance formed, the Bible translation world was fragmented. There were a lot of organizations doing good work, but there wasn’t a lot of coordination.
As recently as 20 years ago, they talked about it being another hundred years before the last languages would be translated. And there are 7,000 plus languages on Earth. When you look at Revelation 5, Revelation 7, Matthew 24, and Matthew 28, God talks about the nations. That’s every ethnos and every tribe, every nation, every people, and every language. So we felt it was unacceptable to think that there were people on Earth without access to the gospel. We couldn’t imagine a greater injustice.
Susan and I, along with Diana and Mark Green, have explored what we can do to be the gas in the tank for Bible translation. We have these incredibly courageous leaders like Larry Jones, a linguist who has been giving his life for decades to translate God’s word for the peoples of the Earth. We want to come alongside them. I don’t know how to translate the Bible, but I know how to make money, give, and influence others. We have seen God move mightily, and over the last eight, nine years, a few hundred families have given about three hundred million dollars to fund Bible translation through this alliance.”
Navigating Identity as a Follower of Christ
“Early in my NFL career, one of the chaplains for the Portland Trailblazers was involved in sports ministry. He asked me one day, ‘Who are you?’ And I answered him by saying my name. He said, ‘No, you’re not; that’s your name. Who are you?’ I asked if it was a trick question. Then I said I was the kicker for the Seahawks.
He said, ‘That’s what you do. John 1 says who you are is a child of God. Let that be your identity, and everything else will fall into place.’ It helped me understand why scripture speaks to the value of a good name and of doing all you do with all your heart, as if unto the Lord.
Whether I was kicking a football for a living, running a business, sitting on ministry boards, investing in business deals, or giving money, we operate from the primary context of understanding that we are children of God. John 1:12 says, ‘But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God.’ We are reborn in Christ. The old has gone; the new has come.
It reframes how we evaluate opportunities and gives you great purpose. If it doesn’t align with our beliefs about who we are, who God is, and God’s plan for our life, we won’t do it. We’re given a finite period of time to live. We have time, talent, treasure, influence, and relationships, and I want to steward all of them well. Luke 12:48 says, ‘From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and to whom they entrusted much, of him, they will ask all the more.’ I want to be found faithful before God for stewarding well what He entrusted to me.”
Ministry Never Ends in This Life
“Before you have a ‘halftime’ crisis, let’s have kingdom purpose in our vocation. We must understand, with a good Biblical theology of work, that we can do a job that has nothing to do with ministry and do ministry the whole time.
To Dr. Hendrick’s point, ministry never ends. You may change vocations or retire from a vocation, but ministry never ends. We are always serving God. Jesus didn’t come to be served but to serve and lay His life down. Our opportunity in this Christian life is to lay our lives down so that others are lifted up.
Whether we’re doing a job we get paid for, serving as a volunteer in some capacity, or giving generously, we’re doing it for the glory of God, and it’s our privilege to serve.”
How Todd Peterson Sees God’s Invitation to Believers
“Scripture says that we never want to trade away what is eternal for what is temporal. And when I look at the scripture, only two things will last forever, and God tells me to walk in a manner worthy of His call on my life.
I want to be invested in the things that last because everything else will burn up. And I want my purpose to be rooted in, aligned with, and adjoined to God’s word and the souls of man. And everything I can do to bring an intersection to those two things is where the sweet spot of my life is. So for the guy who just wants to coast and play golf, you’re missing out on the opportunity to be a part of what God is doing.
It’s a great adventure. I left the NFL, and numerous people said, ‘Where in the heck do you go from here? You’ve experienced all that could be good in life.’ And if I had to believe that, my life would be so sad. But my wife and I would testify our life is a million times bigger, more fun, and more rewarding than ever before. We’ve been all over the world, meeting the most amazing people. We’ve been involved in the most incredible things, and it’s a hundred percent because we’ve given our life away. I would tell anyone to try it. God will not fail you.”
About Todd Peterson
Mr. Peterson and his family have enjoyed a connection to Bible translation for 20 years. He serves as one of five resource partners providing visionary leadership to the illumiNations alliance of Bible translation. Along with the CEOs of the 11 illumiNations implementing partner ministries, Todd and his resource partner colleagues constitute the alliance steering committee that prayerfully and strategically works to eradicate Bible poverty by 2033.
Todd previously kicked for several teams over a 13-year NFL career and is now chairman of Pro Athletes Outreach. He also serves as Chairman of the Young Life Foundation, Chairman Emeritus of Seed Company and is on the boards of Passion Conferences / Passion City Church and The Gathering. Professionally, he is a member of the boards of three private companies. Todd and his wife, Susan, co-own Cabell’s Designs and Relish, with their partners, and she is the CEO of each. He is a longtime Trustee of Young Life, also serving on the boards of Pro Athletes Outreach and The Gathering. The Petersons live in Roswell, Georgia, and have two adult children.
For more inContext interviews, click here.