Derwin Gray: A Calling of Transformation
BY JACEY CRAWFORD ’21
2 MIN. READ
For many, the highlight of the 1997 Colts Training Camp on Anderson University’s campus was seeing their all-time favorite athletes up-close and in-person. But for one of those athletes, former Colts Defensive Back Derwin Gray, the highlight of the camp was coming to know Christ.
Gray spent six years in the NFL — five with the Indianapolis Colts, and one with the Carolina Panthers after graduating from Brigham Young University, where he met his wife, Vicki.
“Neither my wife nor I grew up as Christians or people who were committed to Christ,” said Gray. “It was through one of my teammates, Steve Grant, that I became a Christian in 1997.”
Once they committed their lives to Christ, Gray and Vicki began their faith journey, following God’s direction as He moved their hearts to know Him and make Him known.
Two years after this life-changing moment, in 1999, Gray received an invitation to speak at a youth event in South Carolina. The problem with that, he explained, was that he was a “compulsive stutterer.”
“I had to ask, ‘Okay, God, why would you send me to go speak somewhere, when I can’t really speak?’” said Gray. “It was during that time of intense prayer that I sensed God saying, ‘If I can raise my son from the dead, I can teach you how to talk.’”
Speaking in South Carolina was just the beginning of God’s calling on Gray’s life; the overwhelming response to Gray’s message at the youth event led to years of additional public speaking opportunities around the nation. However, when Gray and Vicki left the multi-ethic NFL world, he felt stuck. He wanted to attend a richly diverse church, but struggled to find one; he felt that his options were mostly-White churches or mostly-Black churches.
The more Gray grew in his faith, the more he recognized that multi-ethnic churches were few and far between. According to Gray, fewer than 4% of churches at that time were multi-ethnic. As Gray traveled and spoke around the country, he felt God laying a need on his heart for more churches of diversity.
Gray shared that biblically, we are all united in Christ, just as Paul, one of Christ’s apostles, preached through the early Church: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”
“[God] was saying to me, ‘I want that in today’s world, and I want you to help do that,’” said Gray. “So I said, ‘Okay.’”
Gray went on to earn his Master of Divinity (MDiv) from Southern Evangelical Seminary, and his Doctor of Ministry from Northern Seminary.
In 2010, Gray founded Transformation Church — a multiethnic, multigenerational, mission-shaped community in Indian Land, South Carolina, located just south of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Gray’s vision for the church was to be a community where “people who had never heard of Jesus could understand” and “Black people, White people, Asians, Latinos, young, old, poor, and middle class” could experience unity and love. Gray believes that God used the skills he learned playing football to help him be a better pastor.
“As a pastor, I actually see myself as the head coach. God is the owner, all my staff are offensive coordinators, defensive coordinators, special teams coaches, position coaches, etc., and the congregation is the team,” said Gray. “A lot of what I’ve learned about leadership, leading, and writing I learned on a sweaty, hot football field.”
To learn more, follow Gray’s ministry and check out his Marinate on That podcast, and his newest book, Building a Multiethnic Church: A Gospel Vision of Love, Grace, and Reconciliation in a Divided World.
Anderson University is on a mission to educate students for lives of faith and service, offering more than 60 undergraduate majors, 30 three-year degrees, 20 NCAA Division III intercollegiate sports, alongside adult and graduate programs. The private, liberal arts institution is fully accredited and recognized among top colleges for its business, computer science, cybersecurity, dance, engineering, nursing, and teacher education programs. Anderson University was established in 1917 in Anderson, Indiana, by the Church of God.