Retired coach tells men they don’t have to be perfect, just be present

By Yolanda Putman

Men are special to God, said the Rev. Lurone “Coach” Jennings. He made them first and he gave them rule and dominion so no matter what a man goes through, he has power to change his situation.

“God said you name it and whatever you call it, that’s what it will be,” said Jennings, a father of three adult children.

He spoke to a racially diverse audience of more than 60 people, mostly men, at Hope City Church on Father’s Day Sunday. Hand clapping, laughter and shouts of “Amen,” filled the church as Jennings ministered and prayed. Some people cried.

Father of two, John Temple, said the message moved his heart because it reminded him of God’s love and forgiveness toward him.

“God shows me love through all of my mistakes,” Temple said. “That’s what really touched my heart because that helps me to show love to those God has placed in my life.”

Jennings, a husband and father, noted models of fathers in the Bible including the heavenly father highlighted in the Lord’s Prayer, the earthly father in the Prodigal Son, and the community father depicted in the Good Samaritan story.

Jennings said he came to encourage everyone, especially men. The goal is not to be perfect, but to be present.

Nearly half, 49 percent, of Americans live in homes without a father. The count increases to 72 percent for the African-American community, he said.

The former football coach and educator referred to the Bible as God’s playbook and he encouraged men to read it to prepare for life.“There’s a play for everything you’re ever going to experience,” he said. “That’s why it blows my mind when I hear a Christian say, ‘I just don’t know what the world is coming to,’ and I say, ‘have you not read the playbook?”

People are destroyed for a lack of knowledge, but God has a strategy, a system for everything that happens. He celebrated all men and told those who are out of position to rise up. Jennings recalled the lessons he learned while working with men on the football field, and he used those lessons to encourage men in the church.

“We hang in there,” said Jennings. “We encourage each other. There’s been times I’ve been wounded and one of my brothers would say, ‘Come on coach,’ and as hurt as I was, I would get up because I don’t want to let them down.”

Jennings said because he worked so hard to give his all to his athletic team, he vowed to put even more effort into loving others and serving God.
“If I can do that playing sports, and I made those sacrifices with my life and my body, surely now that I’ve been saved and love you (God) and know who you really are, I will never let a wound or any injury stop me from standing and being all you want me to be.”

He ended the sermon by asking his daughter, Dr. Luronda Jennings, to read a poem that she wrote for the occasion. In the poem she praised God as the heavenly father, earthly fathers and community fathers, and then she spoke about the love and protection of her father as Jennings sat next to her and wiped tears from his eyes.

“From the daughter to her earthly father,” she said. “Thank you for allowing me to be me and to return home when I strayed away from thee – you lovingly corrected me.”