Tommy Adams: Engaging Disciples Through Sports
January 19, 2017
Tommy Adams, a former professional basketball player, found strength and direction to unite his love of God and basketball through Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (SEBTS) discipleship groups.
He became connected to Southeastern through Seth Bible, who he met playing basketball at the Factory in Wake Forest. During his time off from professional basketball, Adams trained in the Wake Forest area.
Adams began working out on campus and running Ball 4 All, a training program for young athletes. Playing basketball he met Mark Liederbach, professor of theology, ethics and culture at Southeastern. “Eventually, we became family,” Adams said. “Next thing I knew I was auditing moral ethics and learning that I can’t speed.”
After seven years in Wake Forest, Southeastern has made a significant impact on Adams, especially the discipleship groups he has been a part of.
“The seminary has been a huge blessing in my life,” Adams emphasized. “It helped me with my basketball career, and the long-term decisions that I make. Even in the financial area, I was guided every step of where I was going.”
Adams has been most influenced by his discipleship group (D-group) at Southeastern. “It has allowed me to start teaching and helping others,” he said. “Graham Michael, one of my leaders, showed me how to break down the Bible in a different way and then to be able to do that for others. They saw me as more than just a basketball player at that point.”
“One of my greatest joys is when I see someone ‘get it,’” he said. “To see others like Cody Evans, who I met through AAU (Amateur Athletic Union of the United States), have confidence after D-group to go teach others is really rewarding.”
Liederbach, also vice president for student services and the dean of students, said, “Tommy is not only an outstanding man of God but one that is hungry to know God and make him known. He may be one of the best examples of how a non-traditional student can have his or her life transformed by being a part of the SEBTS community. I am thrilled to see how his training in disciple-making here will impact the world for Christ! It is an honor to call him a friend.”
Adams serves in youth ministry at his local church, runs basketball camps for youth in the area and is a personal trainer. He sees basketball as a way to reach out to today’s youth. Some of his events took place in the Ledford center with members of the Southeastern family.
“A lot of things grew from the draw of basketball,” he said. “It is huge that Southeastern has Ledford Gym. So many people are touched by having access to the school.”
He advises others to be ready to forgive and learn. “People are going to mess up, we are all sinners and live in a fallen world,” he said. “If you are dealing with the body of Christ, you have to deal with people, and they are going to mess up. We are all going to.”
This month, Adams, his wife Nichole and three-year-old son, Tommy Junior, are moving to Chicago as a part of his job with Gatorade.
He hopes to implement the same discipleship group format he learned from Southeastern in Chicago. Adams desires for these groups to be “F.A.T. T.” abbreviated for Faithful, Available, Teachable, and Transferable.
Adams seeks to use Gatorade, basketball and his ministry for God’s glory. “It is what God put me on the earth to do,” he said.
Other than the Bible, one of Adams favorite books is “The Master Plan of Evangelism” by Robert Coleman. “I liked it because it broke down church, people and how we go about spreading the Gospel.”
Adams is originally from Northern Virginia. He became a Christian at 16 and rededicated his life to Christ in his early 20s. He did not grow up going to church but became interested in Christianity when he heard a person being interviewed on TV thanking God.
A favorite verse of Adams’ is Romans 10:9, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (NIV).
Adams graduated from Hampton University in Virginia. He played on and off in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for three years as well as internationally.
While playing basketball in China, he had an opportunity to share Christ with his Buddhist coach.
Looking toward the future, Adams said, “For me now, it’s not about me, but to see my son grow up and be who he is supposed to be. I look forward to seeing the lives that I’ve touched being able to go do what they want to do.”
Adams said, “I am going to miss Monday and Thursday mornings at 7am getting ‘bucketzzz’ with Dr. Liederbach, Seth Bible, Dr. Eccher, Jerry Campbell, Graham Michael, Drew Ham, Cody Evans and Nick Gagnon, Jessie Parker, Conrad and John Wallace.”