There are various topics of conversations in the coffeehouses around the country and world, but the conversation Chris Coghlan, outfielder and utility player for the Chicago Cubs, had was life changing.
Coghlan grew up in a church family and heard the Christian message growing up. He really did not understand the depth of it nor had he any kind of personal relationship with Jesus. In March 2008 in Jupiter, Florida, during the Florida Marlins’ spring training, Coghlan sat down at a local coffee house with Darren Roberts who shared the Gospel message. Chris was playing double A ball at the time.
“Over time God was softening my heart,” shares Chris, “and during our conversation I remember Darren sharing Ephesians 2:8: ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this not from yourselves, it is a gift of God, not by works so no one can boast.’ That was a huge turning point for me. Everywhere in this world the message is you have to earn your way to ‘wherever.’ So it seemed just too easy for this great gift of Heaven that God promises, but I wanted it.”
As the conversation wound down, Coghlan remembers Roberts also sharing Romans 10:9: “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord
and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you will be saved.” There in the coffeehouse with Darren Roberts, Chris prayerfully repented and turned his life over to Christ. Since then, Coghlan reflects, “The Lord has just done mighty things in my life by chiseling away at my heart, revealing sin to me. I just pray for new convictions. It has been a tough journey, but I feel that is the Christian life. I am grateful that I am one of His (Christ’s).”
In addressing the issue of struggles facing Christians, Chris comments, “St. Paul says throughout the New Testament when you become a Believer you will face difficult times. There will be hardship and trials. You are either in one or coming out of one or about to go into one. That is the Christian life. It doesn’t matter what the struggle is, it doesn’t compare to the glory of God when we get to worship Him one day in Heaven.”
Chris Coghlan was born in Rockville, Maryland, to Tim and Heather Coghlan. The family, including Chris’s two sisters, Katie and Kelly, and brother, Kevin, moved near Tampa, Florida, when Chris was nine years old. At age 15 while in high school, Chris’s father was killed in a traffic accident.
Chris attended East Lake High School in Tarpon Springs, Florida, and baseball was a huge part of his life. He turned down a chance to be in the Arizona Diamondback organization when they drafted Chris in the 18th round as a graduating high school senior in 2003. Instead, Chris chose to take his baseball skills to the University of Mississippi. He received several awards while at “Ole Miss” including SEC (Southeastern Conference) All- Freshman team in 2004; SEC All-Conference second team in 2005, and SEC All-Conference first-team and third team All-American in 2006. The Florida Marlins drafted Chris in the first round (36th overall) in the 2006 major league draft. Chris sign with the Marlins, and he started through the Marlins minor league system.
While in triple A (off and on in 2009) with the New Orleans Zephyrs, the team chaplain was Dr. Alan Jackson who led chapel and Bible studies. Chaplain Jackson shares, “Chris is both raw and real. He loves Jesus with the same intensity as he loves the game, and his home is a place where Christ is honored. It was a pleasure to lead chapel with Chris on the team, and he is truly salt and light in and out of the clubhouse.”
Getting into God’s Word
The way Chris, who made his major league debut on May 8, 2009, describes how Christ shapes his life is “everyday’s a constant dying to self.” He continues, “You must press into God’s Word, as Christ says, ‘if you love my Word, you love me.’ The more you are in the Scriptures the more you feed the Spirit that fights the urge to please self. ‘We must decrease so He must increase.’ It is an everyday occurrence. So it is vital to put on God’s armor and get into God’s Word daily.”
Coghlan, who was the 2009 National League Rookie of the Year, has several Bible verses that were significant for him (Galatians 2:20, Romans 5:3 to 5:5 as well as Ephesians 2:8 and Romans 10:9), but the one he most often uses when he signs autographs is Romans 8:28: “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose.” Chris comments, “You can just see the sovereignty of God in this verse. Even though some things happen in a negative way or life is tough on a person, we know through the promise of God that it is for our good and His glory. That is a great promise to have.” He adds, “You know and see God revealed Himself time and again through hardship. God is so good and so kind. I see God is for me and not against me. I can now see the goodness in it though at times it was not easy.”
In 2011 Coghlan married the former Corrie Adamson, who is somewhat of a celebrity in her own right. They are the proud parents of six-month-old Timothy Judge Coghlan. They make their off-season home in Birmingham, Alabama, and they worship and serve at The Church of Brook Hills.
Mickey Weston of Unlimited Potential Inc. (UPI) and chaplain for the Chicago White Sox shares, “Chris is a solid, passionate brother in Christ. I have known Cogs since he was a young player with the Miami Marlins. He was Rookie of the Year, but he has had ups and downs through his career. However, he has maintained his walk with Christ and has really grown in that walk. Chris and Corrie are pursuing Christ, wanting to be a light wherever the Lord leads them.”
A Personal Relationship
Chris tells everyone that a personal relationship is the most important decision they will make in their life. He emphasizes it is literally life and death which tells of the seriousness of it. “A personal relationship with Christ means the world to me,” comments Coghlan, “I have nothing and I can do nothing without Him. It is intimacy. It is falling in love with Jesus. The only way to do that is to be intimate with Him. The only way to be intimate with anybody in any relationship is to spend time and get to know them. So with Jesus, a huge way to get to know Him is through the Word of God.”
Scripture says our hearts are wicked and ‘no one is good and all fall short of the glory of God.’ “There is a price to be paid for our sin,” comments Chris, “and Jesus Christ paid the price on the Cross. It is a free gift of salvation. To say the verse of Roman 10:9, ‘If you confess… and believe… God raised Jesus from the dead, you will be saved’ and believe it in your heart, that is total surrender.” Chris continues, “You can do nothing to pretty yourself. God loves you right where you are. Let God do the work in your heart and make that decision to surrender your life to Christ.”
Coghlan, whose .321 batting average in 2009 was the highest for rookies and sixth of all National League players, sees witnessing for the Lord as ever changing because it is led by the Spirit. When he was younger, he would feel guilty thinking he had to share the Gospel with everyone he came into contact. He came to realize that is not him, but it is God. Chris explains, “I can’t do anything without God working in someone’s heart first. People shared with me, but God had to soften my heart before I accepted his call. Now I live every day for Him and look for opportunities to share the Gospel.”
Chris Tiegreen said in his devotional, “God’s primary vehicle for expressing Himself in this world is through people.”** Hear how Chris Coghlan touched some former teammates: Dan Jennings, relief pitcher for the Chicago White Sox and former Marlins teammate, shares: “It’s easy to admire someone for who they are as a ballplayer. When I first met Chris I knew plenty about him as a great player. When I really first admired Chris is when I learned about him as a man of Christ. He’s so strong in his faith and secure with where he stands in God’s eyes. I really respect Chris not for what he’s accomplished on the field but for who he is as a spiritual leader.”
Neil Ramirez, relief pitcher for the Minnesota Twins and former Chicago Cub teammate, comments: “Chris is a fellow brother in Christ, and you can see how he lives out his faith. It wasn’t just he talked about it, but it was something he let permeate every aspect of his career and his life. He is someone who is rooted and grounded in Scripture. He was a huge encouragement to me when I was on the disabled list. He was calling to give me support and sharing God’s Word.”
Steve Cishek, relief pitcher (closer) for the Seattle Mariners and former Marlins teammate, has this to say about Chris Coghlan: “Chris is amazing. When I was struggling in 2013, Cogs was there to bring me back to what God promises in Scripture. Then again last year (2015) when I was sent down to double A, Cogs shared with me his deepest prayers to the Lord to encourage me when he himself was struggling. I’m thankful for our friendship but most importantly his example and his faithfulness to the Lord.”
The coffee shop conversation Chris Coghlan had in 2009 put him on track to be a faithful follower and witness for Christ whether it be on or off the field of competition. The Lord may be softening your heart and the next conversation may be the most important one of your life.
**Chris Tiegreen, “The One Year Walk with God Devotional,” Tyndale House, 2004, p.165.
Written by Bruce Darnall, Lake Mills, Wisconsin
Photos provided by Safdar Khan/Chicago Cubs