Summer 2024

Sports chaplain Chad Johnson stars in reality show with fiancée from Destiny's Child

Chad Johnson is a familiar name around the NFL. But not only for the receiver who starred primarily for the Cincinnati Bengals, and also went by “Ocho Cinco” for a spell. Pastor Chad Johnson has long worked with NFL players as a chaplain, primarily with the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers.

“Pastor CJ” is on the verge of becoming even more well known, as he’s starring in a reality show called “Chad Loves Michelle,” which debuted on Saturday. It is airing on the OWN network and “will feature an honest inside look at the path to marriage between Grammy award-winning singer Michelle Williams, one-third of chart-topping Destiny’s Child, and Chad Johnson, sports chaplain to professional sports organizations,” according to a press release.

Having been together for a year and never in the same city for more than seven days, the newly engaged couple is turning to intensive pre-marital counseling to help prepare them for life together as husband and wife. Both are relocating to Los Angeles from different cities in the months leading up to their wedding, but not to the same bedroom. Guided by their faith and unwavering values, the couple has vowed to consummate the relationship only after they are wed. Each episode will feature real issues the couple is tackling in their everyday lives, including Michelle’s high-profile battle with mental health issues, and the lessons they learn from the pre-marital counseling sessions that bond them stronger together.

The couple met at a “spiritual retreat in Arizona run by Johnson,” according to People.

“I was in a horrible, dark place,” Williams told People, referring to a previous relationship that ended due to her ex-boyfriend cheating. “I just needed to go somewhere where I could get a message of hope and restoration, rejuvenation — get connected to God.”

At the time, Johnson had essentially given up on dating. He and Williams hit it off, but didn’t start dating right away. “I mean, he was cute, but I did not go to [the retreat to] flirt with the pastor,” Williams said.

In addition to his duties as a sports chaplain, the 41-year-old Johnson launched Elevate International in 2006, a non-profit organization that serves urban youth and families worldwide. A former basketball player at Arizona Christian University in Phoenix, he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministries.

Johnson found his passion for Christ at the age of 17, when he attended a Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp. “It was at this moment that he came to the realization that Christ placed him on this Earth to impact the lives of thousands. Igniting a passion within him, Chad returned from this camp, and immediately took to sharing The Gospel of Christ,” says his website.

Johnson began by leading chapel services for local high school sports teams, and in 2002 he “pioneered the first citywide urban youth retreat, Camp Elevate, that is now nationally recognized and continues to meet annually,” according to his website. That same year, a friend recommended Johnson to Arizona Cardinals head coach Denny Green, who was “looking for a reverend.”

Johnson later moved on to work with the Pittsburgh Steelers, paid for by Athletes in Action, and he’s also served as the spring training chaplain for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In addition to the reality TV show, Johnson and Williams also have a five-day Bible study plan on YouVersion, creators of the Bible app. You can sign up to do the devotional here.

— Steelers’ Mike Tomlin says he has a ‘bigger calling’ than coaching
‘Death Row Chaplain’ Earl Smith a source of inspiration as he ministers to Warriors, 49ers
Bengals chaplain LaMorris Crawford overcomes incredible odds to impact lives for Christ