We talked with FC Dallas defender/midfielder Ryan Hollingshead about his faith journey, how he’s living in the increase of Christ, and the mentors who have impacted his life. Here’s what he had to say:
What effect does your faith have on your lifestyle?
As professional athletes, we are told to sleep 10+ hours a night. This is a crucial part of our recovery and training. And when I do get this much rest, my body feels so much more rejuvenated. But when my church in Dallas offered a 6 a.m. Bible study, walking through the book of Matthew, my heart was pulled. As an athlete, I think I should say no to this; it wouldn’t allow me to get the rest I need to reach peak potential for my game. But spiritually, I know my soul needs this type of conditioning. It’s vital for me to walk through Scripture with other men of God. Ultimately, I commit to the opportunity to wake up early and study Scripture. When it comes down to my highest priority, although I give my best effort to my sport at all times, there’s something of much greater importance. My walk with Christ always comes first. I’ve made the decision that if there’s ever anything I need to do to grow in my faith, that comes first.
How did your journey with Christ begin?
I didn’t grow up in a Christian home; faith in anything just wasn’t a priority for us. When my parents had a pretty gnarly divorce, it led us even further away from the Church. But when I was in high school my older brother — the same one who instilled in me a love for soccer — became a Christian and gave me my first Bible. It stayed on my shelf for a couple years until the Lord prompted me to pick it up. During my junior year of high school, I slowly began to read through God’s Word. As I did, I became convinced of its truth; I became convinced that Jesus is God.
The Lord was very gentle and patient with me as I sought to know and understand His truths. At that time, I didn’t have a lot of people around me I could look up to in regards to the Christian faith, so I had to figure it out on my own. But the Lord pursued me, and I pursued Him. And He did not only pursue me; over the years, the Lord saved of all four of us brothers as well as my mom.
Who have been the mentors in your life? How did God bring these people into your life?
My oldest brother Scott has always been my mentor. He and I, along with my two other brothers, Kyle and Kevin, walk through life together. They are my rocks, my go-to’s. At each stage in my faith journey, God has brought different mentors into my life who have been able to challenge me to pursue God more closely – men with whom I can do life. Whether college mentors, brothers or teammates, I’m continually encouraged by those God has blessed me to be in community with.
What does the Increase of Christ mean to you?
Being a pro athlete, it’s so easy to be increasing your own image. So many people around you are cheering for you and wanting your autograph. The whole idea of John 3:30 is so humbling because Jesus tells us to do the exact opposite. In Matthew 19:30, Jesus says, “The last will be first, and the first will be last.” So as an athlete, I am fighting so hard against the culture. In order to play my best on the field, I need to play with confidence, but I am constantly preaching humility to my own heart. Jesus is the greatest, and He was the greatest by becoming the ultimate servant.
What is your life verse and why?
I don’t have one particular verse I always go back to. Depending on the season I’m in and what passage I’m currently memorizing, that’s where my focus is. Right now I’m memorizing Romans 8, which has been so good for me.
One verse I do cling to, which causes me to reach out for more of God’s Word, is found in 2 Timothy 3:16:
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” — 2 Timothy 3:16
The Increase, part of the Sports Spectrum Network, is a community of Christian pro athletes sharing their personal stories of the decrease of self and the increase of Christ (John 3:30). Visit TheIncrease.com for more stories and videos.