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Super Bowl Winning Coach Leaves Football for Faith Calling

Tom Buehring - 700 Club Producer

“What else is going to matter in the end”, Rocky Seto emphatically says, “Super Bowls aren’t going to matter! National championships aren’t going to matter! In the end, where do we rank Jesus in all this stuff that God’s given us? And simply put, Jesus –there’s nothing better than Jesus. Jesus is the greatest treasure!”

A treasure trove that Rocky Seto lives for! The successful NFL and collegiate coach called a career audible, leaving football to devote his energy training to help pastor the church he once attended in southern California. A decision announced after a January 2017 playoff loss.

Question: “You go through that typical end-of-season exit meeting -- what did you say?”

Rocky Seto: “Coach Carroll made an announcement to the team that I’d be leaving the Seahawks to go into full-time ministry. And Coach invited me up and to talk to the team. And got to talk about Jesus and about the Gospel, the goodness of God. And so I was able to talk about that with the team and then leave on that note. It was incredible! I felt the Lord prepared me for that moment.”

Question: “And the response?”

Rocky Seto: “They gave me a standing ovation and a bunch of hugs and it was great. It was like ridiculously encouraging and the Lord is good, you know. And after that, stayed there for another couple days, cleaned out my office and then that was it.”

Question: “Even those close to the team said listen, quite honestly, Rocky has been pastoring all along. His employment just happened to be football. How has coaching prepared you?”

Rocky Seto: “Oh, coaching and pastoring have incredible parallels. God impressed upon my heart hey, how have I trained you over the last 20 years? And in coaching, God’s raised me up to lead and to –to develop leaders. And that’s what I’m called to do, is to lead, develop leaders to love Jesus and give them what they need. And Jesus defines leadership as, you know, He said I did not come to be served, but to serve, to give my life as a ransom.”

Question: “It’s the ambition of most to get to what you just left.

Rocky Seto: “I think this is a big point. It’s God who’s the One that blessed and opened doors to be coaching at USC, let alone coaching at the Seattle Seahawks, it was all God! When we know that, you know, we don’t hold onto to like I got to hold onto this. The trap is thinking that we’re the ones that can make this thing go. God is the one that makes this thing go. So it’s always better to be under God’s will.”

Question: “What was the turning point for you?”

Rocky Seto: “I thought about this maybe extensive for the last 7 years. God, is it time to go to ministry? I just felt like I was going to be called into ministry. I just didn’t know when and where. So Pastor Cory Ishida of Evergreen Baptist of the San Gabriel Valley, the church I grew up in Southern California, called me up and said ‘hey, I think you’re going to be my next senior pastor.”  

Pastor Cory Ishida: “To make this monumental decision of leaving pro football to enter into the ministry. I mean, he makes decisions based upon what he feels the Lord wants in his life. And that is an invaluable attribute and trait for a pastor. Actually it’s an invaluable trait for anybody who calls upon the name of Jesus.”

Question: “Career change, new opportunity, divine appointment. What do you call it?”

Rocky Seto: “Well certainly a calling – God calls people to coach, which He did for me for almost 20 years, now because He’s called me to be a pastor at this church. This is the ultimate thing that we could do! Or if He’s called you to be an attorney, a gardener, a homemaker raising your children, that’s the ultimate calling. If you treasure Jesus above all things in your life, I mean, He dominates your life, Jesus just is constantly on your thoughts, He in fact will impact His desires into your heart.”

Question:  “What’s most misunderstood about the Christ that we follow and that culture has really grown dull to, that you’ll stress?”

Rocky Seto:  “Jesus is the Lamb of God, He’s the sacrifice of God, He has tenderness of God. But also, He’s the Lion of Judah. He’s the Warrior God!  In football, they’re using men and a certain type of man, right. I mean, intense men, physically gifted men! How is this type of man going to follow this type of Jesus? So are we in the church presenting Jesus in the way that He’s most accurate? In Revelation it describes how Jesus is going to come back riding a horse with a sword, getting ready to destroy all of His enemies to set up His kingdom. Do we realize that Jesus has a flame of fire when we see Him? He’s glowing like the sun. And when we see Him, we’re going to be like ‘whoa’! I could follow You and I need to follow You. I will follow You! So Jesus is no longer playing the Lamb anymore. He’s the Lion forever.”

Question:  “What have you learned since becoming a pastor?”

Rocky Seto:  “To be very clear what God has called me to be! Preach the Word of God in a Christ-exalting way. So, in essence Tom, every time we preach the Word, we’re bringing them Jesus.  And then raise up leaders! Those two things!”

Question: “From the pulpit, with the responsibility of a congregation, does He look any different to you than He did before?”

Rocky Seto:  “Well, I’m going to steal a line from one of my favorite movies, Chariots of Fire. And Eric Liddell -- He goes, when I run, God made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure! And when I teach and p each the Word of God, I feel God’s pleasure in a different way that I haven’t even felt. Even from coaching football, which I love, you know. But when I teach the Word of God, I feel God’s pleasure in a whole deeper and different way.”

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