He lost the fire to play. The Green Bay Packers wanted him, but he could barely bring himself to work out. Everyone told him he should be a preacher. His uncle said, “Just make sure God doesn’t break your legs before you listen.” Anthony Bass listened. He left the NFL.
Bass grew up in West Virginia. Although he had a church background, he sought and gained affirmation from the community as a Blue Chip All-American football player. The year an up-and-coming football player named Randy Moss unknowingly crushed his dreams of playing for Notre Dame, Bass gave his life to Christ.
“I played football at Bethune Cookman College, but during that time I strayed from the Lord,” Bass said. “I guess I was trying to be what I thought at the time was masculine.”
Bass was living his life trying to be bigger and faster, all while ignoring a pesky professor.
“Every time I’d see him, he’d say, ‘Anthony, God has a plan for your life,’” Bass said. “It was embarrassing. I tried to scare him off by cursing him out.”
It only worked for a week before the professor called him. Bass says he was playing video games and not really listening, but the professor called to pray for him. He told him something was about to happen.
“I didn’t really listen, but it was the first time God was telling me, ‘He’s praying for you,’” Bass said.
A few months later, during homecoming season, Bass went to a Daytona club with some of the guys from his football team. One thing led to another, and Bass found himself in the middle of a fight, helping a teammate protect his sister. Before he knew it, people started pulling out guns.
“It escalated quickly. I started hearing gunshots and things breaking,” he said. “I hit the guy I was fighting with once, and then I felt these hands grab me and turn me around. My friend David told me we needed to leave and, as I went out the door, the floor was covered with blood.”
One of his teammates died that night, Eric Sanford, a freshman with a 1-month-old daughter at home. Bass describes the night in 1997 as a horrible, tragic scenario. Many of his fellow football players were injured in the fight, receiving stab wounds.
“The guy who started it was trying to get to me, but, I swear, because of my professor’s prayers he couldn’t,” Bass said. “That night, when I went upstairs to my dorm, I fell on my knees and said, ‘Lord, whatever you ask me to do, I’ll do it.’”
Play for the Vikings with Randy Moss
After college, the Minnesota Vikings drafted him as a free agent, the same team as Randy Moss. Bass started off on the practice squad and worked his way up to playing in games. People would tell Bass he should be a preacher. He says he wasn’t sure what to think of that.
“I thought I’d be in the NFL for five years, make good money and retire,” Bass said. “Then one morning I woke up and told my wife I’m supposed to be a preacher.”
They went to church that weekend, and the pastor called him up after the service and confirmed his calling to ministry. At that point, Bass says his heart changed toward football. He lost his fire, and his coaches soon noticed. They let him go. That’s when Green Bay called.
“I half-heartedly worked out, but ultimately I just decided to retire,” he said. “I went into ministry back in Virginia, volunteering at a church, did grad school and got a job as a youth pastor.”
A marriage explodes
Bass was married with children and working on his masters of divinity at Regent University when his wife of 10 years committed adultery and left.
“She wouldn’t reconcile and got re-married immediately,” Bass said. “I also lost my job because my church didn’t want a divorced youth pastor. I just didn’t know what to do. The Lord spoke to me and said to be faithful.”
The previous year Bass had church planting on his heart. He knew he wanted to plant, but wondered if anyone would take a divorced pastor. He was at a loss, but a church planting organization contacted Bass and convinced him to move to Minnesota, where they would coach him to plant a church. It was 2008, unemployment was at an all-time high, and Bass found himself without a job – again.
“I went to Minnesota and looked for a job,” Bass said. “I was almost homeless at this point, but I was able to stay with a pastor for six months. He was trying to help me plant.”
A second marriage, a church restart
While he was trying to make connections and find a launch team in Minnesota, he met his current wife, Dawniqua. They married in 2012 during the church plant process. Together they tried to find supporting churches, but every one fell through. Bass had already been in the area trying to build credibility for three years.
“I am a football player, African American and a formerly divorced pastor, and it took a lot of time for people to realize I was a good person,” he said. “I was still fighting to see my other children, and I had new marriage and a new baby. They wanted me to launch and I thought, ‘With what?’”
Bass had three people attending a Bible study at the time. Without any supporting churches, he launched anyway in September of 2014.
“We had 20 people attend after our launch,” Bass said. “Finances were rough. I had to try and pay the rent for the building. My job with Minnesota Teen Challenge was almost over and I said, ‘Lord, if you don’t move, this whole thing is done.’”
A man of endurance
That’s when a friend brought him to a Converge event. Converge North Central church planting director Joel Nelson set up Bass up with his coach, Dave Reno. Bass decided to start over. Endurance Church now has about 40 attendees each week.
“For us this has really been a story of endurance,” Bass said. “If at any time in the process we focused on the storm instead of on Christ, we would’ve given up a long time ago. We are finally in a position to launch a successful church to help our city.”
Reno describes Bass as winsome, and echoes his journey has been one of endurance.
“Anthony is really easy to like. He has a gift for public speaking that is being honed, and is getting stronger at connecting with an unchurched audience,” Reno said. “He has a lot of tenacity and has gone through a lot of difficulty to where he is at right now. It speaks a lot to his perseverance.”
Allison Hurtado, Writer
Allison Hurtado is assistant director of Marketing and Communications at the University of Central Florida.