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August 29, 2013University of Tennessee chaplain Roger Woods, entering his fifth year as Fellowship of Christian Athletes' on-campus mentor for the Vols, kept hearing first-year football coach Butch Jones' "brick-by-brick" and "Rise to the top" messages and knew there was a biblical correlation.
Woods found his scripture in the Book of Nehemiah, second chapter and 18th verse:
Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king's words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.
As Woods led his first chapel session this fall following the start of classes on August 21, he passed out black, rubber bracelets with orange script of the verse from Nehemiah.
"All athletes got them last week, and it correlates with Coach Jones' brick-by-brick message," Woods explained. "He's building people. If you build people, you build a wall. The entire year this year from a chapel standpoint will be rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem.
"Other campaign here on campus is relentless, and the FCA campaign this year is Relentless.
"Rise up and build the Kingdom of God. It just so happens to be that I'm also at the University of Tennessee [where themes this year are similar]. One of my mottos is that God uses me without any help from me. I really believe when you do that, that's when God can use you the most. What I love, my vision is, to encourage to be real, realistic, relational. Christ was real, he was realistic but most of all he was relational. And I just believe in relationships."
Woods, who also has founded a church, New Birth Knoxville, in South Knoxville, said people will soon begin seeing the "Rise up and Build" bracelets inside Neyland Stadium --- and select other retailers. The newly designed bracelets will be orange with "Rise up and Build" in white lettering and bookended by 'Power T' logos. They will be sold throughout Neyland Stadium, area bookstores and even in area Pilot gas stations, Woods said.
A native of Lithonia, Ga., who arrived in Knoxville after serving in Chattanooga, Woods says he is continually amazed by what he calls God's hand here in Knoxville. The founding and movement of New Birth into the old Sevier Heights Baptist Church building came about around the first of the year, in part because some of Woods' Sunday services had swelled to 150 in his congregation. Cuonzo Martin and his family, other members of the Vols' coaching staff and athletes across all sports --- and non-athletes --- have found a home at the church.
"Chap has done a done a great job of reaching out and establishing relationships in the community, getting the support to get what's a large project off the ground," Martin said. "The reason he's able to do that, in my opinion, is because he's such a genuine human being and a good man."
Martin said Woods' role on campus with athletes shouldn't be ignored. Woods, working with numerous head coaches, has reached out to the "un-churched" on campus to provide a comfortable environment and support system.
"He's a great asset for us. I think he's unique because of the bonds he's able to form with the athletes we have in our program, and so often they need someone who's not a coach, who's not a professor, that they can reach out to," Martin explained. "Chap is able to establish trust because I think people pretty quickly understand that he's not trying to press his beliefs on anyone, and he's not going to run back and tell the coach about all your problems.
"That's a real resource, and one that a lot of young kids need when they're coming into a college environment. He's someone that they can have a comfort level with to discuss topics or issues that maybe they don't want to share with a coach or a teammate. Like I said though, I think the reason he's so good at his job is because he's just so genuine."
Woods admits a real shock at the plan he says God has unfolded for him in Knoxville.
"Never, never, never imagined it. Even to this day, it blows me away. It's nothing I ever dreamed or thought of. Just kind of evolved," Woods said. "A lot of it is word of mouth. I don't say a whole lot about the church. It's not a focal point at all as it relates to my campus ministry. Again, I just focus on God's people. Whether it's an athlete or a manager or a student or a mom or a dad. Just God's people. That's another reason why I think (the church) has evolved, because it never has been my intent. That's why I've kind of been in awe and that's why again, it was the hand of God."