About Pastor Derwin
Derwin L. Gray is the founding and Lead Pastor of Transformation Church, a multi-ethnic, multi-generational, mission-shaped community with two campuses in South Carolina (Indian Land and Rock Hill), both just south of Charlotte, North Carolina. Transformation Church (TC) also has two campuses in South Carolina Correctional Institutions (Kershaw and Lee). For three out of the last five years, TC has been recognized as one of the top 100 fastest-growing churches in America by Outreach magazine.
Pastor Derwin met his wife, Vicki, at Brigham Young University. They have been married for 23 years and have two children.
After graduating from Brigham Young University, Pastor Derwin played professional football in the NFL for five years with the Indianapolis Colts (1993-1997) and one year with the Carolina Panthers (1998). During that time, he and Vicki began their journey with Christ and experienced God’s faithfulness and direction as He moved their hearts to know Him and make Him known. Read the “Life Story” tab to find out about the “Naked Preacher” who told Pastor Derwin about Jesus!
Pastor Derwin and Vicki began an itinerant speaking ministry in 1999–One Heart At A Time Ministries–and Pastor Derwin went on to graduate magna cum laude from Southern Evangelical Seminary with a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree, with a concentration in Apologetics. But following God’s call on their lives and their desire to shepherd people towards transforming their world through the mission of Christ, the Lord transitioned Derwin from his primary role of itinerant speaker to being the Lead Pastor of Transformation Church in January of 2010. Coupling his dynamic speaking style with a shepherd’s heart, his intense passion for seeing lives and culture transformed is both contagious and inspiring.
In addition to his role at Transformation Church, Pastor Derwin speaks at conferences nationwide and is recognized by many as the “Evangelism Linebacker.” Pastor Derwin is currently pursuing a Doctor of Ministry in New Testament Context at Northern Seminary and has been awarded an honorary doctorate from Southern Evangelical Seminary. He is the author of Hero: Unleashing God’s Power in a Man’s Heart (2010), Limitless Life: You Are More Than Your Past When God Holds Your Future (2013), Crazy Grace for Crazy Times Bible Study (2015), and The High-Definition Leader (2015).
As I surveyed the landscape of my life in the summer of 1997, that insistent and gnawing cry that had always accompanied me echoed in my soul, “There’s got to be more to life than this.” Sure, I escaped the West Side ghetto of San Antonio, Texas, through the vehicle of football–but only to find myself in another ghetto. This ghetto, however, had all the right external pleasures one could possess: a beautiful wife, nice cars, nice home, great vacations, fame, an elite professional occupation, financial stability, and the financial muscle to provide for my grandparents, mother, and siblings. Though the externals looked good, the external “stuff” I possessed could not fill the empty cavern in my soul.
I found the stench of this ghetto to be worse than the foul-smelling one in which I spent my formative years. You’re probably thinking, “But Derwin, you lived the American Dream.” Exactly, I had the American Dream! But I didn’t have God’s dream! God’s dream was for me to know, love, and live for Him (2 Cor. 5:14-21). My existence is summed up by Jesus when He said the following in Mark 12:29-31: “The first of all the commandments is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God will all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like it, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Our Heavenly Papa longs to love and empower us so our lives can display His excellence . . . this is true and total joy. And this is how I finally escaped the ghetto of my soul.
THE NAKED PREACHER
During my rookie year (1993) with the Indianapolis Colts, I observed a linebacker on the team that was rather unique. After practice he would take a shower, dry off, and wrap a towel around his waist. Then he would pick up his Bible and begin walking like a 1970’s pimp as he approached guys in the locker room asking them this strange question: “Do you know Jesus?” I didn’t grow up hearing about Jesus so this seemed exceedingly strange to me to see a naked man walking around with a Bible in a locker room . . . besides, I was in the NFL to build my empire and fulfill my dreams (which eventually led to misery).
Out of curiosity I asked the veterans on the team, “What’s up with the naked black man walking around talking about ‘Do you know Jesus’?” They said, “Don’t pay any attention to him; that’s the Naked Preacher.” So we had a Naked Preacher in the locker room asking guys, “Do you know Jesus?”
As I look back at my first introduction to authentic Christianity, it was ingenius of the Naked Preacher (Steve Grant) to ask the question, “Do you know Jesus?” Why? Because in the Bible, John 17:3 says, “And this is eternal life, that they may know the one true God and Jesus Christ whom I have sent.” The word “know” in the Greek language means to know personally or experientially. The Naked Preacher was basically asking his teammates that he loved and was highly respected by, “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?”
Over a five-year period (1993-1997), as I watched his life–which gave credibility to his words–the Holy Spirit began to operate on my heart. The sovereign Creator of all that exists lavishly unleashed His uncaused, measureless, and ceaseless love upon me on August 2, 1997. I remember it like it was yesterday. I called my wife on the phone and said, “I want to be more committed to you and to Jesus.” At that moment I could literally feel my soul being engulfed by God’s holy presence. Since that awakening, my life has not been the same. I can relate to the words of a former murderer named Paul found in Philippians 3:7-10, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings.”
I humbly declare my story, as one who is consumed by God’s all-sufficient grace that I am a follower of Jesus whose sole purpose of existence is to love God with all that is within me, love myself in light of how God loves me, and love my fellow human beings compassionately by being a servant in this broken world. God’s love is the fuel that ignites my passion to share Jesus with you. It is my prayer that you would invite Him to live in you and become a part of His family.