Gonzalez All In As 2015 IGNITE Speaker

September 3, 2015 | | GNJ News, Next Generation Ministries

Gian-Paul Gonzalez is known for speaking to and motivating professional sports teams with his “All In” message. He’s led chapels in the NBA and NFL, most notably speaking to the New York Giants who credited him for inspiring them on a playoff run that ended with a Super Bowl victory in February of 2012.
But as a New Jersey high school teacher, Gonzalez says the youth he sees on a day-to-day basis aren’t much different than those professional athletes. Gonzalez will be the keynote speaker at the IGNITE Youth Conference on Oct. 2-4 in Wildwood and he says those who attend will be hearing some of the same things he’s told the pros.
“The interesting thing about all the different groups I have had a chance to work with is that we all go back to our human condition,” Gonzalez said. “People ask me how do you speak to those sports teams, but I’ve felt all along that I treat them the same way I do a 16-year-old. Those athletes just have more zeroes on the end of their bank account.”
While athletes, whether high school, college or professional, are mostly measured by what the scoreboard says, Gonzalez says the victories off the field are much more important to him than the results of athletic competition.
“When I talk to a team, I tell them I’m not here because I think you are going to win, but that my main concern is about your heart and mind,” Gonzalez said. “The greatest thing I hear when I see them later is when they say they have decided to have a greater commitment to their wife, or decided to take their family to church every Sunday.
“Championships come and go and MVPs come and go, but it’s loving your brother or sister or mother and father, that’s something that we can all do right now.”
Something that Gonzalez had a chance to do, but decided not to, was pursue a career in the NBA. As a 6-foot-6 forward, he scored more than 1,400 points at Montclair State University. He was playing in an NBA summer league after his college career was over and had contract offers from several NBA teams to come to training camp in the fall. Even if he had not made it in the NBA, he likely could have signed a lucrative deal to play professional basketball in Europe.
But he felt quite strongly that was not the path God wanted him to take.
“My first love was football, but it fell through,” he said. “If I had to make that decision for football, I probably would have pursued it with all my heart. Basketball just kind of fell in my lap. I was in Los Angeles on Venice Beach and was prompted by God to step away from basketball.
“It wasn’t easy, but I was able to do it and start a jail ministry and a basketball ministry to do outreach.”
Just as Gonzalez made a tough decision not to pursue a professional basketball career, he says parts of his IGNITE messages will challenge youth.
“I know even after growing up, we sometimes become disillusioned with faith,” he said. “Sometimes we believe it is going to be easy. Sometimes we can say, well, I believe in God, or I know who Jesus is or that I go to church.
“I want to pose a challenge that being all in and totally committed as a young man or a young woman, and to do the things that God has put in your life now as well as going forward, that’s going to be hard. It’s going to take commitment to a degree where we can’t be concerned about outside opinion.”
Gonzalez understands while it may be easy to make a commitment amidst friends and hundreds of others at a spiritually based weekend program, things can change quickly for young people when they return to home or school environments that are not as spiritually encouraging. Gonzalez plans to provide tools to help the young people at IGNITE in any environment.
“The theme I’m going to hit on is what it means to be committed in your walk and what it is going to look like,” Gonzalez said. “It’s just going to be truth that comes from the Word and I want to break it down into practical applications. I know we hear a lot of good things, and then even as adults we forget them. So after each session, I am going to give every single member of the audience a small gift and some will be a little more unique than others.
“It’s something they can take away and put on their bed mantel or locker in school and they are reminded of that moment. It’s a way that they can take that moment with them and say I am going to stick with it and it’s worth it when things get tough.”
Other speakers, performers
A familiar face to last year’s IGNITE attendees and to those who attended regional rallies in the winter, Preston Centuolo will be the emcee for the weekend. He will be joined by the Ground Zero Masters Commission, a group of young adults that will perform and assist with various things on and off stage throughout the weekend.
Another performer announced for the weekend is comedian F.U.D.G.E. He has appeared regularly on several television shows such as BET Apollo Live, MTV Yo Momma NY and BET Coming to the Stage. He has opened for Steve Harvey, Kevin Hart, Lisa Lampenelli, Mike Epps and Bishop TD Jakes. F.U.D.G.E. is currently working as a writer for churchoflaugh.com, a fast growing website being shared by millions of viewers worldwide.
Joining previously announced music acts rapper KB and worship artist Phil Wickham will be Kurtis Parks, a former American Idol top 50 finalist who is now the worship director at National Community Church, a multi-site church in the Washington, D.C., area. Parks’ song “Everything That You Are” was a VH1 Song of the Year finalist.