The number of people following Wainwright's daily comments has grown to more than 21,000 between Twitter and the email distribution group combined.
JUPITER, Fla. -- After parking his truck in the Cardinals parking lot at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium each morning, Adam Wainwright spends a few quiet moments jotting down his thoughts on the day's Bible readings.
It's something he's been doing for years, following the same daily study schedule, but this year there's a difference. Rather than just sharing his commentary via a private group message, Wainwright decided to make the Bible study available to anyone interested via social media.
Wainwright had thought about it before, and after meeting with some of his Georgia church leaders late last year, decided that he was called.
"It (the study) had such an incredible impact on some of us that I realized how powerful it can be," Wainwright said. “Even as believers, we are called to be in the Word more than sometimes. ... I was starting to get this itch, a feeling that I should be doing this to a greater extent.
"I tried to figure out all the reasons why I shouldn't do it, and that was a good reason to do it. I realized that any reason not to do this did not come from God. It was kind of an apology that came from somewhere else.
As Wainwright thought more about his idea, he knew it would open up to the public, but he really didn't know what to expect — even after he sold the 200 magazines he printed for his church members.
"I usually get 100 likes when I talk about something spiritual on social media," Wainwright said. "When I talk about baseball, I get 2,000, 3,000, maybe 10,000 likes. I wasn't expecting much."
The program launched in early January, and as more people discovered the Walking with Waino study program and joined the group, more people are following Wainwright's daily comments on Twitter and the email distribution group. .
"My purpose is to let people know that I speak only to God every day," Wainwright said. "Let me tell you, I've had more fun reading and studying the Bible in those 50 days than I've had in my entire life, and not nearly."
Having so many people in attendance was a little overwhelming for Wainwright, but it also made him more aware of how the show and his comments evoke reactions from those who also watch the show.
"My first thought is that it's a lot of pressure," Wainwright said. "It's a big commitment, bigger than I imagined as I knew it was going to be a big commitment. The time commitment is quite large. I need between one and a half and two hours a day for this.”
The program, organized years ago by Don Christensen, Wainwright's financial adviser, includes daily readings from the Old and New Testaments, rather than just reading the Bible from cover to cover. Wainwright also offers a personal prayer at the end of his comments on the day's readings.
Wainwright, who studies with his wife Jenny, works a day ahead of the group. After jotting down his thoughts in the morning, he types them up each night for tweeting and emailing the next morning. He felt that if he tried to dictate his commentary it would not make the daily program genuine or authentic.
“I try to model what I preach. I can't miss a day or people aren't getting what they should," Wainwright said. "It's your responsibility to lead it, you have to do it. ... It's the fastest hour one and a half to two hours every day. One of the big things people say is how much time I have, or they ask me, "How long will it take me to read this every day?" I say it will take you between 20 and 30 minutes to read it all the way through. People say they don't have much time.
"My comment to them, my challenge to them, is always, 'You tell me you love God more than anything, He's number one.' But you work 9 to 5 and spend five minutes on the Word because that's all you had time for. My challenge is to always prioritize it. If he's not a priority in your life and you don't set an example, you need to readjust.”
A "kick starter" for Bible study
Neill Murphy is a lifelong Cardinals fan who works as a CPA in Knoxville, Tennessee. When he found out about Wainwright's Bible study, he quickly signed up.
So does Tony Koehler, who runs a small insurance company in Illinois. Charles Stokes, a senior in Lordsburg, New Mexico, gets the emails every morning, as does Carl Van Stryland, who works in the marketing department of a company in Sioux Falls, S.D.
These select individuals exemplify the type of diverse audiences Wainwright reaches on a daily basis.
"Personally, I needed a kickstart to study the Bible again," Murphy said. "I'm grateful to Adam for starting this. It's my morning wake up call. … Adam thinks a lot about his comments. Adam has fantastic perspective and by being so open about how the passages affect him he encourages us to be introspective and honest with ourselves.
“I also really like the southern influence in your comments. He comes across as open and honest, enthusiastic and encouraging. I love how someone who has stood on the greatest stage in sport can have a childish awe when speaking of the greatness and breadth of God.”
Like Murphy, Koehler was looking for a new Bible study when he signed up and admitted he really didn't know what to expect.
"I had an idea of the meaning of many verses," Koehler said. “Waino has a tremendous amount of knowledge that I love to learn. I look forward to reading Adam's daily verses and insights.”
Like Koehler, Stokes had just read the Bible and was looking for a new program of study. He found that combining Old and New Testament verses on the same subject offers a different perspective.
"I like the prayer he puts at the bottom of the email," Stokes said. "It's very encouraging and I think it's good for a lot of people to say this prayer every day."
Van Stryland said the emails and tweets served as a reminder that he needed to devote more time to completing the readings.
"Although life can be very busy for me as a father of four, I always seem to find some time to watch Cardinals baseball, but I often don't find the time to read God's Word the way I should," said Van Stryland. “For Adam, a man my age and a player whom I greatly admire for his achievements on the field, this Bible study is a very fascinating reminder and encouragement that there is even more to making time daily to study the Bible reading and growing in my relationship with God is more important than watching my favorite team.
An example of the kind of insight into his own thinking that Wainwright shares with his audience is his comments on the February 24 reading of Proverbs. Proverbs 4:25 says, "Let your eyes look straight ahead and have your gaze straight in front of you."
Wainwright's analysis of this reading was: "Do you know why your windshield is so much bigger than your rearview mirror? Because where you're going is far more important than where you've been. Our life in Christ is a new life and we are a new creation. It's great to learn from our past, but it no longer dictates our future. Let us wash away the shame and guilt of our past, in Jesus name.”
"What would he say to your face"
One of Wainwright's teammates participating in the study program is catcher Matt Wieters, who has known Wainwright for years from serving on the Pro Athletes Outreach Board together, even before they became teammates last season.
"What's special about Adam is that he takes his time and doesn't let you think for a moment that you have to take the time for it," said Wieters. "He likes it and you can tell. He tries to pass on his knowledge of what he has learned and what he is still learning. I think that's what's really special about it.
"When you try to do it yourself it feels like it's taking too long and that makes me appreciate his time and effort while he's also trying to be at the top of his game. He realizes there are more important things than baseball.”
Being able to play with Wainwright, even if it meant he wouldn't be a starting catcher, was one of the reasons Wieters signed with the Cardinals a year ago.
"To be able to go through life with a man who spends his life doing whatever our Lord and Savior wants us to do is special," Wieters said. "It was really important for me to come here because I knew baseball would be a little bit different, but it could also grow. Adam does a great job of being completely open and honest about his faith. He won't hide anything. He's going to go out and try to show everyone what it's like to be a Christian."
As someone who knows Wainwright better than most people who read the comments every day, Wieters may appreciate what Wainwright writes more.
"The stuff he comes up with is like, 'Somebody told you that. You didn't think of that yourself,'" said Wieters. "But that comes to mind.
"Whatever he writes is exactly what he would say to your face. That's the really cool part about it. He doesn't have to go out and try to create something special. It just comes into your brain.
“I think that made him stronger and stronger in his faith. It helps others, but you can also see how much he enjoys doing that when he goes out onto the field. There is never a conversation leaving the office that is not welcome.”
In her introduction to the study, Wainwright promised to be transparent with her comments each day, "pointing out anything I struggle with or what really turns me on."
"This isn't a plan where you'll be immersed in a book for months," Wainwright wrote. “It's meant to motivate you to open your word every day. He (Christensen) also ordered the readings of the New Testament and Old Testament based on the date the books were probably written. This makes the Bible read like a story, which it is.
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This is Wainwright's fifth year on the program, and each time, he says, he's learned something different. That's one of the reasons he's so excited to share it with people who are experiencing it for the first time.
“That is the amazing thing about the Bible. Don has been doing this for 25 years and every year something sticks out over the same old lines like, "I've never seen this before and I've read it so many times." It never hit me like that,'" Wainwright said.
His instructions to group members came with a word of warning - expect him to make mistakes.
"Understand that this will not be perfect," he said. “Your word will be perfect, my word will not be. My writing style may not be perfect. You may not like my style and I will probably punctuate it incorrectly and I will use commas in areas that don't need them and I will use period, period, period instead of semicolons.
His analysis is based on his earlier years of reading and other knowledge gained from the three churches he attends - St. Thomas Community Church in Georgia, The Crossing in St. Louis and Christ Fellowship during spring training.
"I've had a lot of really good teachings," Wainwright said. “My mentors in life, my agent and financial adviser, are my spiritual mentors. To say I was taught well is a fair statement. I've had really good teachers (at PAO conferences and through their churches). Sometimes the way I present it through your words can be a little sloppy, but I feel like the teaching ingrained in me is pretty solid.”
The study has already achieved one thing, which Wainwright is pleased about.
"It realigned my social media," Wainwright said. “Before, I would spend 30-40 minutes looking through the junk on Twitter, seeing all the news feeds, and seeing who did this or that, just scrolling. Now I look at the comments and try to reply to three or four a day. I don't look at this so much as an endorsement of what I'm writing, which I believe is inspired by God, but to find out if we're doing this on a deeper level, I feel like I need to be involved with that with you. ."
Wainwright doesn't want people to worry if they're a day or two behind on reading and feel like they have to give up. That's why he also invites people to join the group whenever they spot it.
"I bet you're going to read more this year than last year," Wainwright said. “If this is true, you are on the right path to enlightenment. It's about growing and letting that learning circle go higher and higher.”
Siga Rob Rains no Twitter @RobRains
Follow Wainwright's Bible study @WalkingwithWaino
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