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    More than 18,000 World Cup fans decided to follow Jesus Christ after seeing the digital campaign of a former professional soccer player.

    Jesse Bradley, the lead pastor at Grace Community Church in Auburn, Washington, was a former pro player until tragedy abruptly ended his career. In a video interview with Faithwire, Bradley shared his journey on how his life turned from being a fan favorite on the field to becoming a pastor for Jesus Christ, reports Canada-based Christian website, CHVN.

    Bradley was at the top of his game playing as a goalkeeper for the US, Africa and Scotland until a malaria medication nearly killed him.

    I share my story, and people are making decisions to follow Jesus. —Jesse Bradley, lead pastor at Grace Community Church, WA

    “I literally was fighting for my life for a year,” he said. “And in the middle of the pain, God birthed a new purpose and passion.”

    His near-death experience pushed him to run after another dream better than playing at the World Cup. Bradley decided to use the tournament in telling his story. He partnered with Global Media Outreach (GMO) to create digital and written content to explain Christianity to the fans of the game.

    The videos are designed to pique the interest of sports enthusiasts. Within less than a minute, Bradley explains the similarities between the World Cup and heaven and ends it with his testimony.

    “Stories are powerful; everyone has a significant story,” he said. “You have a powerful story, and when you share it, we learn more about God, we appreciate God, we see how God works and how He transforms our lives.”

    The digital campaign tapped social media, websites and YouTube to reach as many people as possible around the world, reports Sports Spectrum. “We’re able to create content where we share the Gospel. I share my story, and people are making decisions to follow Jesus,” he told in an interview. “We’re reaching millions of people. We’re seeing over 18,000 already make first-time decisions.”

    According to GMO, more than 200,000 people have indicated they want to start a relationship with God and follow Jesus after seeing the videos. A series of discipleship videos is available to those who took an interest in learning more about Jesus. The new followers will be connected with a local church and a Christian community to guide and help them in their journey of building a relationship with the Lord.

    “We don’t want people simply to make a decision to follow Jesus,” Bradley pointed out. “We want them to grow and enjoy that relationship. We want to empower people, and we want to cultivate next steps that are going to help them grow in their faith.”

    He added, “They follow up, and we help those people find a church. It’s not just decisions; it’s disciples. We all know there’s something much more significant than soccer that we need. I discovered it myself later in life, but our souls are content, and we have joy in peace when we discover relationship with [God].”

    Social media can be a platform of evangelization and Bradley’s campaign proves it’s an effective avenue for sending Jesus’ message to people. “Every follower of Jesus really is an online missionary, and the content and the tone and the attitude that you share online, it can spread the light and love of Jesus,” he said. “And there’s incredible potential right now, so I hope that the body of Christ is active locally, globally and digitally.”