Casey humbled by his historic tenure as FBC Raytown’s chairman of deacons
FCA Foundation president widely loved, respected
June 14, 2005
RAYTOWN – Carey Casey is the first African-American deacon in the history of First Baptist Church, Raytown, and its history, like a river that winds back to 1843, flows — as is typical of Southern Baptist churches — with a current of white deacons.
Since January, Casey has been presiding as chairman of the deacons. It is thought to be perhaps the first time that an African-American deacon has ever held such a position in a Missouri Southern Baptist church and certainly in a megachurch like 7,600-member First Raytown.
“Naturally when you hear ‘Southern Baptist,’ you’re thinking white, Southern Baptist, conservative,” Casey said. “There aren’t really that many African-Americans in the Southern Baptist Convention. There are becoming many more, and whites are even going to African-American conventions. Race is important, but it’s not as important when you look at being ministered to, when you need something.”
Leaders in the church agreed that the time had come for Casey, 49, to serve as chairman of the church’s 89 active deacons this year. As a former University of North Carolina football player and current president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Foundation, Casey was viewed as the appropriate deacon to usher in the age of The ROC, First Raytown’s state-of-the-art family life center which opened in February.
“God gave Pastor (Paul) Brooks and the other leaders of the church wisdom to even invite me to be chairman of the deacons,” Casey said. “I was prepared in terms of my age, my background and my experience, and so the timing was right. You have various cultures coming to the church, so it’s good at this season to have a person of color. And not just color, but here’s a person who loves God and loves people, and the church does also.”
Past Chairman of the Deacons Mike Whitehead nominated Casey to join the fraternity of First Raytown deacon chairs that also includes such men as state Sen. Matt Bartle and former FCA President Dal Shealy as well as prominent businessmen Richard Cox, Jim Deis, Jerry Sheridan and Harold Finch. Whitehead said that this is Casey’s time.
“A man is most Christ-like when he is most humble, and I have known Carey to be humble and teachable, in spite of his enormous gifts and strengths,” Whitehead said. “He has a teachable spirit, and that is what most qualifies him to lead men spiritually. He is leaning on and learning from the Lord, and it is a pleasure to follow him as he follows Jesus.”
Bartle called Casey “a close personal friend” and an excellent ambassador for the church.
“Carey is the kind of guy that you just look forward to running into because he always brightens your day,” Bartle said. “I run into him at airports from time to time. I remember a time we were down in an airport in North Carolina, and we walked up and there was Carey Casey. He was just beaming as he always is, even though he thought he was around all strangers, just reflecting Christ’s love. He is just a fine, fine human being. I have a high degree of respect for him.”
Casey was in his element as he gave The Pathway a tour of The ROC. He is a well-known motivational speaker, lecturer, pastor and coalition builder who has focused on religion, civil rights history and racial reconciliation through his FCA ministry. He often speaks at National Football League chapels and maintains friendships with various NFL coaches and former players like Tony Dungy, head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, and Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor, his former roommate at North Carolina. As one might imagine, he certainly looks at home in The ROC’s weight room, gymnasium and fitness area.
Casey stopped when he noticed an African-American worker in The ROC, Freddye Cooper, helping a couple of people get started on their fitness routines. Casey pointed out how Cooper, a recreation ministry assistant, was doing her job with enthusiasm.
Casey said Cooper was demonstrating how a faith-based approach can help solve America’s social problems – in this case, health care.
“She’s getting them to work out and letting them know about preventative medicine,” Casey said. “What President Bush is trying to get done from the White House concerning health care is happening right here. It saves America money.”
Deacons’ meetings now are held in The Atrium, which is part of The ROC. Casey moves around freely with a cordless microphone as the deacons conduct business. He said he is able to bring a unique perspective to his role thanks to his previous service as a senior pastor in Chicago. Casey was shepherding pastor of Lawndale Community Church in the 1990s and is a popular supply preacher at First Raytown when Brooks is absent.
“Most people who are chairman of the board would not be an ordained preacher as well,” Casey said. “The weight and the size and the scope of this church probably enhance my effectiveness and opportunities because I’ve been a leader in a large church. I understand, to a degree, the needs of the pastor as well as the needs of the congregation. Because of that, I’m able to bridge that gap and to ward off the trivia of when the natives get restless.
“God’s using my race. God’s using my ability. God’s using my lack of ability where some people have to step up to help me. As Clint Eastwood would say, ‘A man’s got to know his limitations.’ I’m getting to know my limitations.”
The limitations of First Raytown appear to be few, based on how The ROC is being used by God to help fulfill a mission statement of building a New Testament church that will reach the Kansas City area and impact the world for Jesus Christ. Casey’s tenure as chairman of the deacons this year puts him at the tip of the spear as the spiritual momentum keeps building.
“When people think of First Baptist, they usually think it’s that big church on 350 Highway,” Casey said. “I say, ‘Yeah, but you have to go there—small-town flavor.’ What is the greatness of First Baptist that brought me here? Number one, Christ, but (it’s also) the people. In this church, we have people with master’s degrees or Ph.D’s volunteering under people who don’t have those degrees. So you’ve got people who really love God and love people.
“For some reason, God puts me in positions of power so I can influence others.”