Southern Baptist influence ripples through ministry of FCA
By Allen Palmeri
February 3, 2004
KANSAS CITY – Southern Baptist influence within the Fellowship of Christian Athletes can be illustrated by the triangle one finds at the top of its organizational structure.
Nelson Price serves as chairman of the FCA Board of Trustees. He works closely with the only two men with the title of president in the FCA world headquarters building in Kansas City – Ministry President Dal Shealy and Foundation President Carey Casey.
All three are Southern Baptists.
Price has led the trustees since 1999 and is the first minister to serve in that capacity in FCA’s 50-year history. Past chairmen have included such sports notables as the late Tom Landry, long-time coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Congressman Tom Osborne, the former head football coach at the University of Nebraska, and Grant Teaff, former head football coach at Baylor University and director of the American Football Coaches Association.
He spent 35 years as pastor of Roswell Street Baptist Church, Marietta, Ga., which quadrupled in size to 9,500 members under his leadership. Toward the end of his ministry at Roswell Street he served as one of 15 members on the committee that produced the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message that was adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
Price served as president of the SBC Pastor’s Conference in 1990 and first vice president of the SBC in 1991. He was president of the Georgia Baptist Convention in 1982-83, first vice president of the Louisiana Baptist Convention and president of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Alumni Association. The seminary has named both an academic chair and a center for urban studies after him, and the Georgia Baptist Convention has named a 42-bed drug rehabilitation center in his honor.
“Dr. Nelson Price has been a super blessing to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and to me personally, not only as a friend but also as a spiritual mentor through his words as well as his writings," Shealy said.
Price’s number is one of 10 on Shealy’s speed dial in his office.
“He gives us great wisdom, spiritual soundness and insights, and has really helped us keep the focus on keeping the main thing the main thing, and that is the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ," Shealy said.
Shealy, 65, and Casey, 48, are long-time friends and members of First Baptist Church, Raytown. Shealy is a past chairman of the deacons at the church; Casey will serve in that capacity in 2005.
Shealy, who has presided over FCA for 12 years in the manner of a head football coach, likes to refer to Casey as his running back.
“He runs all over this country," Shealy said. “Sometimes I get concerned about him smelling those jet fumes, thinking he’s going to get on the plane again. He represents Christ in a very positive way.
“He’s a running back, because he’s a guy you can give the ball to. There have been a lot of times in FCA when I couldn’t do something and I’d lateral that ball to Carey and he wouldn’t fumble. He tucked that ball away and turned it downhill, and he’s still doing that today."
Both Shealy and Casey enjoy sitting under the teaching of their pastor, Paul Brooks, at First Raytown. Brooks has been their friend and leader.
“He’s (Brooks) not a jealous man," Casey said. “He cares for me. He’s very secure in who he is as a man of God. I always joke about him as a short, white brother who can’t (jump and) get the net, let alone the rim, but he stands tall in that pulpit.
“Being in a great church like First Baptist has been a source of security for me as a leader within a large sports ministry like FCA. It’s security to go on Wednesday night, on Sunday morning, being in a great Sunday School class, people just loving on me."
Casey, a former running back for the University of North Carolina football team that won the 1977 Atlantic Coast Conference championship and who served six years as senior pastor of a church in Chicago , is a gifted orator whom Brooks likes to use in the pulpit at First Raytown. One year he had Casey do his Christmas message. The following year, instead of putting out his message to his television audience, Brooks chose to broadcast the previous year’s sermon by Casey.
“When he preaches, the people love him," Shealy said. “When you’re that running back and you score a touchdown, people love you."
Shealy presides over a ministry that employs 665 people. FCA conducts 180 summer camps attended by more than 20,000. Overall participation is gauged by 7,400 student huddle groups, or Bible studies, with 520,000 members in schools across America. Internationally, FCA maintains contacts in 30 countries.
FCA is funded by faithful donors. Price symbolizes the ministry’s lifeblood; he is a Tom Landry Associate, which means he gives at least $10,000 a year. FCA’s fiscal health depends on loyal donors like Price.
“He’s a giver of his time and energy as well as his wisdom and talent, but he’s also a giver of his finances," Shealy said.
Shealy the football coach was asked how he would diagram a play for Team FCA with 11 players represented as circles in a standard offensive formation. He looked at the 11 circles and suggested that Price would play quarterback and Casey would line up as one of the two running backs.
What about Dal Shealy?
“You could almost say I’m one of the utility guys," he said with his typical humility.
Casey suggested that one of the players in that offensive formation would be Brooks. It is significant that FCA lists in its mission statement the importance of “the fellowship of the church." Since Brooks is committed to shepherding Shealy and Casey, Brooks is committed to FCA.
“We cannot function without the local church," Casey said. “Everything we do is going to go through the church."