June 16, 2006 at 3:46 PM CDT - Updated July 26 at 1:21 PM
How far would you go to carry out God's will for your life? If He spoke to your heart and asked you to leave behind a good job that gave you and your family security could you do it? Keep in mind there would be no written contract or assurances other than what you feel in your heart. Would you have the courage and faith to go forward?
Greg Mitchell, Northeast Arkansas' new fulltime director of Fellowship of Christian Athletes was recently put to this test. Mitchell had a lucrative position in medical equipment sales. He was established in his company with 16 years of experience and became accustomed to great benefits like a company car. Mitchell was content and comfortable until he began to feel God tugging at his heart and leading him in a new direction.
It all started when Northeast Arkansas' Fellowship of Christian Athletes board decided it was time to expand the program. The FCA is the nation's largest Christian sports organization, and it uses athletics to encourage people to "make a difference for Christ." The board felt it needed to hire a full-time director to grow the ministry.
Mitchell's first introduction to the needs of the local FCA came via requests for financial donations to the organization, to which he gladly gave. Then came the turning point he didn't see coming when he was asked to pray that God would send the organization a full-time director who would lead and grow FCA in Northeast Arkansas.
"It wasn't something that I prayed about every day," Mitchell said. "I had a little alphabetical prayer book and when I worked my way around to the F's I would pray about the Fellowship of Christian Athletes."
The more he prayed the more the FCA directorship position began to linger in Mitchell's thoughts. He began to consider it more seriously and weighed the possibilities of taking on the job himself. During that period of reflection, he came across a book called "Don't Waste Your Life" by John Piper that inspired him even more.
"It's not like I had an overwhelming sense that I was wasting my life," Mitchell said. "The book issued a challenge to basically have a passion to live life for God, to follow Him to do what He wants you to do. If that means taking risks for God, then that means stepping out in faith and doing what would cause me to trust God more or treasure God more.
"Finally I was like, ‘all right God, I'm starting to get the picture.'"
Mitchell left the secure job of 16 years and officially became the Northeast Arkansas FCA director in March 2006. He let go of many things that provided a sense of stability and comfort, and took on a role he felt was God's will for his life. Mitchell stepped out in faith into a position far removed from what he was used to-his salary would no longer be derived from tangible products, but from generosity of donors. His job security became based in faith and his ability to generate FCA groups and grow the ministry.
"As far as a personal vision for me, what I'm trying to do is invest in the lives of coaches and athletes in my area, the Northeast Arkansas area so that they will in turn impact their peers for Christ," Mitchell said. "If I can bring athletes and coaches to Christ and build them up in their faith, that will help equip them and encourage them to do the same with their peers."
Mitchell is very honest about his new life and he admits that he still has many questions. He is learning as he goes.
"I feel on one hand, kind of relieved that I'm stepping out in faith. I'm trusting God with this and being obedient to His call on my life at this time," Mitchell said. "But on the other hand, there's just this kind of ‘OK God what's next?'...that's where the faith part comes in."
Mitchell's faith is paying off and he is pulling together a program that is developing well, and the FCA is now expanding into eight counties: Clay, Craighead, Greene, Jackson, Lawrence, Mississippi, Poinsett and Randolph. In order to inspire and explain the scope of the FCA, Mitchell turns to the FCA's stated vision, To see the world impacted for Jesus Christ through the influence of athletes and coaches, and stated mission, To present to athletes and coaches, and all whom they influence, the challenge and adventure of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord serving Him in their relationships and in the fellowship of the church.
The ministry will focus on FCA's "4 C's," coaches, campus, camps and community to build and maintain membership. Campus and community will be a large part of initial efforts as the FCA reaches out to schools and communities offering them guidance and specialized materials to create student-led clubs called "huddles." A huddle is a ministry that helps young athletes, at junior high, high school and college levels, strengthen and share their faith. According to FCA literature, in 2005, nationally there were over 5,500 huddles involving more than 275,000 people.
Mitchell plans to use Arkansas State University's Huddle to reach out and assist other huddles on junior high and high school levels as they begin to grow.
"I want to focus 60 to 65 percent of my time on ASU and use that as a hub to help other huddles in junior and high school. I could send these college athletes to be speakers to junior high or high school and share their testimony. They can show how their faith in Christ impacts their performance, or how it impacts athletics in general," Mitchell said. "That's part of my vision, to really branch out and reach out to junior highs and high schools in this eight-county area."
Another major focus in FCA is camps. Camps are available around the country throughout the summer months in six different formats including: Leadership Camp, for student-athletes, Huddle coaches, and volunteers; Sports Camps, for specific skill development; Team Camps, athletes are enrolled as a team by a coach to attend as a group; Power Camp, skill development for 8-12 year-old athletes; Coach's Camps, for coaches (single and married) and their families to support and minister to them on serving God among their campuses and teams; and Partnership Camps, FCA links with an established camp to serve campers spiritually or in sports skills.
An athletic camp will be offered in Lonsdale, Ark., (between Hot Springs and Benton) July 5-8. The camp will be for boys and girls in 7th through 12th grades. A comprehensive listing of national camps is available on their website, www.fca.org.
The Northeast Arkansas FCA is looking into more local partnership camps, and would like to hold more FCA affiliated camps in this area. Currently FCA is talking with churches in Helena and Paragould about the possibility of implementing a partnership camp. Mitchell has also plans for a special event on Oct. 11 called "Fields of Faith" where FCA groups in Northeast Arkansas will join other FCA groups around the nation to fill up athletic fields around the country with students who come together to read God's Word and "challenge" each other's faith. For more information on Fields of Faith go to www.FieldsofFaith.com .
Mitchell sees the FCA as a chain of positive actions and mindsets that begin with one person, then gradually flow the community as a whole.
"The FCA is here to help in any way we can to positively impact these schools and colleges for Christ," Mitchell said. "The first thing someone can get out of this is they can establish a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. For those who have already done that, they can grow and mature in their relationship with the Lord."
The FCA leader explains that the organization alone cannot change a life -- only Christ can do that. However, the FCA provides opportunity to learn and strengthen one's faith in a life-altering way.
"If you have a relationship with Christ, that impacts your attitude and your personal relationships. If a person comes to a true faith then changes will take place in that person's life. The positive changes for that person will then, in turn, be a positive reflection for their community," Mitchell said.
The FCA is now working to establish more memberships in Northeast Arkansas. For more information on FCA, establishing a huddle in your school or community or to give a tax-exempt donation, call Greg Mitchell at (870)932-9594 or e-mail him at GMitchell@fca.org