The mission of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) is to see every coach and athlete enter into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church. Very closely aligned is the Lancaster Bible College mission to educate Christian students to think and live a biblical worldview and to proclaim Christ by serving Him in the Church and society.
Therefore, it’s a natural fit for FCA to have a presence at LBC, especially as a goal of the Athletics Department is to continually seek to develop student-athletes, athletic personnel and spectators who demonstrate fair play and ethical conduct as part of sportsmanship that is worthy of Christ.
At Lancaster Bible College, athletics is viewed as part of the ministry of the school and an integral part of the educational process. Athletics is also an essential part of student life as leadership abilities in the educational and spiritual realms are cultivated through athletic participation. Scripturally based principles are integrated into the athletic program so student-athletes will be better prepared to serve the Lord.
Tyler Hilton (’21), a Business Administration major from Lancaster, was the 2020-21 leader of FCA on the Lancaster campus and says that the group is a way for student-athletes from all 20 of the college’s Division III sports teams to come together.
LBC | CAPITAL: Please share how the Fellowship of Christian Athletics presence at Lancaster Bible College helps unite student-athletes.
TYLER HILTON: FCA helps unite student-athletes by way of community. It is super easy to be stuck in a bubble of your own sports team throughout the year since you do everything together. You eat together, do homework together and hang out with each other. Most of the time, student-athletes only experience deeper relationships on their teams, but FCA tries to change that in a way. We encourage athletes who come (to FCA meetings) to sit with someone they never met before or sit with people who are on a different team. This gives student-athletes the chance to experience a relationship at a deeper level with people on different teams besides just their own. This year has been super unique because we have been encouraging people to invite non-athletes to FCA because FCA exist for one reason—to help deepen our walks and relationships with Christ by way of community and fellowship.
LBC: What can students expect when they attend an FCA gathering at LBC? How is a typical FCA meeting structured?
TH: A typical FCA gathering looks like this: In the beginning, one of the members of the leadership committee will open up in a word of prayer followed by announcements for the week. Typically, the announcements are about upcoming games and FCA events in the future. Afterwards, a student-athlete gives his or her testimony. This is such a cool and unique part of FCA because every story is different, and it’s incredible to see how God works in everyone’s life. No matter the struggles or trials, you can always see God’s hand over everything throughout the testimonies. After the testimony, there is always a speaker. Depending on the week, it will either be a guest speaker, coach or student-athlete. This is typically a mini sermon that lasts about 15-20 minutes. Once the speaker is finished, we break into small groups of three to four. The small groups are meant to discuss what we learned and how we saw God work in our lives during the previous week. This is called “prayer and praise,” which is a super cool part of FCA because oftentimes God places people in certain groups to help others within the group grow deeper in their walk with Christ.
LBC: How does FCA help strengthen athletes’ relationship with Christ?
TH: FCA helps strengthen people’s relationships with Christ by making them feel uncomfortable in their faith. We just don’t want to go through the motions of everyday life. We actually want to live it out in the world. FCA is meant to make you go deeper into the Word and deeper into your walk with God. Those who come to FCA will be pushed in their faith, either by being super vulnerable or by being uncomfortable. Looking back from our first meeting until where we are now, it’s truly incredible to see how far some people have grown with the Lord. You can truly see some athletes’ faith take off because they were pushed or made uncomfortable because of FCA. As President, I constantly asked the question to the members of FCA: “How can we improve FCA?” The answer I always got was this: “Keep doing what we are doing because I see growth with in my walk with God.”
LBC: In what ways do the fundamentals of FCA play out on the field or court?
TH: FCA isn’t just played out on the field or court. Obviously, yes, that is one of our platforms to share the gospel by the way we act and how we interact with the opposing team. FCA is played out every day. Every day is our “Game Day” as believers in Christ. Every day, we have the opportunity to make an eternal impact or just an impact in general in someone’s life. So often, athletes get labeled or identified by the sport they play. One of the big things FCA hits on is the identity piece. We don’t need to place our identities in our sports because we know we are all children of God on God’s team. So many people today struggle with their identity because they put their trust in the wrong places, but FCA really focuses on putting that trust in Christ.
Justin Kleiner, FCA Multi Area Director for Central PA, also weighed in on why it is so important for college athletes today to be involved in groups like FCA.
“It gives them an opportunity to build relationships with other athletes going through the same struggles, like learning how to balance family, schoolwork, class, athletics, personal life, spiritual formation, etc.,” Kleiner said. “They normally don’t know all the athletes on the other teams, and this gives them an opportunity to get to know them.”
Kleiner added that the current societal climate puts added stress on young Christians.
“We live in an increasingly secular culture where, if you are a Christian, your beliefs are in the bulls-eye of the culture,” he said. “Knowing this, we must, as Peter said within the context of speaking about suffering, ‘Honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you’ (1 Peter 3:15). Christians not only need to know WHAT we believe but WHY we believe it, and FCA offers them a chance to really dig into issues where the rubber meets the road from a practical standpoint as they bounce ideas off each other and learn from others in order to address these issues.”
Check out some of the action from LBC’s 2020-21 athletics season in the gallery below: