Larry Chaney is not an athlete. His children and wife are not athletes. In fact, he rarely attends live athletic events. Ironically, he found himself being ministered to by athletes and coaches at church during his regular Sunday sermon.
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes organization name had no meaning to Chaney prior to this service other than he knew it existed.
When asked how he felt that an entire Sunday message would be led by FCA leaders, the Dallas native admits he felt disenchanted. Sporting events had not happened for the past year due to the pandemic and so the father of four prepared his heart for the next hour with low expectations.
“I thought athletes do their thing and I do my thing,” Chaney chuckled about what he first thought about the organization.
Based in northern Seattle, Epic Life Church supports various ministries throughout their community, one of which is FCA. This support led to FCA Sunday where church member and FCA Multi-Area Director Dave Banks raised awareness about the discipleship happening within local athletics.
“God’s Kingdom is a whole lot bigger than what goes on within our own walls,” shared Banks about the discussions that led to the event. “FCA was excited to share these stories with Epic Life Church.”
Like many other non-athlete Christians, Chaney had little knowledge as to how FCA spent their time and resources, especially when they couldn’t meet in person. But with a congregation ready to hear God’s Word, it was time for FCA athletes and coaches to ‘do their thing’ and share how God has been working through the platform of athletics.
“The service both filled and broke my heart,” commented Chaney. “I didn't realize how much ministry went on when COVID-19 closed schools and sporting events were cancelled!”
While much of the world was at a standstill during the last year, FCA leaders, coaches and athletes connected through online meetings.
“It fascinated me that FCA was making disciples even though people were not physically able to meet together,” shared Chaney. “You could just see the desire and spirit in each person who spoke that God was working in their midst.”
The testimonies shared that day not only increased awareness about the FCA ministry but also the dark realities some of the staff and leaders are guiding their athletes through.
Liberty High School head football coach Steve Valach shared the heartbreaking news that one of his own players committed suicide in the fall of 2020.
Earlier in his life Chaney had struggled with depression for several years. He withdrew from others, was angry at God and went to church only to appease his wife. Hearing Valach share about his player deeply resonated with his own life.
“It demanded attention when you hear of people who are hurt,” said Chaney. “I know how painful depression and suicidal thoughts can be and how hopeless you can feel because I lived through them.”
Thankfully, Chaney recovered from his depression and has since penned a 20-page book he calls Hope Notes, a collection of Biblical truths that combat the lies and isolation someone may be feeling when in the darkness.
“Anyone battling depression or darkness needs to hear that there is hope,” urged Chaney. “They need to understand that God loves them and He defines them, not their darkness. I am so thankful that FCA is present in the lives of young people, spending time with, listening and encouraging them.”
After the service, Larry found himself with a desire to be involved and support FCA. One of the first steps he took was to share Hope Notes with local leaders.
Testimonies and stories told that day helped Larry realize that there is so much more to an athlete beyond their sport and that they are not immune to darkness and struggles, but also find their hope in the Lord.
God recruited Larry Chaney that Sunday morning and revealed he does has something in common with FCA athletes: Team Jesus.
It is because of partnerships between local churches and FCA that lives are and will continue to be forever changed.
If you would like to financially support FCA Seattle, please visit my.fca.org/greaterseattle.
Those wishing to learn more or volunteer may contact Brittany Banks at email@example.com.
Photos courtesy of Epic Life Church