Students lead Decatur’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes


Juniors Martize Smith (center), Alia Bolden (right) and Eli Prejean (left) attend FCA’s third meeting on Aug. 24.

It’s 7:45 on a Thursday morning. Students and teachers pepper the building before its waking hours, scurrying to get a head start on the day. As Decatur warms up for another eight hours, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) energizes the bottom of the Performing Arts Center with their second meeting of the year.

The room fills with humble greetings and small talk as students, coaches and community pastors alike share a breakfast of chicken biscuits. As junior Martize Smith stands to read from his copy of “The Athlete’s Bible,” the group quiets.

Teacher and coach Luke Cross, the club’s founder, asked Smith to join, but the running back was interested even before that. For Smith, FCA is a way to connect with other students.

“If anything, [FCA] is more of a team than the teams we actually play on,” Smith said. “We’re all playing for the same goal. We all have the same vision: to get better as [people] and eventually take it out to the world.”

Cross also enjoyed FCA in high school, which was one factor in his decision to start the club.

“That’s part of the reason why I think God sent me to Decatur: to coach basketball and lead kids in the classroom and then be a part of [FCA],” Cross said.

FCA was founded in 1954 with the initial goal of encouraging a relationship with God through athletics.

“If athletes can endorse shaving cream, razor blades and cigarettes, surely they can endorse the Lord, too,” Don McClanen, the organization’s founder, stated.

Decatur FCA’s goal is to provide a safe place for students, athletes or not, to learn about and discuss their experiences of Christianity. But the club expands beyond that, according to Smith. He believes the club will improve Decatur’s athletic and scholastic attitude.

“I hope this program can grow,” Smith said. “It would reroute the course of Decatur when it comes to sports, and spread to the classroom to make better students…I see that most teams don’t act like a team; it’s all for their personal gain. They’re not playing for one another, they’re not playing for anything bigger than them. At the end of the day, it comes down to the whole team, how we all can live and how the person next to me can succeed.”

Cross shares a similar vision.

“My hope is that by meeting and by students sharing their testimonies and hearing stories from the Bible that it will change the culture of Decatur,” Cross said. “It will change the way they compete, act with each other, treat adults; all those principles that Jesus portrayed will carry over.”

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Listen to junior John Griffin Stanford’s testimony from FCA’s meeting on Aug. 24.


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