JACKSON, Tenn. -- Rick Horton spent seven years as a big league relief
pitcher in the 1980s, playing in two World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals
in the process.
While that might be important to some, the work Horton is
doing now is of much greater significance.
Horton is the St. Louis area
director of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a national ministry based in
Kansas City, Mo. In that role, Horton works with 17 counties in the St. Louis
area to present Christ to athletes and coaches.
Along with Walt Enoch, he
also serves as Baseball Chapel leader for the St. Louis Cardinals.
a daily basis will work with coaches who essentially act as mentors for the
student athletes in their school,” Horton said of his work with FCA. “Our role
is to equip, train and serve the people who are called to the ministry. We try
to do it an interdenominational way.”
As a former player himself, Horton
understands the way athletes are wired -- and that’s often different from other
“The more elite athlete you become the more performance driven
you are,” Horton said. “You think of performance all the time. It’s almost
beyond winning and losing. They’re very intense about that and very focused on
Athletes also tend to like things on a smaller scale and aren’t
usually big group people, despite the fact that they play team sports. Events
like Promise Keepers have their place and serve a valuable purpose, but Horton
said athletes often tend to prefer more one-on-one discipleship and
FCA tries to accommodate those needs by helping athletes deal
with issues related to identity, failure, success and performance from a
biblical point of view.
Horton and Enoch also serve the St. Louis Rams by
providing chapel services and Bible studies, but since Horton is a former
Cardinal himself, his role with the baseball team is especially
This year, the contingent of Christians on the St. Louis
Cardinals has a different identity. Woody Williams and Mike Matheny, two of the
most faithful men on the team in years past, are playing elsewhere.
“Part of the nature of professional sports is that teams change,”
Horton said. “It’s very unique to have guys play together for more than two or
But others have stepped in to provide the necessary
leadership. Cal Eldred is “solid as a rock,” Horton said. Superstar slugger
Albert Pujols is also very outspoken about his faith.
Ministry to athletes provides its
own set of challenges, and at the professional level Horton has to find a way to
minister to people from a wide variety of religious backgrounds and
denominations. In any given chapel service, he may be addressing Catholics,
Pentecostals, Baptists and other evangelicals. Discovering a common ground is
sometimes difficult, as Horton tries to provide messages and encouragement that
will not alienate any of the players.
“When you deal with athletes, like
anything else, you’re going to have people all over the spectrum -- people who
have virtually no identity with Christ, people who are maybe just babies in
their faith and people who are mature and growing,” Horton said. “Our role is to
serve everybody on that spectrum the best way we can.”
Tim Ellsworth writes this column, a part of his First Person
series, from his home in Jackson, Tenn. Write to him at
email@example.com, or visit his blog at www.timellsworth.com for additional
commentary on sports, religion, culture and politics.